Martinique Lewis, a diversity-in-travel consultant and president of the Black Travel Alliance, has for several years issued scorecards that measure how the travel industry addresses diversity, including race, gender, ability and sexual preference. After assessing the practices of 276 travel brands and organizations, she released her 2022 Diversity in Travel Scorecard on the second anniversary of Blackout Tuesday — a day when businesses posted black screens on social media as an act of solidarity following the murder of George Floyd. Diversity in ads and promotions as well as in cruising, aviation and hospitality received D’s. The industry was given F’s for diversity at travel conferences, within advisory boards and on social media. However, when Lewis spoke with cruise editor Andrea Zelinski about her latest findings, she said she found individual examples of progress.
Q: Overall, your Scorecard offers the industry a lot of D’s and F’s. Has the industry as a whole improved?
A: The overall industry hasn’t done better, but I am going to celebrate people who did. There’s no way you can say, “We didn’t know we need to be more diverse.” It is the main topic in this business, the main topic since 2020. They just haven’t done it yet … [and] it’s two years later. It should look really different next year, because you’ve had three years now. The budget is back up because everybody’s traveling again, so you can hire new people.
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Q: You produced the Scorecard in 2019, 2020 and 2022. Why not 2021, the year after Blackout Tuesday?
A: I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it takes brands a while to really try to figure things out. It’s like a game of double Dutch, where you are rocking back and forth with the ropes but you’re scared to actually jump in and start fully doing it because you’re like, “Oh, what if I fail? I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have help.”
I understand that you have to get a budget for diversity, or DEA and I (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion), for your brand. I know you have to bring in somebody to do training before you can completely move stuff, or you have to put your job descriptions in front of people who you want to hire. I understand that’s not going to happen instantly, especially when they’re coming from a traditionally homogenous space. I’m just trying to give people the benefit of the doubt, and a lot of people have exceeded expectations. But there’s so much more to go.
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Q: Who were some of those standouts?
A: I saw Expedia go through some changes. They definitely had a Black network, but they weren’t tapping into them. Then they started talking to people internally and putting them into those positions where they can really make a difference. TripAdvisor has always done an amazing job at it, but we also saw them grow, and they implemented different training sessions and supported a lot of Black projects. Hilton was the same way.
Destination Cleveland, they are an example of a destination that said, “We’re going to put our money where our mouth is. We’re going to hire people, we’re going to do research and then we’re going to implement at the highest level.” It’s a trickle-down theory. “We’re going to get in the community and understand what these people need, what Black business owners want to see and how we can bridge the gap between tourism boards or through a destination and their Black ownership, how we can offer more opportunities, not just with our black ownership or with our Asian ownership, with our LGBTQ+ [business owners].”
Cebu Airlines hired the first group of trans flight attendants. I loved that; I was like, “Whoa, we have not seen that anywhere, and now you’re talking about a place that’s in the Philippines. What is our excuse over here?”
United Airlines as well as Alaska Airlines put in tangible goals, meaning this amount of Black pilots we’re going to hire, this amount of women pilots we’re going to hire by this date. I always tell brands that it means nothing if you can’t give me a tangible statistic. Hurtigruten and Royal Caribbean are now hiring straight from historically Black colleges and universities. They’re giving these Black students a different opportunity than what you would regularly see specifically in the cruise industry. There are just so many different people or different brands who are doing a great job.
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