I'm a minority, get me in there!

Sarah Lahiri describes her issues with the lack of representation in the travel industry.

Sarah Lahiri
7th December 2020
The typical steps when planning your travel would include flight costs, hotel comparisons and sorting out location logistics. As a person of colour, I have the added step of checking the extent to which I would be seen as a minority and be able to enjoy a successful travel experience, just like everyone else.

It doesn’t help that when I check travel and tourism websites, I hardly ever see anyone that looks like me and so judging my suitability in that environment becomes that much harder. Clearly, the travel industry has a diversity problem and it’s time people had that conversation.

For an industry that brags about celebrating and connecting different people and places, the representation of people of colour is disappointingly limited. From the way trips are sold, websites are advertised and holidays are marketed, there is an evident lack of inclusivity and there is no way to sugar-coat this. More often than not, company communication techniques are geared towards Caucasian audiences, with the occasional person of colour plastered on a poster in the name of diversity. It is rare to see minority ethnicities in power, let alone a priority group that is catered to.

This performative representation is not enough and it is time companies saw diversity as a necessity rather than a box that needs to be ticked. With travel and tourism rooted in the exploration of difference, more effort needs to be made to make people of colour feel seen and heard. Rather than alienate a giant community, travel media needs to feature different perspectives through diverse, non-western lenses. This would embody the diversity that travel is based upon and would involve a much wider audience that contributes significantly to the industry. If someone feels seen, they’re more likely to travel with your agency knowing you can cater to them and their lived experiences.

If a company isn’t structurally built on inclusivity, it loses out on the chance to have real life expertise and result in whitesplaining the issues that people of colour encounter. Seeing people of colour in practice transforms the industry’s approach completely, and is the first step in tackling the issues of underrepresentation and selective inclusivity.

It is not an easy, over-night process, but meaningful change never is. Representation needs to be seen at all levels and is necessary even when it is not trendy. Assumptions associated with the PoC traveller need to be dismantled to ensure that we’re not background characters in a western narrative and are deserving of a level playing field.  

Travel represents exploration of the unknown, so on behalf of people of colour- please, take the effort to know us.

Feature Image Credit: Wikimedia.com

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