It is, Time to Diversify!
No, really. It’s time. The year is 2019 and yet, here I am writing an article on Travel Diversity, because the world I live in, doesn’t seem to quite yet have a grasp on what that means.
Immediately I know, many of you are thinking: “Does she mean, more black people”?
Yes…and no. Travel diversity is not limited to the one black human being, placed in the background of your travel video, your marketing brief or your brochure. Although sadly, usually even spotting one person of color in these terms is a win. Sadly.
I know, you’re about to tell me that, that is a very one-sided and negative way of looking at things. Well, I’m sorry to make you uncomfortable, but as a person of color, as a woman of color, as an entrepreneur and business founder of color, as a travel lover of color, as a digital nomad of color, and as a PERSON OF COLOR, IT IS NOT ENOUGH!
The conversation doesn’t stop or even start there, though.
This is NOT just about popping a few people of color into your marketing material and making as if its all good and well, with the world and industry.
This is about making it the norm. It is about appealing to me, to my friends, who are of and can be of any ethnicity, race, sex, religion, sexual preference, age, etc.
Wait, what? “Cee, don’t you understand that there are certain demographics, and marketing tactics, that we spend hours, formulating based on our research”? Oh, believe me, I know. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and let me tell you, we are collectively not doing a good enough job!
So, what’s changed?
Access to Travel
First of all, entire race groups, of people around the globe, now have access to travel and travel options that they didn’t have 50 odd years ago. Yes, a lot of black people. A lot of people of color, in various parts of the world actually. And we want to see people who look like us. African, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Indian, Mixed Race, I could go on, but you get my point.
I want to see people who look like me, in your marketing material. Make me feel like you’re advertising to me, my friends, my demographic. And I mean in every aspect.
Whether you’re a 5 Star Luxury Resort (which I have stayed in), whether you’re a Backpackers, Hostel, or Lodge (which I have stayed in). Whether you’re an Adventure Activity Supplier, The Online Tourism Account for your Country or City.
YOU need to make sure, that you’re “inviting everyone to the party”. If you want me to spend my hard-earned money, which people do when they travel, then open the door for me.
Entire generations are changing the way they live, their lifestyles. Parents aren’t just sitting at home anymore, suffering from empty nest syndrome. They’re packing their bags and heading out to see the world, funding their travels, by putting their (paid off) homes on sites like Airbnb & Rent My Home.
Besides apparently besides “destroying everything”, millennial’s are also traveling a lot more, than our parents or their parents ever did. We are working remotely, because today’s technology, and slowly the structure of the business is providing for this lifestyle. We have an interest in seeing more of the world because we are able to view it from our phones, laptops, and devices all that more easily. I can sit in South Africa and live to feed the Venice canals. And then I can make the decision, to go there, on a Tuesday, in the middle of the week.
Parents are understanding Gap years a lot more. They are more accepting of the idea of their high school and university-aged children, studying in other countries. Countries, other than the ones they were born in or grew up in.
People are having babies later in life, choosing to have babies later in life and or not at all. People are choosing to travel with their kids more, homeschooling, online learning, van life trips, etc.
The “AGE” debate is changing and brands and tourism departments need to watch this. They need to understand it. They need to come to the party. My god folks just took themselves on a 30-day self-drive tour around Italy, and while that is something way out of my own personal budget, it’s something they could do, at this stage of their life. Later in life, after years of hard work and investment. Planning the actual trip was a breeze, with today’s tech, they didn’t even ask for my help.
Yes, representation within the travel industry when traveling, as a proud member of the LGBTQ family, matters. I am not saying you have to paint the front door of your hotel, shop or museum, in the flag colors. Although that would be nice, lol.
No, I am saying, let me know what you’re in support and that it’s not even a question, I have to ask, when staying with you. Tell me, I am safe and protected by your establishment, or activity or tour, when I am with you. Violence towards those in the LGBTQ community is still all too real. Especially when we travel to new places, and try new things.
One of the ways you can do that is including a visual representation of members of the LGBTQ community in your marketing material and your brand ethos. ie put a gay male, black couple on the cover of your hotel brochure.
To brazen? Well, guess what, there are gay black male couples who would like to stay with you, and go on your tours, so? And I am not saying that’s the only representation we need. I want to see lesbian couples with kids, nonbinary individuals, trans people, mixed-race couples, and every person who identifies as being part of the LGBTQ community. Can we stop with the stock model videos, still images and bygone material?
