How Tour Operators Can Make a Difference in the Fight Against Racism

Frida Kops   ● 8 min read
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The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, has sent ripples across the world. I can’t put into words how much it has shocked, saddened and appalled me to the core. But what I can say is that we all have a responsibility to recognise racism in the travel industry and beyond.

By being better informed, we can take action in the fight against racism. I explore some suggested steps on how tour operator businesses can do this.

Let’s get started.

Here's this week's roundup:

Racism Doesn’t Take a Vacation

Although the travel sector takes pride in bringing different people and cultures together, this article highlights that positive travel experiences are not felt universally.

Arnie Weissmann discusses our responsibility as representatives of the travel industry to go further than ‘white privilege’ experiences and make a contribution to fight against racial prejudice and bigotry.

“We do know the spectrum of bigotry that may confront African Americans does not magically cease while they’re vacationing in America. That’s something to give thought to when reading predictions that domestic travel is likely to be the first to rebound.”

The focus recently has been on reassuring travellers that health & safety protocols are in place, but I agree with Weissmann that reassuring black travellers that they will be welcome, accepted and safe when visiting must be a top priority.

Wiessman draws from an experience he had at an event last year where he saw t-shirts being handed out saying  “Y’all means all. Everyone’s welcome in Fort Worth”.

“We know it will take more than slogans on T-shirts to resolve our racial problems, but affirmations like that can crystallize the message of a multipronged campaign of tolerance focused first on one’s own community and later, if successful, redirected to attract visitors.”

I’m not suggesting either that slogan t-shirts are enough, but the idea of a multi-pronged campaign is a good approach. Tour operators must put serious thought into the ways of promoting an inclusive travel experience in order to communicate the message correctly.

In what ways could your tour operator business play a bigger part in promoting racial equality?

Read the full article here.

Safety Messaging in Holiday Advertising ‘Positively Influences’ Tourists

Around this time last month I shared an article via my weekly email newsletter titled When Travel Returns the Focus Needs to Be on Fun. That article looked back in history to draw inferences on what would motivate customers to travel again – in a nutshell, it was fun.

However, a recent study by King’s Business School in London found that “safety messaging increased the likelihood of tourists booking a trip”.

What’s interesting is that this study was performed outside of the context of a health crisis so you can imagine how important safety messages would be now.

Typically, travel companies rarely focus on safety messages in their advertisements. Indeed, most safety announcements are done via social media posts, email or blogs.

However, this article suggests that it may be worthwhile for tour operator businesses to change tactic.

For example…

When using advertising to promote your tour experience in Vietnam, it could reflect the fact that Vietnam has a population of 95 million people but has had zero covid-19 fatalities.

At the end of the day, your customer wants to know you are putting their safety needs first over your profit margin.

So should tour operator businesses promote safety or fun in their advertising campaigns?

My advice is to A/B test these marketing messages and see what works for your target audience.

Read the full article here.

Travel Uncomfortable

Source: Arival

In the video below Akila McConnell, founder of Unexpected Atlanta, gave an amazing presentation on how her travel company addresses the issue of racism.

Akila highlights the power of storytelling and explains how tour operators can tackle the issue of racism through telling oral and visual stories, which will in turn also increase profit margins.

“We have the opportunity to tell untold stories….and sometimes uncomfortable stories.”

I invite you to dedicate 14 minutes to watch Akila’s talk to remind yourself of how important the travel industry can be in making a difference.

Read the full article here.

Here's my top-tip articles:

How the Travel Industry Can Do Its Part in the Fight Against Racism

Source: Travel Pulse

In this article travel companies are urged to implement actionable steps in the fight against racism. I consider this topic extremely important because many tour operators might not be aware that the problem exists.

“Racism has been built into the travel industry through a lack of equal opportunity, travel technology, poorly designed customs and immigration systems, and ignorance about the experiences of people of color.”

Here are the mains things to consider:

  • Recognize racism.
    The first step to solving any kind of problem is to admit it exists. If you are a tour operator business targeting international clients from different cultural backgrounds, you might think that racism doesn’t apply to you. There is a big chance that you are mistaken. Many travel companies don’t realise that the experiences of people of colour is often very different.

“Start by accepting that racism is here; it is in your company and it affects travelers. Don’t ignore it, don’t attack people of color or others who point it out. Sit in those feelings, accept it, and know you’re not alone on this learning journey.”

