The movement that is taking place around the world, and in particular in the US, is shining a bright light on the inequality and injustice that is rampant in our communities. The travel industry continues to fall short in being inclusive of and representing Black and Brown people in the industry overall. From marketing representation to product design to leadership and employment, the travel industry is severely behind when it comes to addressing these issues. According to Phocuswire.com, “only one in 33 leaders in the travel, hospitality and leisure industries identifying as being from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background.” Let that sink in for a moment.
As the Black Lives Matter movement has accelerated around the globe in recent weeks, the travel world is eerily silent and it seems choosing to not turn in and reflect and make big changes to help tear down systemic racism in the travel industry. The recently formed Black Travel Alliance has put out a challenge for travel companies to “pull up” and share their diversity and inclusion statistics and commit to increasing Black representation in travel through hiring, marketing, and leadership opportunities. This is a great start and something that each of us in the travel industry must do.
Most of us who choose to start a travel company do this because we understand the gifts that travel brings and the power to create positive change in our own lives and the world at large. We travel to enjoy different foods, see different places, meet new people and learn and understand new cultures. We travel to essentially open our hearts and minds to people that are different than us, we travel to enjoy diversity. So why is the travel world not reflecting this on a deeper level? As a Brown woman who decided to start her own company to hopefully share these gifts, I have been trying to understand this as well. I have been contemplating how I can do my part to help push forward this change that has been too long in coming.
I do believe one of the biggest hurdles we have for anyone operating in America is our need to shy away from our past as a country and the present iterations of those past sins. If we cannot confront our own demons at home, how can we truly be inclusive when we seek to travel abroad? How can we ensure our travel practice is not harming local communities overseas if we can’t even address the inequities in our own country? As a travel industry we need to start having these hard conversations. We need to begin acknowledging our part and start breaking down our own bias’ as a whole. We need to look at home as we seek to understand the power dynamics, discrimination, and inherent inequality in our product so we can operate more responsibly both at home and abroad. It is not enough to say we want to do better, we must CHOOSE to do better.
We at TLA will slowly start re-structuring and making changes in how we operate and our vision for the future. It is time that we evolve in our work, how we aim to impact the world in a positive way, and how we choose to use our own power and privilege in the world. I urge every travel company to do the same and start listening to and following the leadership of Black, indigenous and Brown voices in this space.
The work we need to put in starts with how we imagine ourselves and how we operate as a whole. Who we are really talking to in our marketing and outreach? Are we only talking to certain types of travelers because that is the norm or trend? Do we have any diversity in our teams? How many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) people are in leadership roles in the travel industry?
While we are at it, I don’t want to hear the excuse anymore of “there just aren’t enough candidates.” This is bullshit and we need to try harder. Are we reaching out to other businesses and organizations that are BIPOC owned that are already doing the work? Are we willing to work together? Are we willing to stop using only white faces as ambassadors and conversationalists when we talk about travel to the general public? Are we willing to hold ourselves and others in this space accountable and truly make the changes that need to be made? The list can go on and on.
As we start down this path, it is going to be hard work, hard conversation, and re-envisioning how we function but it has been past time for these changes to be made. We cannot keep saying we travel for diversity when it is not reflected in how we operate as a whole.
So keep an eye on this space, hold us accountable as we will hold ourselves, and please check out the Black Travel Alliance and take their lead on how we should be “pulling up” for diversity in travel. We need to lift up their voices and let them be heard.