Organizations Working Toward a More Diverse, Inclusive Travel Industry

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Black History Month may be over but the work toward a more diverse, inclusive travel industry must continue. According to an MMGY Study, Black American leisure travelers spent $109.4 billion, representing 13.1 percent of the US leisure travel market in 2019 (AFAR, Dec. 2020). Despite this impact, representation of these travelers continues to be lacking in marketing materials and industry leadership positions. As stated in a recent Phocuswire article “To authentically connect and build trust, brands must continually, identify and engage with genuine opportunities to connect with the Black community,” (Phocuswire, Feb. 2021). The organizations and initiatives below are incredible resources for continuing to push the travel industry towards a more diverse, inclusive, and just future.

Students chat before a meeting in the African American Cultural Center in WItherspoon Student Center. PHOTO BY ROGER WINSTEAD

Students chat before a meeting in the African American Cultural Center in Witherspoon Student Center. PHOTO BY ROGER WINSTEAD

An organization that seeks to hold the various entities throughout the travel industry accountable is the Black Travel Alliance (BTA). During the summer of 2020 BTA started a campaign entitled #PullUpForTravel. This campaign targeted travel organizations and brands that acknowledged social justice movements on their social media platforms. In June 2020, BTA asked these travel organizations and brands for information around five key performance indicators (KPIs). The 2019 KPIs sought to identify:

  1. the current number and percentage of Black people in management and on staff,
  2. Black representation on speaker panels, workshops, sessions,
  3. Black representation in TV, radio, print and digital channels including social media,
  4. Black representation on media and press trips, and
  5. charitable contributions and support to Black charities and community groups.

BTA released the published report of responses they received from 67 organizations and brands in October 2020. Key takeaways include concerns for Black representation at conferences and trade shows, inclusion in press events and support of Black philanthropy. They plan to launch the survey again in 2021 adding a KPI to gauge support of Black-owned businesses. Accountability is one of three main missions of the BTA, the other two are alliance and amplification of Black content creators which they work to achieve through educational opportunities, job boards and business support.

Blacks in Travel and Tourism (BTT) is an organization that recently launched the Black Tourism Talent Directory. This directory was created to match Black-owned tourism businesses, professionals and students to opportunities (e.g., vendors, consultants, speakers, interns, employees) with destination marketing organizations, travel brands, associations and media. BTT is also currently working on a Diversity Tourism Academy to provide tools and training to facilitate the intentional growth of travel and tourism professionals and businesses. Additionally, BTT hosts a highly sought Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Deep Dive Masterclass for destination marketing organizations.

Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) is another organization that has launched recently. TDM’s vision is to be an industry resource for diversity expertise in order to achieve inclusive excellence. The efforts of TDM are focused on four primary areas to benefit the tourism industry: apprenticeships, workforce development, diversity equity and inclusion, and research and data.

Joe Johnson, student diversity coordinator in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, speaks with an undergrad student in the Court of North Carolina. Photo by Marc Hall

Joe Johnson, student diversity coordinator in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, speaks with an undergrad student in the Court of North Carolina. Photo by Marc Hall

Nomadness Travel Tribe (the Tribe), has been building a community of over 20,000 travel influencers and innovators since 2011. Their mission is to leverage community representation to show the world that travel has no racial, gender, religious, economic, or interest limitations. The Tribe has worked to meet its mission in a variety of ways including curating nearly thirty international group trips, creating the first conference targeting diverse millennial travelers of color, hosting a Historically Black College & University RV tour, and even launching a web series, ‘The Nomadness Project’, documenting international travels of the Tribe, and interviewing members living abroad to understand life as an expat of color. AUDACITY Fest is another such initiative that serves as an immersive experience celebrating and creating a safe space for discussions centered around traveling the world as a person of color. Most recently, CondéNast Traveler launched an Instagram series entitled ‘Made In’ featuring Nomadness Travel Tribe founder Evita Robinson, having conversations with celebrities, influencers, activists, and politicians about the culture and community of places that have shaped them.

Tourism RESET, founded in 2010, is a multi-university, interdisciplinary research and outreach initiative that works to provide more comprehensive research focus on marginalized travelers and tourism products. Their goals are to identify, study, and challenge patterns of social inequity in the tourism industry. The research fellows and affiliates of Tourism RESET are currently working in four broad research areas:

  1. Race and inequality,
  2. Plantations, enslavement, and heritage tourism,
  3. People with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and gender,
  4. Sustainability, equity and wellbeing.

Tourism RESET team members have recently assisted with two Industry Reports with organizations above, Nomadness Travel Tribe and the Black Travel Alliance.