Oh, and can you employ members of the LGBTQ community as well, please. I worked in the hospitality and events industry for almost a decade both locally and abroad and let me tell you, there were and are not nearly enough people represented on that side of the fence either. Fix it!
More and more countries are dropping their homophobic laws, more and more people are opening their eyes, to the fact that we are all just human, and we are who we are. And everyone deserves to love and to be loved. Brands and companies need to take this into their marketing vision and express where they stand on the matter, so at least we know. And, NOT just during Pride Month. Let’s stop with that nonsense, we see you! I see you, my girlfriend sees you, my ex-boyfriend sees you, we all see you. Stand with us 365, not just at your marketing and media convince.
Religion & Culture
This world, this planet we share. It is filled with so many known and unknown religions and cultures. Which is beautiful. People, expressing, believing and choosing to exist in variously different ways. What’s not beautiful is people being attacked, persecuted and openly judged and hated for it.
I have stayed in places, that made me feel horribly uncomfortable because I was not of the local general religion, or culture. I have stayed in places, where everyone was welcome and no one cared, and in fact we openly discussed such and all laughed and learned more about each other.
When I see people in these situations, traveling, doing activities, eating somewhere and an issue arises, I expect the brand, company, or management to make that person know they’re welcome, and to ask the closed-minded whippets to leave the premises. Silence is compliance in so many aspects.
I covered most of what I wanted to say about race, at the beginning of this article, but I have some more to say.
Let’s open our eyes. Please. Can we just start including everyone? The standard is no longer blonde and white. I know, some of ya’ll are feeling attacked by that statement, but it’s a reality for so many of us. And not only do we need to speak out, but we also have to, it’s almost our responsibility, nothing will change if we don’t.
Every single race on this earth deserves and has a right to be represented. On the same level. And I mean this in regards to business as well. As a traveler and explorer, I do want to see people who look like me and my friends, for sure.
As a marketer and someone who works in media, I want to be one of those people representing change. Stop filling your entire travel and media campaigns with people who look the same. Stop it! I am here, and there is an entire world out there who would love to have someone who looks like me, represent them. My skin, my hair, my hips, my thighs! Me!
I urge brands, when people who don’t fit your “standard” model approach you or pitch you, don’t move the email to the bin or reply, with “sorry we’re not sure you’d fit our demographic” (oh yeah, that’s a thing). Take the time to talk to the person, ask them what they want to bring to the table, what they want to get across to your potential clients, to their audience and why they think the partnership would be beneficial. Don’t haggle prices and rates, don’t treat us any differently than you would your “standard” copy and paste, that you’ve had for the last 50 years. Give, change a chance.
I asked Debbie, from Wanderlust Calls, to express her thoughts on the matter and this is what she had to say:
Despite the size and the value of the black travel market, I rarely, if ever see a black person in a travel advert or catalog. Brands are flying out influencers who pretty much all look the same, but I rarely see any that look like me. It can be disheartening to never feel like you are represented or valued as a customer. That’s one of the reasons why my co-founder and I started Black Travel Creators.
One of our long-term goals is to connect black travel creators with brands. We want to work directly with brands to help to diversify the travel industry. There are all these discussions about diversity in the travel industry, which is great, but what action is actually being taken? I think it’s so important for us to come together to create this supportive community and to make our space within the industry. – Debbie
So what does that mean? It means connecting with me better, researching activities, tours, and offers, that people like me and my friends, might enjoy.
Provide utilities that are catered to me, food that is of a wider selection. Those little shampoo bottles in your bathrooms? While appreciated, can we not add one more (biodegradable and sustainable) option for those of us with ethnic hair or red hair, coarse hair, curly hair?
I am not here to attack anyone race, even though it might come across a bit that way, no, I am here to celebrate everyone, I am here to say that there is more than one race, that this world is filled with beautiful people. Let’s see more of it.
These are small changes, the shampoo may not solve this issue on its own. But listening to what we have to say on the matter, and trying to understand where we are coming from, and what we experience, within the travel sector of 2019, well that’s where it starts. That’s where and how we grow, together. How we open platforms and spaces to talk about it. That’s step one.
Thanks for reading and listening to the above, I know it’s slightly off-brand from my usual share’s but its time for those of us, who have platforms, to speak out on them, about things that matter.
Feel free to email me if you want to talk about working together, on your brand of adventure, via email@example.com
Yours in Media
Editor, Founder & Creative Director