Published on Monday, June 8, 2020

Comment: Everybody's calling for the travel industry to seize the racial equality moment


Photo Dear Kitty

Valere Tjolle, former Vision Editor for TravelMole, asks why it's taken so long for the travel industry to wake up to racial equality.

"Reading the travel press this week you'd think that today's demonstations against the hideous killing of a black man by the US police was a shaft of inspiration come out of the blue. Skift says 'Don't Miss This Seminal Moment for Racial Justice, Travel IndustryJustin Francis - 'We need to talk about race and tourism' and Travelpulse Journalist Alex Tremblador said: 'Racism, like in many other sectors of society, has been built into the travel industry, both knowingly and unknowingly. It's the travel industry's responsibility to do something about it.'

So why now?

Look around you. We've wasted a fabulous resource of amazing people for at least 60 years. Unless, of course they are deferential and in an African or Caribbean destination.

But in the travel and tourism industry's halls of power - where tourism is generated and controlled - where are they?

How many black senior executives are there at the WTTC? How many black tourism consultants who write whole country masterplans are there? How many black executives are there creating tourism loans at the development banks? How many influential operators like TUI have a number of black people on their boards. And the nouveau riche OTAs do you see their black empowerment their cool black leaders? How many of their key personnel are black?

And at UNWTO where it should be totally diverse... is it? I'm trying to think of just one black person at their secretariat in Madrid.

The fact is that none of the industry's good words and promises are dreamed up by black folk. Few of the speakers at travel exhibitions are black and few of the attendees at the top cocktail parties are black.

And, of course, the 'inclusivity' problem gets much bigger when you consider the number of women and the LBGTQ people in the industry.

"Why is that?" you may ask. In my view it's simple - the travel industry value chain is, and always has been, a master/servant series of relationships and generally straight white men are pretty much the best at that particular expertise.

So change the personnel and eventually the modus operandi will change too. And the SWMs wouldn't like that very much.

Of course it's not too late. But the situation calls for action rather than platitudes. On the bright side high level thoroughgoing change may give the industry the industry the dramatic boost that it needs."


Valere Tjolle
Valere is CEO of Best of Romagna and author of 'You Lucky People' the story of travel - the world's most delightful and devastating industry. Find out more about it HERE

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  • Travel advisor

    Well said. It is so true. The lack of diversity on the top of the travel food change is very apparent.

    By Andre Leavitt, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

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