It’s no secret that the travel industry has a history of struggling with diversity and inclusion efforts.
In the past two years, the topic became perhaps the most visible it’s ever been as many travel leaders, employees and consumers expressed a desire for – and at times demanded – a more diverse, inclusive and representative industry.
In response, some travel brands have taken up initiatives, including examining how to make hiring practices more diverse as well as working to promote women leaders within organizations.
And while these efforts are helping move the conversation and action forward, there are still gaps in the overall travel ecosystem when it comes to representation. Most notably, says the Culturist Group principal and founder Danny Guerrero, there is room for improvement in marketing.
“I’ve been going to travel events for many years, and I saw the same ideas on stage and an industry struggling with diversity, equity and inclusion,” Guerrero says.
“While absolutely important, the discussions we were having were at the organizational level, but [those DEI discussions] were not necessarily the answer to marketing.”
To advocate for and address the needs of underrepresented travelers, Guerrero last month launched the Culturist Group, a minority-owned multicultural brand marketing communications practice for the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.
The firm aims to help travel brands and destinations translate diversity, equity and inclusion imperatives into measurable multicultural marketing communications strategies, as well as deepen connections with and grow new multicultural audiences.
“I felt a personal desire to ask questions and provide solutions in terms of why more underrepresented travelers weren’t being addressed or acknowledged as an actual market segment,” Guerrero says.
Emergent travelers are the ones that are going to start to notice how travel brands and destinations are welcoming and representing.
Danny Guerrero - Culturist Group
In his previous role at MMGY Global, Guerrero led research studies on Black, Latinx and other underrepresented travelers, who have significant economic buying power. In 2019, underrepresented travelers accounted for 45% of all travel spend, with domestic U.S. Black travel spend at $109.4 billion and Hispanic domestic travel spend at $113.9 billion.
For these consumers, according to a 2019 survey by the Association of National Advertisers’ Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing, culturally relevant marketing is a key driver of brand affinity and intent. The study found that highly culturally relevant ads increased brand lift by 50% and purchase intent by 267%.
With the Culturist Group: “I wanted to really help travel brands and destinations to understand that this doesn’t have to be overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be impossible. If we look at culture in the sense of not corporate culture, but the culture of our country, the fabric of our country, we actually see a lot of parallels between consumers and groups.”
Guerrero says he hopes to empower travel brands and destinations to be more inclusive, because the more they can align on thinking in this new way versus just motivators based on intent, “we can actually be better about representing everyone and reaching everyone and including everyone in the travel experience.”
The Culturist Group, says Guerrero, is a multicultural travel marketing consultancy – different from a diversity and inclusion consultancy – that “bases itself on the fundamentals of diversity and inclusion regarding belonging and inclusion through actionable marketing.”
He believes there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for the industry, and traveler attitudes are changing. For example, white millennial and Gen Z consumers are “increasingly espousing the same points of view of motivators that people of color are.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
“It’s not just Black and Brown and Asian and LGBTQ need this. The emergent travelers are the ones that are going to start to notice how travel brands and destinations are welcoming and representing, being inclusive of all. That’s where the shift needs to happen over time within our industry.”
Guerrero says travel brands need to ensure they aren’t looking at multicultural marketing as a one-time thing, such as launching a campaign related to Black History Month, because that only serves as a temporary solution.
“What I want to propose is a more sustainable, everlasting approach to how to integrate this versus just being another spot campaign,” Guerrero says.
“It takes time and resources. It takes prioritization. But looking at it as a sustainable approach versus just a band-aid is where the evolution needs to happen.”