As global protests continue following the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in the US, Justin Francis, founder and chief executive of Responsible Travel, reflects on race and our responsibilities in tourism.
Like the rest of us, I’m angry.
As campaigners, we know activism comes in many forms. Protest is important. Words matter. But I want our industry to do more.
To achieve deep and lasting change, we need to listen, acknowledge, learn and act. These are behaviours we need to practice daily - and be held to account on.
Let’s lead by example, and press others to do likewise. Tourism’s been devastated by Covid-19. But we have an opportunity to build back better.
I read in the travel press last week how the very foundation of travel is discovery: engaging with people from different cultures, races, ethnic groups, genders, and viewpoints, and breaking down barriers.
Theoretically, our industry should be leading the way on inclusivity. But, as the article rightly notes, it consistently falls short on diversity and inclusion, be it gender or race-based – and we ignore this seminal moment for racial justice at our peril.
Another travel media article put it powerfully: ‘Racism, like in many other sectors of society, has been built into the travel industry, both knowingly and unknowingly. It’s the travel industry’s responsibility to do something about it.’
The piece lays bare examples of the pervasiveness of racism in our industry, and presents some excellent suggestions as to how we might improve.
As the journalist rightly notes, we have to first recognise and acknowledge racism - and accept that we all have biases and blind spots. With that in mind, and with my own blind spots, I’d like us at Responsible Travel to build on her points and advice – as hopefully many others are, and will.
Below are just some of my initial thoughts. I apologise for any clumsy use of language or terminology. This needs to be an ongoing and open conversation.
Race and climate justice - At Responsible Travel, our campaign work straddles both tourism and environmental issues. We can’t move forward without acknowledging the inextricable link between race and environment. Just as Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted BAME groups, so too do the worst impacts of environmental injustice and climate heating. We cannot achieve sustainability without equality. We need to do more to understand and address this in our own work for climate justice, and do what we can to highlight the crucial environmental and climate research and action being led by non-white experts.