Tour operators aim to boost diversity through training and funding
Pathways is a group effort – initial investment came from the TreadRight Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Travel Corporation, and funds are managed through the nonprofit organization Tourism cares. Based in New York TravelSchoolwhich develops online and in-person courses for tour guides and tour operators and last year launched a diversity initiativeprovides the curriculum.
“It’s an open secret that if you look around at conventions, hiring conferences, or even internally at companies’ staff and independent contractors, you don’t see a lot of diversity,” Mitch said. Bach, CEO of TripSchool. “There are a lot of diversity initiatives out there, but that’s something that hasn’t happened in group travel until now.”
Other group travel organizers are also making progress: intrepid journey launched a new marketing policy last year that involves a series of inclusion commitments, including ensuring that at least half of its creators and influencer partners are Black, Indigenous or of color; companies like outdoor afro encourage the black community to connect with nature.
And the adventure cruise outfitter Hurtigruten Expeditions established a six-person Black Travelers Advisory Council, offering each member a $5,000 consulting fee, as well as a matching donation to an organization of their choice that supports black travelers. In February, the group traveled together to Antarctica, where they held sessions on marketing and investing in black travelers.
While these may be the first organized and traditional efforts to address the lack of diversity in group tours, black tour guides have operated for decades in a growing black travel industry. Black travelers to the United States spent nearly $130 billion on leisure travel, both domestic and international, in 2019. But black travelers face unique challenges. MMGY Global Tourism Marketing Agency reports that security and representation concerns weigh heavily on black travellers.
“It’s not that black tour guides aren’t there, they just aren’t getting the recognition they deserve,” said Martinique Lewis, a travel diversity consultant who is president of the black travel wedding ring, a non-profit organization launched in 2020 to hold travel brands accountable to their diversity and inclusion claims (she is also a member of the advisory board of Hurtigruten). “These are not the ones travel publications put on their big list, nor the ones destinations use when you visit their site. But there are several tours around the world that cater to a different narrative than the European background.
Tashieka Brewer, a publicist who lives in New Jersey, began aggregating many of these visits on a website, Pink girls rule the world, after becoming frustrated with her own group travel experiences, including hearing from a fellow traveler on a plantation tour in New Orleans who questioned whether African Americans had really been held as slaves. She also offers links to Airbnb posts, restaurants and hotels that have been recommended as welcoming to black travelers, and blogs about her own travel experiences.