Inclusion is a major travel trend—yet nuance often gets left out of discussions about inclusivity. The term may mean different things to different populations and regions. Go deeper with inclusion, with these tips for respectful group tours.
Know the Region's Demographics
Within different regions, certain demographics tend to be overrepresented and underrepresented. Thus, how inclusion is defined by well-intentioned people within those regions will vary. To explore a region in an inclusive manner, consider ways to reach both overrepresented and underrepresented populations.
The challenge here may be in outreach: identifying key players who can tap into those harder-to-reach demographics. Who are the trusted leaders? Where do people gather? Where is collaboration and outreach needed? How can tours positively support underrepresented populations within a community?
Know the Area's History
Historical areas tend to be known for a certain era of history. Consider New York's Lower East Side, well-known for its Jewish immigrant history and the Tenement Museum telling the story of those immigrants. Today, the neighborhood has large populations of Asian and Latinx residents and less of a Jewish population. By broadening the lens on that tour to contrast historical and modern experiences, the tour becomes richer and more inclusive. How to do both? Patronize a newer restaurant after a historical walking tour or museum visit.
Know Logistical Considerations
Well-meaning inclusion efforts can fall short if logistical considerations aren't thought through. Consider an area known for a particular festival, whether a religious event, a huge Pride parade or a cultural festival for a specific demographic. Are tourists welcome at these events? Is the festival for a particular demographic only? Attending to enjoy the celebration and delaying a trip until the festival concludes are two respectful options; often, these are case-by-case decisions that come from knowing local populations and preferences.
Think about all logistical aspects of regional tours through an inclusive lens. If a food tour is enjoying a regional specialty, such as local barbecue, are there offerings that aren't pork-based? If not, Jewish, Muslim, vegetarian and vegan travelers will be left out.
Know Public Opinion
Not all communities are equally welcoming or safe for all travelers. While tour leaders may wish it otherwise, some communities are conservative when it comes to LGBTQ travelers. For the safety and comfort of these travelers, trip leaders should advise them up front if there are any reservations that could give them pause. Ultimately, increasing LGBTQ travel within the region can open hearts and minds within these communities; still, traveler safety is a top-line consideration.
To really move the needle on inclusion, tour planners should do their research and think through considerations that may apply to some travelers or regions but not others. There may be a mindset adjustment in making the tour planning process inclusive. While this represents extra work up front, it pays off in better serving diverse communities of travelers and creating enriching tours that don't leave people out.
Written by Lindsey Danis, Contributing Writer for Groups Today.
This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of Groups Today.