I have watched with interest as things have developed on our streets over the last few weeks, writes Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) board member James Lewis.
I have been astonished by the reaction globally to events in the US, the killing of George Floyd, and the strength of feeling among Britons – as well as the challenges and difficulties policing protests while trying to safeguard the public, families and friends during the pandemic.
However shocked I was with all of this though, it cannot highlight enough to me the extent to which the BAME community is still under-represented within our industry, particularly at a senior level and in our marketing.
At ITT, as industry leaders, we need to urgently address this issue. Rarely does it get discussed, and when it does, it’s recognised and quickly brushed under the carpet.
As a result, we are still attending conferences (ITT included), producing marketing, and sitting in board meetings with a disproportionate number of white faces.
BAME Women in Travel executive director Jamie Lee Abtar recently identified there were only 33 leaders in the industry from the BAME community versus one in eight in the general UK population.
We have spent the last few years doing a fantastic job for the representation of women within senior roles and raising awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, yet we shy away from this issue.
BAME voices in the travel industry are only now starting to be heard after recent events created a platform for the Black Lives Matter movement.
But it is still hard to be heard through all the white privilege, bias and blindspots which are absolutely in every company’s culture and values.
I would encourage us all to look deeper inside of our businesses and challenge ourselves in our thinking around recruitment, marketing and people development.
But perhaps more importantly in the education of the next generation of travel leaders. I, for one, will be proposing how we address this through ITT’s Future You and education team.
We risk being left behind with our thinking and progress if we don’t address this now and make some real changes. We must realise these changes don’t necessarily have to come from the community they will affect, but from within, and then driven top-down for any progress to be made.
If you haven’t already started thinking about this subject, do it now by creating an internal framework to gather internal and external feedback, and do whatever you can to get the insight and support from the BAME community already in your business.
Let’s work together to make a real difference to equality of pay, positions and other imbalances to ensure the platform created by the BLM movement isn’t wasted.
This movement shouldn’t just be a two-week social media trend, or a hashtag; it has to result in lasting change.
James Lewis is head of partnerships at Holiday Extras, and sits on the board of the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT).