I have been in the travel industry a short time — almost two years now. My love of travel, having visited over 35 countries, inspired me to finally become an active member of this incredible industry. The learning curve has been tremendous and with so many different suppliers and areas of the industry, there is an infinite amount of information to be to be taken in. Whether that information is obtained through webinars, online training modules, in person training sessions or reading brochures, the ultimate goal of each supplier is to provide travel advisors with the most concise and thorough material to outline the best selling features of their brand.
However, I noticed something from the moment I entered this industry that I didn’t really notice as a consumer. And I attribute this to either limited exposure to the industry or even distraction by the excitement of planning my trips. But the more pages of supplier travel brochures I flipped through, or corporate travel training videos I watched, one thing really stood out: photos of people in the marketing material were almost always Caucasian.
As a person of colour, I could hardly find any photos that represented someone who looked like me enjoying the vacation experience being advertised. In fact, I realized people of colour were grossly underrepresented unless they were shown either as staff or inhabitants of their native country. This depiction existed across the spectrum, from luxury brands to entry level brands. The travel and tourism industry caters to a diverse clientele but the diversity in their representation of clients is sadly lacking.
Why is this? Travellers come from all corners of the Earth, seeking that which is different from what they already know. They want to experience new cultures, local foods and customs, and widen their appreciation for our diverse planet. Why, then, are the ones who revel in the curiosity and excitement of travel being represented by just one group? This homogenous portrayal is a contradiction to what the notion of travel is supposed to represent: Diversity and Inclusion.
We need to evolve how we promote our products and be more cognizant of what our brands represent and the message they convey. That includes raising the bar on inclusiveness and changing the depiction of a traveller.
COVID-19 has changed everything in our industry. It’s made us realize how truly interconnected we are. It’s forced us to be more considerate of the outcomes of our actions, how we have deep effects on others.
I want to encourage all suppliers within the industry to reflect the world in all aspects of your marketing. Let go of the generic image of your traveller and fully capture the colourlessness of the human spirit. We are here to represent the world. Let’s do it fully.