Stephanie Jones on leading Hurtigruten's Black Travel Advisory Board

By
|

This year, Hurtigruten Group formed the Black Travel Advisory Board, a six-member panel that met for the first time aboard Hurtigruten Expeditions' Roald Amundsen as it cruised to Antarctica in February. Stephanie Jones, chairwoman of the board, a marketing strategist and the founder and CEO of the Cultural Heritage Economic Alliance, talked with cruise editor Andrea Zelinski about ways to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in cruising in general and at Hurtigruten specifically.

Stephanie Jones
Stephanie Jones

Q: How well do cruise lines approach DEI?

A: Many of them are still trying to figure out where to start. Who do we start with? Do we start inwardly? That is always where I advise a company to start, because it's a lot more difficult for you to show diversity and inclusion outwardly if you had not yet addressed it inwardly. Overall in the cruise industry, I can't say that everybody's on the same page with how they're addressing DEI.

Cruise lines such as Carnival, and even Royal Caribbean, probably have not had to do as much marketing to Black travelers because they tend to offer cruises to warmer destinations, which is typically where Black travelers or cruisers prefer to go, such as to the Caribbean. On the other hand, a company such as Hurtigruten is very niche-based when it comes to their type of cruise adventures to cold parts of the world, such as Antarctica. Those are places that traditionally many Black travelers have not traveled to. It's not that Black travelers don't have the desire to, but if you're not marketed to when it comes to a unique experience, then you're unaware of it, and then you're not quite certain if you can access it.

Q: What are some of perceptions Black travelers have about Hurtigruten cruises?

A: I always use myself as an example. When Hurtigruten reached out to me and said, "We want you to go to Antarctica," I'm like, "Do I really want to go to Antarctica?" The first thing you think about is the cold, and that's not just me. A lot of people think it's such an unappealing place to want to visit because it's so cold. And what is there to do in Antarctica? It was very smart of them to invite the board on one of their cruises so that we could experience it. 

Q: Why is having firsthand experience so important?

A: For the board to be on that cruise and share with our networks and social media, and for other Black people to see a group of Black people in Antarctica, how often does that happen? It really started a conversation. A lot of people on all my social sites, whether they're Black or white, are all like, "Wow, I can't believe you're going to Antarctica. I really want to follow your journey. I want to learn more." There is an educational component that I think Hurtigruten especially needs to have -- whether among travelers in general, but especially Black travelers -- to really understand what the cruise encompasses and why it is a destination that people should consider. For people to be able to see that I could go with my daughter and go with another group of Black people and have a wonderful experience, other people are like, "I want to do this, too."

We can, as a board, provide some authentic feedback to their marketing and sales department about how to really market this experience to people of color so that it connects with them, so they feel like you're addressing the fears that a lot of people have but don't talk about when determining where they're going to visit.

Q: How do you achieve lasting change?

A: The key to DEI is sustainability. We're there to hold Hurtigruten accountable, but we're also working with them to advise them and to share thought leadership on: How do they market to Black travelers? How do they hire more Blacks who want to work on their ships? How do they contract or find minority suppliers that can supply them with soaps or lotions and things of that nature? That will equate to sustainability.

It's great to be diverse and inclusive, but at the end of the day, if these opportunities are not equitable in putting money in people's pockets and creating revenue for businesses, then they've missed the mark. 

Comments

From Our Partners


From Our Partners

An Insider’s Look at the Globus family of brands and Avalon Waterways, featuring Camille Olivere
An Insider’s Look at the Globus family of brands and Avalon Waterways, featuring Camille Olivere
Watch Now
The Luxury Advisor
The Luxury Advisor
Read More
KLM Introduces Premium Comfort
KLM Introduces Premium Comfort
Watch Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI