For just over two years, closures and restrictions made travel inaccessible for the majority of people on the planet. Now that restrictions are largely a thing of the past and travelers are free to move about the world, people are once again turning to travel for inspiration, relaxation and the opportunity to experience something new.
It goes without saying that those opportunities should be available to everyone, regardless of race, gender identity or sexual orientation.
I’ve been in the travel industry for more than 15 years - some might even say I’m an expert in the field. As a cisgender heterosexual white male, I’m acutely aware that I haven’t experienced the hurdles or prejudices others have when traveling to certain destinations.
However, I’ve seen first-hand how travel can connect people and bridge divides, and I want that same experience for others. As a leader in the travel industry, I feel like it is my duty to ensure that everyone has a good experience, and that means helping every traveler feel safe and welcome on every trip.
In working with destination marketing organizations, I have learned how destinations can create safe, welcoming and inclusive spaces for diverse travelers. Here are some ways travel marketers can support that vision.
Travelers will shop their values
Just like with other products, travelers are “shopping their values.” They want inclusive, accessible destinations where they know they’ll feel safe and welcomed. According to a recent survey from Accenture, approximately three out of every five travelers want their travel providers to share similar diversity and inclusion values.
When LGBTQ+ and ethnic minorities responded, that number increased to nearly three out of every four travelers. In today’s market, travelers are no longer willing to compromise their beliefs, which means destinations must prioritize diversity and inclusion to create the right reputation and win travel bookings.
What makes a destination inclusive?
Diversity and inclusion go well beyond marketing; it’s a way of life and a belief system that requires destination marketers to think about the messaging they're putting out and what kind of destination they want to be. You must become advocates for both your destination and the travelers you want to attract, and advocacy isn’t just about race or gender.
Travelers are no longer willing to compromise their beliefs, which means destinations must prioritize diversity and inclusion to create the right reputation and win travel bookings.
It also includes abilities, such as making places wheelchair accessible or safe for those with autism, and meeting the diverse needs of all travelers. Above all, it’s important to be authentic. This level of grit, sweat, and passion goes way beyond a hollow tagline. Travelers will see through any attempts to woo them without substance.
One of the best ways to be authentic is to have open-minded conversations and learn from travelers who are looking for inclusive destinations. Rather than making assumptions or boxing in travelers, speak directly to Black, Latino, Asian and LBGTQ+ travelers to find out what they really want and embrace who they are. Travelers everywhere want the same thing - to feel included, safe, and able to freely explore without prejudice.
Which destinations are succeeding?
A number of destinations are working diligently to ensure travelers from all backgrounds feel safe and accepted. New York City’s website is rich with options for all travelers, ranging from The Black Experience to halal-friendly options and AAPI leaders.
Boston recently launched its All Inclusive campaign, offering insights into Boston’s cultural diversity and helping travelers understand their options for accessibility around the city.
This year, Cleveland celebrated Freedom Fest in honor of Juneteenth, while Baltimore continues to celebrate its diverse population. Regardless of the destination, there are so many incredible ways to showcase diverse populations and traditions while welcoming travelers from all backgrounds.
Get started on your journey
What’s the best way for you to put your best, most inclusive foot forward? First, learn which travelers are coming to your destination. You likely have diverse travelers visiting your destination, so find out who they are and what they want and find ways to accommodate and inspire.
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For example, if you’re attracting LGBTQ+ travelers, you could put on more LGBTQ+-friendly events, which will naturally encourage travelers to return and attract new travelers. The best way to do this is to band together. Embracing diversity is a collective effort, so work with hotels, restaurants and attractions in your destination to make sure travelers will have the same inclusive experience wherever they go.
In addition to knowing your travelers and working together, it’s important to have the right toolkit. For example, Destinations International is creating diversity and inclusion toolkits for destinations. Your website is the face of your destination and a huge part of your toolkit, so periodically review your content. Do you use inclusive language? Would a traveler feel safe and comfortable when visiting?
I am proud to be part of an industry that connects human beings and helps us realize we are all the same. Travel is the best weapon to break down ignorance and judgment barriers. It is inspirational to witness destination marketers leading the charge to promote diversity and inclusion and make travel accessible to all people.
By creating inclusive, safe environments, DMOs are positioned to lead the charge in making sure travelers can explore the world in which we live.