Last month, I was given the opportunity to sail around the Turkish Riviera with 10 other black content creators on SCICSailing, a small sailing company that charters yachts across the region. Over the course of the trip, we learned to sail, made road trips through the countryside, made gozleme pastries with perfect strangers, and even managed to hook up with a Turkish family for a meal despite our language differences. It was an unforgettable trip – not just because of where we were, but because of who I was with.
You see, getting to experience new destinations and cultures regardless of your race, physical ability, religion, gender, weight, sexual preference or even marital status in 2022 is still a privilege not many people get. Traveling without restrictions, and the freedom to be completely yourself, is not the reality for most travelers. But for seven days in May, it was mine.
I hope more black travelers will share my experience. While our crew of four went above and beyond the call of their duty to not only accommodate us, but also make us feel like family, this was rarely the case in most places of travel. When black travelers spoke of this lack of inclusivity, we were historically ignored and ignored. It wasn’t until June 2020 when the travel space really admitted that there was a problem of diversity, a fact devastating to an industry built on celebrating other cultures. That’s why this sailing trip felt so special: Our hosts understood the value of a black travel dollar and invited us into the fold.
While I want more black travelers to travel like I did, I also want to create transparency about where the industry is falling short in making this possible. That’s why I’m launching a new variation on the Travel Report Card, a resource I created in 2019, to make the travel industry accountable for the change I want to see. It highlights areas of opportunity in which travel brands must be inclusive and keep diversity at the fore, such as better representation in media materials and recruitment practices. But it also celebrates and supports brands that have done work, and have taken real action behind statements of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.
I’ve waited two years since my last scorecard release to share this one, because I knew some travel brands were going to think no one was paying attention. I didn’t want to admit that. Instead, I wanted to wait and see what was done to advance these efforts once travel was back in full swing.
When you read this year’s report card, you’ll notice that it follows the same format as the previous one. A letter grade is given to the industry as a whole for each category, such as diversity in hospitality, before expanding into case studies that celebrate travel brands that have gone so far. Brands like Cebu Pacific, which recently hired transient hosts, and Royal Caribbean, which is creating new career paths by hiring directly from historic black colleges and universities.
You’ll also notice new categories, such as diversity in cruises, aviation, advisory boards, and C-suites in travel brands. However, the most important topic in this year’s report is accessibility. It’s a value we’ve overlooked for far too long, as the travel industry caters primarily to healthy individuals, which is not an accurate representation of everyone who travels.
This scorecard shows, in the end, that there is still a lot of work to be done. But with the amount of resources and consultants available for brands to successfully become more inclusive, I believe the high scores are attainable – which is why the scorecard also includes guidelines for brands to set achievable goals and metrics to move in the right direction. Diversity is imperative to business growth. It is also how travelers feel welcomed and appreciated, just as I did during my two journeys sailing through Turkey – an experience that should not be an exception, but rather an expectation.