Skift Take

Sometimes, delivering on the promise for change is not about adding a chair to the table, but in giving the chair already in place to someone entirely different and new.

Series: Viewpoint

For our Viewpoint series, Skift invites thought leaders, some from the less obvious corners of travel, to join in the conversation. We know that these independent voices are important to the dialogue within the industry. Our guest columnists will identify and shape what global trends and through lines will define the future of travel.

Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on destinations and businesses dependent on a tourism market that remains vulnerable amidst ever-changing restrictions and virus resurgences. Nevertheless, consumers have not forgotten the promises made by industry leaders immediately following George Floyd’s murder which brought to surface the voices and historic systemic problems impacting the BIPOC community.

For those of us working for years to inform and encourage brands and marketing heads to think outside the box and look beyond the standard industry talking heads and images, it felt incredible, in 2020, to suddenly witness so many industry leaders speak up and ally themselves to old causes with new names, such as Black Lives Matter and others.

The global outcry against social injustice and the call for accountability from brands that fell short seemed to have reached a fever pitch and for a moment it felt like this momentum would yield positive change.

The movement brought with it hope, though it also translated into new careers for others looking to profit off of the increased demand for DEI insight and guidance, regardless of their training or skills to effectively do so. 

Inclusive marketing” became the strategy goal of the year, with endless how-to guides to refer back to. Promises for diversity and inclusion were made. And we’ve seen progress, to some extent.

For example, a new report published this year from Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure (WiHTL)  found that the number of hospitality, tourism, and leisure businesses with a DEI strategy in place increased from 80 to 86 percent since 2020.

A 2020 Tribe Dynamics Influencer Marketing Trends Report found that 91 percent of brands reported taking actions to empower BIPOC influencers.

Travel giants, such as United Airlines announced its goal to train 5,000 new pilots, at least half of them women or people of color, at its new flight school over the next decade with scholarship commitments from United and JPMorgan Chase to ensure that highly qualified, motivated, eligible applicants won’t be turned away for financial reasons.

Yet, a year and a half later, too many gaps remain. While strategies and in-corporate conversations on DEI may have increased, with far more committees formed and endless resources on the topic shared, WiHTL also found that at the executive level, gender diversity has fallen from just 10 to 7 percent since 2019, while the number of companies with no women on their boards has increased this year from 15 to 21 percent.

While BIPOC influencers are in high demand, studies have shown a dramatic 29-35 percent average pay gap when compared to their white counterparts. And while the industry has called for support and empowerment of BIPOC voices, 59 percent felt they were negatively impacted financially when they posted about social justice issues versus 14 percent of white influencers.

While the increased opportunities for diverse talent and influencers, as well as front-facing staff and direct reports has been a way to showcase representation and inclusivity, these are low-hanging fruit efforts when one considers the lack of those same voices and influences in the rooms where the decisions are made and from where the money is allocated. And these are the failures that lead to campaigns such as the one recently released by Tourism Fiji as well as to current diversity retention problems faced by the industry.

All this is not to say that the promises and good-intentions bred from the outcries and activism of the BIPOC community and our allies, further motivated by consumer demands, expectations, and standards, are not impactful or meaningful. But rather that it is not enough to make the changes in the cracks that we can all easily see. 

The weight of the promises lie in the dismantling of a system that fights to remain in power, and in those who have historically benefited from it the most. Sometimes, delivering on the promise for change is not about adding a chair to the table, but in giving the chair already in place to someone entirely different and new. Progress isn’t instigated by words spoken alone, but by courageous actions taken, especially in places where no one is watching.

Here’s to hoping that the new year brings forth the courage to take these promises further.

Carol Cain is the co-founder and principal of Brave World Media, a social media marketing, branding, and communications agency committed to helping brands and business tell their story through inclusive, diverse, and equitable marketing and creative content.

Tags: black lives matter, diversity, tourism, viewpoint