If you asked me a few years ago what I would be doing in 2020, I could never have imagined dealing with a global pandemic while advocating on a world stage for representation within the travel industry. In 2017 I was working in fashion and was completely miserable. My only escape was travel, and after realising that brands only showed able-bodied, skinny, blonde-haired women across their media, I had to speak up. So I decided to dedicate my life to advocating for diversity and inclusion, to change the face of tourism. I had a small amount of savings, a passion like no other and the goal to be the change I wanted to see in the world. Tired of not seeing myself reflected in travel adverts or promotions, internally on firms’ teams or as a speaker at summits, I knew something had to change. I attended every conference I could, sat in the front row and asked decision makers of the world’s top companies why their brands weren’t inclusive to the globetrotters who support them.
Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords, but I needed the industry to realise that they could also be driving forces to business growth. I wanted them to know that 70 per cent of multicultural travellers are more likely to spend money with brands in which they see themselves reflected. And I wanted them to acknowledge that connecting with inclusive communities – across race, gender, religion, sexual preference and more – meant that diversity and inclusion had to be top of mind, internally and externally, and not an afterthought.
After many failed attempts to connect with travel leaders, I decided to create the diversity and travel scorecard. In the first year I gave the industry a D, below average. I was beyond frustrated at the lack of response and that showed as I only gave examples of all the negative things that took place. But this year, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of calling brands out, I decided to call them in and spotlight companies that are doing great things so others could apply their methods. Overall, the score improved to C-. The shift has been slow but I’m elated that it’s finally moving.
The best UK face masks to wear when travelling
Tourism boards such as Tempe Tourism Office in Arizona and Maine’s MidCoast and Islands, plus airlines including Norwegian, were among the positive examples because their influencer trips are always inclusive. Conferences such as the Women in Travel Summit, BorderlessLive and Women in Travel CIC were mentioned because their speakers and sessions are representative of multiple niches. All the brands mentioned in the scorecard took the time to think about what it means to be a leader, regardless of if it was popular or not. It’s easy to show your beautiful hotel, but are you mindful of that plus-size guest and how they enter a room? Are you conscious of how close you put a Muslim family to the restaurant during Ramadan? Is the pool wheelchair accessible? Do you hire black and brown people for more than housekeeping positions? All these factors matter, and until companies tackle these issues the industry will continue to have a problem.
Cheerful tie-dye buys to wear this summer
A lot of travel brands posted black squares on their social media for #BlackoutTuesday, but when you see their senior staff and board members, along with the imagery they use, there is no diversity. Black squares aren’t enough. Not making decisions within your company to be more inclusive is disappointing. It shouldn’t take a man being murdered and a global equality outcry to finally do the right thing. Not only is tokenism an issue, but recent reports of what black influencers earn in comparison to their white counterparts have shown that our wages are up to 60 per cent less. (Take a look at @influencerpaygap, dedicated to creating transparency and highlighting pay disparities.) Factors such as these are exactly why I, along with 15 other black travel influencers who represent multiple niches, launched the Black Travel Alliance this week. A community made to support black content creators around the world and increase their representation. We are committed to holding the industry accountable, and will continue to apply pressure. It’s time to make a change – in fact, it’s overdue.
This content was originally published here.