March 01

As Black History Month draws to a close, Change Is (Finally) Afoot in the Travel Industry

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As Black History Month draws to a close, I hope you’ll continue to recognize, honor, and celebrate the vast contributions African Americans have made—and continue to make—to our country. As I wrote last summer, our national conversation around race, and specifically around justice for Black Americans, is at a critical inflection point for our country. It’s vital to study Black history (and Black Futures) year-round to better understand the present and, most importantly, cultivate change for the future. Travel offers real-life opportunities to do just that.

For travelers, that might mean taking a road trip organized by Crush Global, a new Black-owned travel company; reading journalist Deborah D. Douglas’s new guidebookU.S. Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler’s Guide to the People, Places, and Events that Made the Movement (Moon, 2021); using Martinique Lewis’s The ABC Travel Green Book, a vast directory of Black-owned businesses around the world; ordering gifts directly from Black artisans; consulting and hiring Black travel experts to plan trips; and acknowledging that Black travel is not a monolith

Going Beyond a Black Square on Social Media

This year, for the first time, AFAR set objectives around improving our diversity, equity, and inclusion at the company level. That starts at the top for us—as it does for many others in travel, according to this piece by Skift Global Tourism Reporter Lebawit Lily Girma. 

Last year, we created an internal DEI committee with representatives from all departments to make recommendations about next steps. In 2021 our executive team will be completing DEI training workshops and, with the help of an outside consultant, creating an implementation plan for our staff. 

My sights are very much set on diversifying our masthead in the next six months to include more underrepresented perspectives and points of view. As is the case in so many industries, our networks are too insular, and hiring in the past has been powered too heavily by word of mouth. As part of the DEI training, we will focus on how we better recruit, bring onboard, and retain employees.

At a tactical level, our editorial team has focused on publishing the work of a broader array of voices, reflected most recently in our recent Where to Go feature in the magazine and our Travel Talespodcast. We have been more intentional with our story sourcing, making sure the people we speak to and the businesses we cover come from more varied backgrounds and identities. In the last year, our nascent AFAReads book club has featured works by Bryan Washington, Abdi Nor Iftin, and Candacy Taylor. 

We are actively working to diversify representation within our Travel Advisory Council and with that, we’ve increased Black representation by 14% since June 2020. Additionally, we’re focusing on improving the gender and racial diversity of speakers in our AFAR Live virtual roundtables and webinars. Representation matters—today and every day.

Change Is (Finally) Afoot in the Travel Industry

  • Nomadness Travel Tribe, founded by Evita Robinson (a 2018 AFAR Travel Vanguard honoree who appeared on AFAR Livelast summer), just released its BIPOC Diversity in Travel survey. The study contains valuable intel, especially for tourism marketers. Evita is a powerful force for good in the travel industry, and I recommend you watch her TED talkand sign up for one of her data and trends presentations, especially if you’re unfamiliar with her work.
  • Black leisure travelers in the United States spent $109.4 billion on travel in 2019, according to a new report from MMGY Global. The report, called “The Black Traveler: Insights, Opportunities and Priorities,” was created to identify the needs of the Black travel community. MMGY Travel Intelligence developed it on behalf of Black travel advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP), the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), and the Black Travel Alliance (BTA). Read more here.
  • Tourism Diversity Matters, a new organization composed of travel and tourism leaders, formed this month “to be an industry resource for diversity expertise in order to achieve inclusive excellence.” Destination D.C. president and CEO Elliott Ferguson serves as chairman of the board. TDM’s four guiding pillars include apprenticeship programs; workforce development; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and research and data.
  • Calling on magazines to more equitably cover Black travel businesses, the Collective, a coalition of Black travel media and publishers that includes Paula Franklin and Naledi K. Khabo, created the Black List, a comprehensive directory of Black travel experts around the globe. 
  • Travel Is Better in Color is a new organization surfacing vibrant stories from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) writers and photographers—and helping traditional travel media shake off its white gaze. 
  • The National Blacks in Travel and Tourism Collaborative(BTT) just launched the Black Tourism Talent Directory(BTTD), a digital platform serving as the official matchmaker for Black talent in the travel and tourism industry globally. BTT’s goal for the directory is to “Help create broader diversity, equity, and inclusion in the travel industry by creating a one-stop online resource for DMOs [destination marketing organizations], travel brands, associations, media, and influencers to connect with qualified Black industry talent worldwide. We no longer want to hear that Black talent is hard to find,” says BTT Founder Stephanie M. Jones.
  • This month the women’s travel community Wanderful hosted an Anti-Racism Town Hall for the Travel Industry that’s available on YouTube. Topics include ethical storytelling and photographic storytelling.
  • In December, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) published new guidelines for diversity and inclusion. The report, available for download, is divided into four pillars:  developing a supportive system; creating safe spaces; supporting an agile system; and exemplifying inclusion and diversity.

There is long-overdue momentum right now in the travel industry to welcome more people into the tent. At its best, travel can teach us, surprise us, and show us that we have more in common than what we think divides us. 

As travel emerges from the great pause of the pandemic, I believe AFAR can play an important role in forging a bright future for a more radically inclusive, sustainable, and purpose-driven industry.