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Business Ethics in the Ohio Travel Economy

OTLA Project Highlights

By Kelly Florian, OTA Communications Manager

OTLA 2019 Presentations

From left to right: Dan Havener, City of Grove City; Bryan McMahan, Great Lakes Publishing; Heather Bokman, ODNR Division of Wildlife; Erika Sheets, Lazy River at Granville; Michelle Ford, Experience Columbus

Earlier this month, the Ohio Tourism Leadership Academy presented final projects at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus. This popular leadership program is offered by the Ohio Travel Association (OTA) annually. Class members this year separated into groups and researched specific trends likely to impact the travel industry and the way we do business. Today, we are highlighting Michelle Ford, Erika Sheets, Heather Bokman, Bryan McMahan, and Dan Havener and their project on ‘Important Drivers of Change in Society and Politics.’


Michelle, Erika, Heather, Bryan, and Dan researched several drivers of changes in relation to society and politics, but zeroed in on two specifically related to the tourism industry. Issues of ethical consumption and transparent organization ethics are affecting how businesses in the tourism industry function, and changes are mostly driven by younger generations who are now decision-making adults. This links to last week’s OTLA Project Highlight on how next-gen professionals are changing the landscape on how businesses operate. Organizations need to educate themselves on the values of these young professionals since millennials and gen Z’s will make up a large percentage of not only employees but consumers, as well.

Supporting Trends

Next-gens are looking for businesses whose core beliefs align with their own. This trend will continue to grow as the expectations of high ethical standards and value-driven propositions increase as those with these values continue to climb in buying power and leadership. As we are already starting to witness, brand loyalty will continue to fall to the backburner as next-gens switch to brands that fit their values and beliefs. Business transparency and accountability is of upmost importance. Political polarization is also a key factor as business may be drawn into controversies unwillingly if their consumers demand that they speak up about an issue.


Michelle, Erika, Heather, Bryan, and Dan explored how these evolving trends will impact the tourism industry. Since ethical practices are extremely valued by next-gens, businesses need to have ethical standards in place. If their employees stray from these guidelines, businesses must uphold their responsibility and hold employees accountable.

Businesses will also be expected to speak up about cultural issues. The group recommended the best way for organizations to handle this is to come up with a protocol. Prepare statements ahead of time to prevent reputation damage. Evaluate customer, employee, shareholder, and community values to determine the best way to position their messaging.

What Can Be Done to Help?

Marketing efforts should have a strong focus geared toward next-gens as they are becoming the largest cohort in the workforce and consumer base. These next-gen groups are also conscious-driven, care about ethics, and support organizations trying to change the world, i.e. ones that support issues next-gens care about. Therefore brands willing to get behind these values will be successful in attracting these groups in business and employment. However, next-gens aren’t only looking at brand mission, but who the brand associates with. For example, businesses in the tourism industry need to align themselves with partners whose values make sense to their own brand and mission. Transparency needs to be clear and concise, and messaging should be targeted through social media tools including but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

How Can OTA Help?

Ethical standards is one of the key drivers in this presentation, therefore OTA can navigate the industry by helping members develop their own code of ethics. Or, at least give them examples on how to design their own based off of the member’s values and brand.

The OTA Board of Directors assigned the Ohio Tourism Leadership Academy groups these group research topics with the goal of being able to learn and build upon some of these findings in shaping OTA's future work. Special thanks to all OTLA class members, speakers and experts who have assisted in shaping these discussions.

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