by Lauren Pelkey

On June 27th, 2020 Wanderful hosted Moving Forward: An Anti-Racism Town Hall for the Travel Industry, a solutions-oriented dialogue for Black creators, allies, and brands to discuss actionable steps to foster anti-racism in the travel industry.

I had the honor of being a panelist at this event where I was able to listen, learn and offer up ways to help move the travel industry forward. If you read our last blog post, you know that the travel industry has a major diversity problem, and there is a lot of work to be done to move it in the right direction. 

Non-Black creators need to acknowledge the fact that we have perpetuated racial inequalities in the travel space by staying silent and staying actionless, and just accepting that it is the way it is. It starts with confronting biases we didn’t even know were there, and taking an active role in listening, learning, and unlearning. 

Many (unfortunately and frankly horrifyingly) are just seeing the injustices in this industry for the first time and so it’s the listening, learning, and unlearning phase for many to wake up, realize, and become a real ally by taking action and helping the travel industry move forward (finally). We need to recognize the inequality of representation in the travel industry, and what Black creators and travelers are experiencing.

Black creators and travelers have been fighting for this for decades. It’s up to brands, media, and Non-Black travelers and creators to make the change – we can’t continue to leave the burden of this on the Black travel community.

Inspired by the breakout brainstorming sessions at the Wanderful Moving Forward: An Anti-Racism Town Hall for the Travel Industry event, I have created this blog post to share my learnings and urge Non-Black creators to adopt the below 10 ways Non-Black travel creators can be better allies and help move the travel industry forward ASAP!

10 Ways Non-Black Travel Creators Can Be Better Allies & Move The Travel Industry Forward

1. Put pressure on brands, tourism boards, and travel companies

Before working with a brand, tourism board, or travel company, look into their brand, their mission, and their values. Directly ask about their plans to have a more diverse team and representation in their media and marketing and point them to Black Travel Alliance for reference. Make it known that you only work with brands that #PullUpForTravel and align with your core values, and that your values include working with brands that accurately represent diversity in the travel industry.

We need to be ready and willing to leave money on the table if brands aren’t willing to budge. Hopefully however, we can use this as an opportunity to educate them and hopefully ignite real change. Remind them that African-Americans alone spent over $63 BILLION dollars on travel in 2018. Sometimes dollars speak louder than words.

2. Create a values page on your website

Speaking of values, make a page on your website declaring your values and that you only work with brands who stand with Black Lives Matter and are taking actionable steps towards better representation not just in branding and marketing, but in their company structure as well.  Justine Abigail, founder of Living Hyphen has a values page that is a great example to check out:

3. Refer & recommend Black creators

If you are invited on a press trip, ask who else is a part of the campaign. If the campaign is lacking diversity, point this out and recommend Black creators to join the press trip. If you are asked to work on a campaign for a brand, ask the same thing – who else is working on this campaign? And if you see a lack of diversity on their social media and web, ask them why that is and suggest Black creators to be a part of the campaign as well. 

4. Be aware of what products and companies you are promoting and affiliated with

In addition to brand sponsorships and campaigns you’re working on, take a look at what brands you are promoting via affiliate posts you may have. This could be packing lists, travel resources, hotels, and tour companies to name a few. Are you promoting brands that haven’t stood up for the movement? Audit your affiliate posts and update accordingly. Reach out to the brands and tell them why you will no longer be promoting their products, again with the goal to ignite real change.

5. Be more aware of the experiences of Black travelers & sharing those experiences

10 Ways Non-Black Travel Creators Can Be Better Allies & Move The Travel Industry Forward

It is likely that as a Non-Black creator (specifically White creator) you have never had to think about whether or not you will be welcomed and accepted when traveling to a destination. You may find a destination to be warm and welcoming, while a Black traveler may find this same destination extremely cold and unwelcoming. A Black traveler friend of mine once told me that she Googles if a destination is safe for Black people before she travels anywhere. I, as a White traveler, have never even thought to do that. Be aware of this, and point this out when writing about a destination. Share other perspectives and points of view on your blog, not just your own.

***And remember, Blackness is not a monolith. One Black traveler cannot speak for all other Black travelers. Share multiple voices!

6. Research, explore, and share the history of the places you travel

Martinique Lewis said it best, “a way you can be an ally is to take Black history tours and write about them on your platforms. YOU educate your followers about Black history in your favorite places.”

Challenge yourself to dive deeper into the histories of the destinations you are visiting and writing about. Take it beyond the top 10 to-do lists and the best places to eat. Share not only the histories of injustice and racism in the places you travel, but learn and share Black stories, leaders, artists, music, and so on. Let’s do more research, be more transparent, and educate ourselves and our readers on a deeper level.

7. Seek out and support Black-owned businesses 

When writing your blog posts about top things to do, best places to eat, where to stay, ask yourself – am I promoting and supporting Black-owned businesses? Do the research and actively seek out Black-owned restaurants, accommodations, tour companies, local artisans and more. As creators, we influence where people spend their money, so use your influence wisely.  

8. Educate yourself on the racial injustices in the USA and around the world

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Do the work. It’s critical to keep educating ourselves on the racial injustices in the USA and around the world. Only through self-education can we attempt to comprehend the injustices that the Black community has always faced, and in turn take action to work towards a better future. Make it a personal mission to read as many books, watch as many movies and shows, and listen to as many podcasts about racism so that can actively be ANTI-RACIST and not just not racist. Here are some excellent resources, but make sure to do your own research!

***Already started reading and learning about racism and oppression? Great! However, Black stories CERTAINLY span beyond this topic. And that brings me to the next thing on my list…

9. Humanize people outside of your bubble

Because that’s where change happens too! Do a self-audit. What media am I consuming? It’s so important to consume media and entertainment not just to learn about the injustices that Black people face and have been facing for centuries but movies with Black protagonists sharing stories of all kinds. Start making it a point to watch movies and TV shows with Black actors as the main characters and not just the friend or an extra in a few scenes. Juanita, Nappily Ever After, Moonlight, Dear White People, and She’s Gotta Have It are just a few favorites to add to your must-watch list.

The next question is, where am I getting my information and inspiration from?

Diversify your feed. Where you get your information and inspiration from MATTERS. At the same time, don’t just follow Black travel creators because they’re Black – follow them because of their unique skills, personality, creativity, amazing storytelling abilities, gorgeous photography, best travel tips, funny travel stories, etc. Ask yourself, who am I inspired by? Are they all white? If so, ask yourself why. It’s certainly not because there aren’t inspiring Black creators, so what’s going on? Have those conversations with yourself and grow. 

10. Create a strategy and stick to it

The same way you track your SEO, track your progress with how you are showing up as an ally and moving the travel industry forward. Keep yourself accountable and stick to your strategy. Because this isn’t just a moment in time, this is a lifetime commitment.

Blog post written by Lauren Pelkey, Bali Retreat 2017 Alumna, Director of Operations of Pangea Dreams, and creator of Wanderluluu. Find her on her website, or IG @wanderluluu.