The Grand Connection is AOT’s profile series designed to connect Arizona’s tourism industry through the experiences and insights of those who drive it. We’ll include leaders, but these profiles aren’t limited to only those in the executive office. We’re striving to bring you perspectives from all across our amazingly diverse industry. Everyone has something to share and an experience from which we all can learn.
THE GRAND CONNECTION: ANGELA HUGHEY, CO-FOUNDER & PRESIDENT OF ONE COMMUNITY AND ONE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
Angela Hughey, co-founder & president of ONE Community and ONE Community Foundation, is passionate about driving Arizona’s success both socially and economically. Angela serves as a strong tourism ally by working to ensure the hospitality industry continues to implement inclusive and equitable policies while promoting that all visitors are welcome in the Grand Canyon State.
As the recipient of countless awards, accolades and honors for her leadership in advocating for diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) and increasing understanding of nondiscrimination and the importance of being LGBTQ+ inclusive, Angela embraces connecting with diverse audiences.
In this month’s Grand Connection, Angela shares why she dedicates time to working with tourism organizations, how important DEI and nondiscrimination policies are to travelers and all industry segments and the immense benefits of running toward difficult conversations.
You’re undoubtedly a strong advocate for increasing equality and diversity across Arizona. Why is inclusivity such a critical topic for communities, governments and industries to embrace?
Inclusive communities are stronger communities. It’s not just the right thing to do, but also good for the business of Arizona. When it comes to economic development, attracting and retaining top talent, inclusion plays a large role when companies are potentially looking to come to the state or the region.
Folks want to work for a place where they can bring their whole selves. They want to live in localities where they have equal protection under the law no matter who they are or who they love. And the business community understands that when you create that truly inclusive sense of belonging, people bring their best selves to work – and when they do that, your team is healthier and more creative, creating a more sustainable bottom line.
You’ve made it a priority to work with several Arizona organizations, including Visit Mesa. What makes it worth your time to serve on the board of a tourism entity, specifically?
Tourism is a major economic driver for our state. I like to say it’s Arizona’s biggest export! I’m passionate about Arizona and Arizona’s success, which is why I want to help tell our story nationally and globally, and ensure our hospitality and tourism industry is embracing inclusive and equitable policies so all know they are welcome here in the Grand Canyon State.
Can you briefly describe your job?
As president and founder of ONE Community, I lead a member-based coalition of socially responsible businesses, organizations and individuals who support diversity, inclusion and equality for all Arizonans.
We are committed to reshaping Arizona’s image through educating, empowering and connecting our diverse LGBTQ and allied communities on the benefits of inclusion and its direct impact on attracting and retaining top talent and businesses – and thereby, ensuring our state’s economic sustainability.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is the positive impact we can have when we bring folks together to focus on what we have in common, rather than our differences, to move the needle toward a more inclusive and welcoming Arizona. I have met the best people working across our great state who inspire me every day and make me proud to call Arizona home.
What’s one aspect of your job that might surprise people?
Our diversity. At ONE Community, we believe in working with everyone, not just people that agree with us. I always say I’ll have a cup of coffee with anyone, and I mean it. If we don’t listen and speak with those who we don’t agree with 100% of the time, we stifle progress. When we run towards those difficult conversations and keep our doors open, that’s when we move the needle.
Which opportunities should Arizona’s tourism industry pursue during the next 5 years?
Our tourism industry has placed great importance on equity and inclusion, and they should continue to do so. Nondiscrimination policies are important when it comes to attracting tourists and large conferences and events. In Arizona, we have 10 municipalities that have LGBTQ-inclusive policies, but we still have no statewide law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination, which can create a confusing patchwork of laws for tourists, the workforce and employers.
Additionally, more and more of the large national events that fuel our economy are looking at nondiscrimination policies when doing site selection. The NCAA Women’s Final Four [selected] Phoenix, in part, because one of their site requirements was a location that had an LGBTQ+ inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. There is a real return on investment for governments and organizations that prioritize inclusion and inclusive policies.
What do you see as the tourism industry’s greatest strength?
We are lucky to live in a state that has not just great diversity in its people, but also in the experiences we have to offer. From world-class hotels and resorts, arts and culture, outdoor recreation and climate – everyone can find something they love in Arizona.
Which Arizona tourism experience would you like to do this year?
I would like to finally hike Antelope Canyon. The pictures are breathtaking, I can only imagine how incredible it would be in person.