From Pride campaigns to rainbow logos on planes; Abra Dunsby discovers how TTG’s inspiring Travel Pride Champions are flying the flag for diversity in travel
Last year, Escorcio initiated Thomas Cook’s Pride campaign, incorporating staff training for LGBTQ-friendly holidays, transforming store window displays, introducing LGBT+ pages on the website and launching the brand’s rainbow heart logo. Escorcio’s motivation was sparked when he spotted an article on Facebook about countries where it’s still illegal to be gay, with comments from friends about the issues still faced by LGBTQ travellers. “It’s a stark reality for many customers who face additional barriers to enjoying their holiday,” he says. “As someone working for a company whose mission it is to make holiday dreams come true, I wanted to do something about it.” The campaign is just the start for Escorcio, who this year will support the HR team at diversity and inclusion workshops to help drive change across the business. He says the impact on Thomas Cook has been positive. “We’ve always been an inclusive company to work for, but our new training has helped us to reflect on any unconscious biases to challenge the way we do things.” Customers are similarly impressed. “We’ve received lots of supportive comments on social media,” Escorcio says. “We even have customers hoping that their flight will be on our Pride plane, and it’s a real boost when we see them sharing pictures.”
In the last 18 months, Town has developed a diversity-focused consumer marketing creative that includes multi-cultural families, same-sex couples, single parents and groups of friends and families. In addition, she started a commercial relationship with Gay Star News, identifying ways to showcase cottages.com as an inclusive brand and providing specific content for the LGBT community. She also supported the organisation of cottages.com as sponsors of Isle of Wight Pride. Town tells me she was “completely honoured and overwhelmed” to be named a Travel Pride Champion. “It’s an exciting journey for cottages.com, and I’m extremely proud to be part of it,” she says. “The staff have been really positive about the introduction of LGBT imagery into our marketing pieces. It’s important for everyone to feel included and valued, and it sends a fantastic message out internally.” She says the Pride Isle of Wight sponsorship is “really important to the business”, adding: “This is the first Pride that we attended under the cottages.com brand, and it’s a really important message both internally and for our customers – both consumers and owners.”
When the opportunity to start a LGBT+ Employee Resource Group (ERG) at RCCL became available, Hutton jumped at the opportunity to lead it. One year on, the group has achieved a great deal, including celebrating LGBT History Month, where senior staff shared inspirational stories from LGBT figures they admire, and during which employees were invited to wear a rainbow lanyard to show their support for equality. Other initiatives supported by Hutton include the creation of RCCL’s Pride meeting room during Pride month and the hosting of a Pride Town Hall, a company-wide session with guest speaker Amy Stanning from Barclays. Hutton says the initiatives have been instrumental for the business: “The ERG group has helped generate conversation about the importance of LGBT+ diversity and inclusion, both in the workplace and in society generally. It has given employees a voice, and it’s great to see changes and ideas come to fruition. It’s also provided our brands with a real sense of purpose and identity.” He believes that it’s essential to keep the issue of LGBT+ diversity in travel at the fore: “As an industry it’s important that we keep up momentum and work together as one voice. The world is changing: LGBT+ diversity and inclusion needs to be a focus for everyone.”
Grant helped to found Kuoni’s LGBT Expert scheme and has played a core role in championing diversity within the company and helping to improve the customer experience. “The scheme meant we really looked into the destinations that Kuoni offered and the specific concerns LGBT customers might have when visiting some of our most popular destinations – like the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India and East Africa – and how best to make those bucket-list destinations accessible and as safe as possible for those customers,” she explains. The reaction from customers has been “fantastic,” she says.
“Our same-sex honeymoons have increased by 18% year-on-year, which is a great success story for us. We’ve also seen a definite increase in enquiries from trans customers, who really react to the Expert scheme as a safe space where they feel comfortable discussing their personal situations and asking for travel advice based on their individual needs.” The changes have also bettered Kuoni’s working environment, she adds. “Kuoni has always been a really collaborative place to work but it’s really opened up the amount the teams talk to each other, and it’s been brilliant in terms of creating contacts within the business.”
Cairns played a key role in establishing Flight Centre’s support for Brighton Pride. She also launched a global LGBTQ Facebook group to encourage networking and support for Flight Centre’s LGBTQ staff around the world. Cairns says: “This year, we were one of the headline sponsors at Brighton Pride, which gave us the opportunity to get our three Brighton stores more involved in their local community. “This has now become a really important way to celebrate with all our LGBT colleagues and, while we didn’t do it thinking we’d see an immediate spike in sales for our Brighton stores, our consultants there have reported that people commented on how important it was that we were a part of Pride. “The introduction of Workplace by Facebook has enabled the creation of a dynamic online LGBT+ community, connecting colleagues not just in the UK but globally. The tool is used to share travel tips for our LGBT+ customers and to highlight which of our suppliers are best supporting LGBT+ travel,” she adds. Cairns recently attended the first LGBT+ Travel Symposium in Bangkok, a conference looking at LGBT+ travel from the perspective of sellers and buyers, and she is looking forward to putting learnings from the conference into practice. “It has started some really interesting conversations about improvements that can be made across the whole industry,” she adds.