Diversity and Inclusion in the Travel Industry – What’s the Score?

With only one in 33 leaders in the travel, hospitality and leisure industries in the UK identifying as being from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (Bame) background, as compared to 1 in 8 in the UK population, it’s time to push diversity in the travel industry to the top of the agenda.

The Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) is attempting to do just that, with a diversity survey of the travel industry and a Diversity and Inclusion in Travel conference on 3 July, where the survey results will be revealed.

We spoke to Dan Pearce, CEO of the TTG, and the driving force behind this conference. Dan says, ‘Speaking frankly, ethnic diversity is definitely an issue for the travel industry. Anyone that attends senior-level travel industry conferences regularly – the ABTAs, the ITTs (Association of British Travel Agents, and Institute of Travel and Tourism) – will be aware just how non-ethnically diverse the delegates are. We think there’s an inherent contradiction there about an industry which works to bring cultures together across the world, and we think not enough people are talking about it.’

Dan is mindful that the conference shouldn’t bite off more than it can chew, but does want to give airtime to several pillars of diversity and inclusion on the day, including ethnicity, women in travel, LGBT issues, and accessibility. He says, ‘We will hear from companies both inside and outside of travel who are truly driving change with their diversity and inclusion policies. These include Carnival UK, EasyJet, Intrepid, and Barclays Bank.’

Time for the travel industry to act

Dan says, ‘Every business needs to be constantly aware of issues of diversity and inclusion, for their own company culture, and for the proven business impact that comes with embracing these areas. However, we think this has been a particular challenge for travel.’ Dan wants as many leaders in travel as possible to attend the conference and take home real ideas to drive change.

But it’s not just a UK problem. Progressive Travel Recruitment’s new North America Director Natasha Sharma sees a similar problem in the US and Canada. She says, ‘The ways I think we could begin to change things as an industry, and start to be more diverse include more marketing and advertising to include different types of people. This is improving, but it’s slow progress. Also, I think we should be actively altering the trend and promoting Bame and LGBTQ people in to senior positions. And we should all be actively growing networks outside our usual comfort zones.’

Of course, we should always hire based on skills and abilities, but those of us in a position to hire, should encourage our clients to think outside their usual boxes. In another recent blog, the Progressive Team has encouraged people to hire more creatively – this also includes being more ethnically diverse.

The North American view

Natasha says, ‘Some North American companies do specifically target the LGBTQ market in travel product offerings, but if others were to start doing this for ‘black friendly tours’ it would seem very non-PC. We need to think more cleverly.’ We aren’t looking for a segregated travel industry, but a more diverse one.

‘Growing up, I never saw travel or hotel adverts with any representation of people of colour or openly gay on TV,’ says Natasha. ‘I definitely didn’t think luxury travel was for me as a dark-skinned person. Why would I pursue something not meant for me?’

But things are changing. Large companies do still tend to be very white, but start-ups and small independent travel agents are more diverse and slowly changing the face of travel.

Natasha says, ‘Modern internet travel companies such as FlashPack will help to break down barriers. They are much more about inclusivity. The increase in income and education, the rise of social media, and a generation of tech-savvy millennials, are all coming together to create a new more diverse travel movement.’

I do also believe things are gradually getting better. Diversity in the travel industry has to be a corporate culture priority – it starts at the top. Travel leaders must promote greater diversity in their workforce, and that trickles to HR and recruitment practices.

Let’s hope companies catch up. Diversity in the travel industry is a pressing issue, and all those in a position to act should do so.

To find out more about diversity in the travel industry and sign up to the TTG Diversity and Inclusion in Travel conference on July 3, 2019, click here.

Connect with Natasha Sharma on LinkedIn click here.

Connect with James Roberts on LinkedIn here.