Establishing alliances with minorities and under-represented markets is the key to creating diversity and inclusion in the travel industry – something that the global and regional industry is currently lacking.
This was the topic of discussion among industry experts during a recent World Travel Market webinar. The minority markets in question are the LGBTQ+ community, women and people of colour. During the webinar, panellists discussed the importance of meaningful contribution to the overall inclusivity of the travel industry.
Editor-in-Chief of OutThere magazine, Uwern Jong, described his experience as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He said while there had been changes in the acceptance of the community, he highlighted the danger of moving forward ‘without substance’. “In June we see rainbows everywhere – we call it rainbow washing – and it’s wonderful, but in some instances it’s just highly tokenistic and an opportunity to profit from our community without really benefiting it,” said Jong.
Moderator of the webinar, and Executive Director of BAME Women in Travel CIC, Jamie-Lee Abtar, reiterated Jong’s point that alliances could be tokenistic and needed to be meaningful. She asked panellists what they thought had prompted this change.
Speaking of the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, Senior Editorial Manager at Intrepid Travel, Rebecca Shapiro, said while the movement had gained traction, implementing meaningful change in business practice had its own challenges.
“The conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion can’t be siloed in a company. We’re really finding that, unless it’s integrated into every single person’s values and every aspect of the workspace, it will stay as this siloed thing that’s ‘someone else’s problem’ and I think that’s something to take issue with.”
Award winning travel blogger, Eulanda Osagiede offered three basic steps that businesses could take to grow in the industry as allies.
“Be aware that your poc (person of colour) friends, co-workers and neighbours often have lived experiences as a poc living in a non-poc society. You need to recognise, confront and challenge your privilege as an ally,” said Osagiede.
Abtar emphasised that becoming an ally was a journey and that these steps were merely a place to start.
- Actively listen
“Listen and don’t lead with defensiveness,” said Osagiede adding that it was important to ensure you were listening when being confronted with what could be an uncomfortable truth.
She used the example of a journalist friend of hers, who was writing her experience as a black, female traveller for a top-tier, UK magazine. “On the point where she was talking about being a black woman travelling and how often she’s actually approached as though she were a prostitute, the editor said that white women experience the same thing,” said Osagiede explaining that her friend was put into an uncomfortable situation by an editor she believed to be an ally, dismissing her experiences rather than listening.
“Use your voice, your privilege, your authority to really challenge all the people in positions of power, the systems that have been put in place and the structures that ignore pocs’ voices. It is so important that you use your privilege to become advocates,” she concluded.