The travel industry needs to lead with actions, not just words of support, when it comes to addressing diversity in tourism, according to black industry leaders.

During a webinar hosted by Blacks in Travel and Tourism, panelists said that companies must do more than post messages in support of Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. And separately a newly formed group launched a scorecard to evaluate how travel brands and organizations represent the black community in their employment, marketing campaigns, philanthropy and other areas.

The group, called the Black Travel Alliance, was formed by black travel content creators and travel advisors. It called on the industry to "work toward meaningful representation of black voices." The group said it will measure travel companies "on not just what they say but also what they do." 

"Dismantling systemic racism requires more than social media activism," said Jeff Jenkins, a member of the alliance and founder of ChubbyDiaries.com, an online community for plus-size travelers. "Destination management organizations and travel brands need to truly become more inclusive in their hiring practices and marketing campaigns."

During the Blacks in Travel webinar, Jason Dunn Sr., chairman of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals and a group vice president with the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, conveyed a similar message. 

"It's easy to put a social media post and say you're aligned with Black Lives Matter or with equity and race and diversity within the industry. But we're challenging people to look at what people are stating and then look at their track record," he said. 

With a national conversation currently focused on racial injustice, other panelists said there is opportunity for real change to take place. 

"I'm seeing a reaction that is not going to allow those corporate leaders who are putting a blind eye to what's happening to black America," said Elliott Ferguson, president of Destination DC and national chair of the U.S. Travel Association. "It won't bode well for them. … We are probably further along in some important and robust discussions than we ever have been as it pertains to race relations." 

Ferguson also said that discussions on how blacks have been treated in corporate America must continue. 

"We need to make sure that we have the white CEOs in those corporations who are in power and who employ us make sure they understand the importance of this conversation continuing."

He said that U.S. Travel is having some "uncomfortable" discussions with the industry "in terms of what's expected and the fact that black people are angry."

"You employ these black people without focusing on people's feelings and emotions tied to what's happening in black America, and that won't be accepted going forward," Ferguson said. "There's a lot of momentum from millennials and Generation Z of all colors, which will make a difference in terms of them demanding for things to change." 

Betty Jones, founder of Travel Professionals of Color, said another issue is how few black people are portrayed in advertising, citing statistics showing that less than 3% of all advertising showcased African Americans. 

"You hardly ever see us in any of the ads and commercials, but we are spending the money out there," she said. "We don't have a seat at the table."

The Black Travel Alliance also said that there is not enough black representation in marketing campaigns, even from cities and countries that attract or constitute a large number of black people. 

It also said there is a dearth of black representation in the management and staff of large travel companies and given spots on travel press trips.

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