Travel is missing out on vast amounts of business because of its unconscious racial bias, a WTM panel warned.
One market alone, the Muslim travel sector, was worth $190 million globally but was almost invisible in most travel marketing campaigns, the panel heard.
Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive of halal travel consultancy CrescentRating, said there was resistance to Muslim travellers in some quarters.
“The feedback we get is ’if we have more Muslims coming to my hotel, will we suddenly lose other customers?’”
He added: “Muslims don’t go to London to read the Koran in their hotel.”
He said all that hotels and operators needed to include in their marketing in some cases was “a family with a head scarf; it shows you understand”.
Keith Henry, president and chief executive, Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, said the industry “is moving in the right direction”, but added a lot of “unconscious bias” remained.
Operators needed to cooperate with organisations like his, he said. “It’s not about us without us. If you are not going to include us in your marketing campaigns and invest in them, you’re not really a meaningful partner to us.
“Why do we always have to join in their campaigns, why don’t major brands and marketing partners invest in ours?
The panel agreed attitudes in the industry would need to change post-Covid.
Bahardeen said: “If I was running a destination, I would be trying to find all the niche markets I could get at. The mass market is going to disappear as we know it, so it becomes more important that we focus on these niches. The travel industry needs all the dollars it can get.”
Uwern Jong, editor in chief of Out There magazine advised: “Diversity and Inclusion has to be a part of your everyday – it is not a campaign, it is not a one-off thing.
“Understand there is a problem, because I still find in 2020 people don’t see there is a problem.”
Post-Covid, he said, it would be more important to consumers. “People are looking for brands that are caretaking for the world.”