  • Inform yourself about racism in the travel industry and beyond.
    Read relevant articles, studies, get access to the material published by travellers of colour. Try to get the whole picture. If you wish to go a step further, then you could hire an external consultant with speciality in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D.E.I.) Industry to help your tour operator business.
    Types of assistance a consultant can offer includes:

    • Developing courses and groups sessions about unconscious bias within your tour operator business
    • Leading groups on conversations concerning racism
    • Offering guidance on ways in which you and your employees can be an ally to people of colour.
    • Setting up systems and best practices to put an end to microaggressions that people of colour experience.
  • It starts from the top.
    Owners and CEOs of tour operator business must create the environment in which employees and clients will be comfortable to discuss the topic of racism.
  • Diversify your travel company.
    Sheila Johnson, CEO and Founder of Salamander Hotels & Resorts argues that the only way the travel industry will evolve and make an impact is to recognise that people of diverse backgrounds bring forward fresh ideas and experiences. They look at life from a different perspective which is so valuable.
  • More representation in sales and marketing.
    Visible representation across your sales and marketing is crucial. In order to shape messages in your website copy, adverts and social media, hiring writers and editors of colour is also important.
  • Develop a plan to fight racism.
    How? The ideal solution would be the creation of an anti-racism committee within your organisation. This would be a place where employees could openly discuss racism and exchange ideas for fighting it. However, if your tour operator business is a small company, then start by asking yourself this:

    • Are you inclusive of diverse groups of people?
    • Does your branding promote unconscious bias?
    • Is your tour operator business sensitive to the needs of travellers of colour?

“You have power and you have a voice, even at the lowest levels of a travel company, to fight against racism. It’s up to you who work in the travel industry to fight racism from within so that everyone can enjoy the joys of traveling equally.” – Alex Temblador

Read the full article here.

How to Do Diverse and Inclusive Content Marketing That Matters

64% of all respondents took some action after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse or inclusive.

How do you ensure that your tour operator business produces diverse and inclusive content?

Simply including people of different races, genders, ages on a single ad is not enough.

You need to really dig into your audience, connect with them physically, emotionally, psychologically.

Our curated article from Content Marketing Institute explains why it is important to reflect diverse voices in your content and provides steps to achieve that.

Here is a summary:

  1. Dig into your audience. I am sure your travel company knows a lot about its ideal customer: gender, age, income, nationality, race. But that’s not enough. You need to go deeper to understand their behaviour, the reasons behind it, points of view.
  2. Edit for inclusion. There are style guides that content writers can use when in doubt about phrasing. In order to create inclusive content, editors must avoid assumptions and instead question their opinions on the topic.
  3. Incorporate in production. This means considering all the elements of your content. Remember that some people might not read or see well, others might not hear well. Therefore, you should always include captions in your videos and apply transcripts for audio interviews.
  4. Don’t go overboard. If you try too hard to demonstrate that your content is diverse and inclusive, it can backfire. It is a long process that might require to look at some things differently. Make sure that your content is aligned with your brand’s values.

How well does your content marketing reflect the diversity of your audience?

Read the full article here.

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No More Hidden Gems: How to Hook Consumers and Avoid Travel Content Clichés

Before you create another post, blog or email to promote your destination, I encourage you to read this article. It provides valuable information on why your tour operator business should stop using cliché words in your travel content, such as “world-class”, “best-kept-secret”, and “local”. 

5 tips on how to replace these words and make your content stand out from the noise:

  1. Avoid generalizations. Step away from overused unclear words. Instead of encouraging your audience to explore “local hidden gems” during their “epic” or “fantastic” tour, tell them what is so special about it. Reveal interesting stories, focus on the people who make these destinations worth visiting.
  2. Think about your audience. Keeping your audience in mind will help you to include information relevant to them. If you are not sure what your audience wants, go ahead and ask them.
  3. Use humour and personality. Rather than describing dry facts about your tour, think of a funny story that happened to you or one of the previous customers. A smiling reader of your content is more likely to remember you and book with you in the future.
  4. Catch cliches in your revisions. Once you have written  a first draft of your content, take a break before you come back for revision. Identify cliche words and ask yourself whether you can replace or remove them.
  5. Turn SEO insights into original content. Remember that your content needs to provide the answer to questions people ask in Search engines. Look for the opportunities to rank long tail keywords.

“Don’t edit as you go. You need to write it up first. Then review the adjectives and ask, ‘Does this sentence actually add to the story?’ If you’re using words like ‘luxurious’ and ‘charming,’ use something different that is more specific and says what you mean.”

– Kelsey Ogletree, a freelance writer for Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.

Read the full article here.

A statistic I found interesting:

Less than 19% of advertisements include people of colour and yet people of colour are 38% more likely to purchase if ads reflect them. (Arival)

A question for you:

How well does your content marketing reflect the diversity of your audience?

Share your thoughts and comments on our Facebook and Linkedin page or drop me an email at [email protected] – I’d love to hear from you.

The 10xpress is a weekly series curated exclusively for travel companies like you

Every week, I provide you with:

  • Reports, opinion, case studies and key findings that directly impact the tours and activities sector.
  • Educational articles to guide you through the changing world of online sales and marketing from industry leaders.
  • Tips and tools on how to improve your tour operator business, generate more sales and make your life easier.
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