Experiencing cultures is the third-biggest motivator for travel, according to Skift Research.
While novel destinations may be eye-opening, diverse companions could also widen a traveler's point of view. To promote inclusivity in travel, understand what diverse audiences need, adjust your service model when appropriate, and manage your group's expectations for a successful—and respectful—trip.
Understand What Audiences Need
Ask yourself if there are actions you could take to make travel more accessible for an underrepresented demographic. After you understand specific needs, rethink your programs for inclusivity and make changes to help travelers feel comfortable. There may be discomfort involved with acknowledging where past trips fell short. Any time you identify a shortcoming, it's an opportunity to improve, which makes the trip more enjoyable for all participants.
Show Your Commitment to Inclusive Travel
It's easy to slap a rainbow flag on everything or state that "all are welcome here," yet words and gestures ring empty if they're not backed by meaningful action. Don't just say you're inclusive or strive to meet numeric quotas for diversity's sake: Be inclusive! If you're not sure how, start by asking travelers what you could do better. Their feedback will help you be a stronger ally next time. Company mission and vision statements could also guide your way. Let shared values remind employees what you hope to accomplish with travel—and how inclusivity is an important part of that vision.
Help Travelers Feel Comfortable
To attract new audiences, demonstrate ways you accommodate specific needs such as mobility, dietary, or personal safety in marketing materials, tour descriptions, and web content. Use affirming language—think level of activity and ability rather than disability—to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment. While understanding demographic needs may help you cater to wider audience, never presume to know what an individual needs based on a data point. Let travelers know you want to make sure their specific needs are met and provide a point person to accommodate requests.
Provide Diversity Training for Employees
Bias persists because it's unconscious: People often don't recognize when someone else's experience differs from theirs due to background, ability or other characteristics. Diversity and inclusion training breaks down unconscious bias, helping employees recognize and overcome biased thinking so they can promote respect and better understand community-specific needs, culture, and history. Diversity training also provides strategies team members could use to mediate any problems that arise while demonstrating you "walk the talk" when it comes to inclusivity.
Set Expectations on Tours
Group travel is a chance to learn about new locations while learning from one another. Encourage curiosity and conversations in a respectful way and set expectations regarding behavior at the outset, for a positive experience. When appropriate, share cultural etiquette—what's considered respectable dress for cultural attractions, for instance—to help travelers adjust to unfamiliar terrain.
Don't hold back on this issue for fear of getting something wrong. Take action now, with understanding that incremental progress is better than none at all.
Written by Lindsey Danis, Contributing Writer for Groups Today.
This article originally appeared in Groups Today.