News & Views

2020 Inclusivity Scorecard

Inclusivity was on everyone’s lips through 2020. The goal now is to keep putting those words into actions. The travel industry is already facing challenges with the ongoing pandemic, but maintaining the progress we’ve made with diversity and inclusion only further nuances the work of everyone in the industry.

As we look back at 2020, however, we see that some things in the travel industry – and the world in general – did change for the better. Some are baby steps. Others are larger strides. The point is that we were moving at all, and that’s hopeful.

We wanted to take a moment to look at some of the changes that stood out to us, that really captured the transformations that we hope permeate the entire travel industry. Revolutions don’t happen overnight. But, if 2020 was any indication, people worldwide are ready to make inclusivity a part of their daily routine and not something we only celebrate during certain months or days.

1. Associations and Visibility

The most exciting and visible change was the creation of the Black Travel Alliance following all of the summer 2020 protests. Standing on pillars of alliance, amplification, and accountability, these content creators are making sure that Black voices are not just heard when it’s convenient, but that they are always part of the conversation.

While minority groups have always created spaces to voice the concerns and needs of those groups, it was exciting to see how quickly the travel industry embraced the Black Travel Alliance and its commitment to amplifying diverse voices and importantly, holding the greater tourism industry accountable. Time will tell how the group will continue to elevate Black voices throughout 2021 and beyond.

2. Tweaking Media Norms

When the AP Style Guide put out a new standard that “Black” be capitalized, it was making a statement. By using Black, the media refers to the people and cultures of those who can trace roots back to Africa, but also to other places, helping to evolve from the term “African American.” The move brought parity to the Black experience in a very visible written way, akin to how writers already refer to Native Americans or Latinos with capital letters.

The decree was a powerful one. It brought some sort of consensus to how journalists write about Black Lives Matter, allowing for more open and honest conversations without having to dance around the lexicon. It didn’t uniquely affect the travel industry, but it gives us a framework and a marching order moving forward in our written content, and absolutely helps guided travel writers who will write about Black travel experiences.

3. Visual Representation

Words are great, but images speak volumes. A positive change from 2020 that gets big marks is the push to create a more visually inclusive view of destinations. Travelers are bombarded with travel images on social media and in print – but rarely are they as diverse as the world we inhabit.

One way that this change has panned out is by seeing the big stock photo companies responding to the call for more diversity. A recent example is the giant Getty partnering with the BBC to create more diverse family stock photos. We are seeing the same sorts of discussions happening on the client level, influencing future marketing campaigns.

These conversations aren’t brand new, but we’re seeing more action now than before. Destinations, tour operators, and any travel-related content creators need to follow suit. While simply placing images of Black people on social media or on a brochure will not fix anything, it’s one piece of a larger, much more thoughtful solution in destination marketing.

4. Focusing on Minority-Owned Businesses

A very concrete change that has been exciting is the amount of attention paid to minority and Black-owned businesses throughout 2020. It’s been hard to support any business as usual because of COVID-19. Local companies are constantly reinventing themselves as doors open and close with lockdowns.

Despite the positive support, most reports over the past months showed that, unfortunately, female and minority-run businesses tend to suffer the most. Still, there is hope, as some places report Black-owned businesses thriving. Positive marketing among these communities and supported by DMOs like in Louisville, for example, are creating a more constant rallying cry to support these individuals and their businesses.

Hopefully by the end of 2021, minority-owned businesses will be incorporated into every round-up, list, and marketing endeavor instinctively, having achieved some sort of parity with all other businesses. For now, however, it’s encouraging to see destinations single out their minority-run businesses, to support them during these especially precarious times. Parity is still a long way off, and the travel industry needs to remember that.

5. Making Inclusive Inclusive

Yes, 2020 focused on Black Lives Matter, but destinations have to learn how juggle more than one ball at a time. While marketing efforts and content creation must provide better representation for Black travelers, we can’t sideline other groups who also struggle to find a voice in the travel industry.

While no means sidelining the BLM movement, it’s just important for destinations and other travel professionals to realize that marginalization happens in many other ways.

In 2020, we saw some advances that got us excited. For example, in New York, the I Love NY brand featured brand new resources dedicated to an accessibility campaign, promoting travel for those bound in wheelchairs or traveling with other disabilities. And in Atlanta, the mayor’s office appointed its first-ever full-time advisor to the mayor to promote LGBTQ issues and tourism.

These are small changes, perhaps, but important ones. They underscore how much work there is to do before we achieve anything close to the inclusivity that we need.

Excited about how you can take the inclusivity lessons of 2020 into 2021 and beyond? Enthusiasm is the first step, but a thoughtful plan is the next step. Get in touch with Daniella Middleton at [email protected] to learn how our diversity and inclusivity strategies can help you achieve your goals.

Written By

Daniella Middleton

Daniella Middleton is a Senior Vice President in the Tourism Practice, leading strategy and directing digital marketing strategies, influencer marketing partnerships, and MICE / business events marketing and sales.

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