The intersectionality of regeneration, the environment, and social equality is timely, as the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences have shed light on all these issues facing society and demonstrated not only just how important these issues are, but also how they are intrinsically interwoven. As such, the travel industry has a necessary and vital role both in highlighting the connectedness of these concepts and, most importantly, in facilitating helping move the needle in the right direction. Travel industry players can no longer afford to be bystanders of environmental and social inequality problems facing communities across the globe; they must instead be drivers of the required change.
Change Is Here
Undeniably, the travel industry has already begun to make some positive, intentional changes in regard to supporting environmental and social equality issues. Members of different ethnicities, economic groups, and genders are now beginning to slowly emerge within the travel and tourism sector; however, many changes are unfortunately only performative, and the industry, like all others, still has a long way to go. The journey has just begun. As Shivani Ashoka states, “This conversation is long overdue”. With younger generations ever more aware of social and environmental issues, travel brands must ensure that they realize the intrinsic connectedness of regeneration, the environment, and social equality and act to make genuine and sincere positive changes to reshape the industry.
Promoting Social Equality Within The Industry
Change won’t happen overnight, but travel companies can begin making beneficial and lasting progress in many ways. First, it is essential that in the short-term, industry players incorporate diversity and inclusion at the very core of any strategy, as opposed to just leaving these concepts up to the HR and marketing departments — a tactic often used but which tends to be nothing more than a ‘token gesture’. Further, employing members of local communities in not just entry positions but also within management and leadership teams is a good first step. “It is wrong to assume that that talent does not live in the local community”, as Harsha L’Acqua rightly points out. Additionally, engaging all members of staff by actively listening to understand what their needs really are is also worthwhile. After all, employee happiness is often one of the most overlooked, yet important, determinants to business success.
Brand marketing is also a vital tool in creating social equality within the industry. More often than not, travel company marketing is too white and homogenous. Failing to accurately and fairly represent different groups of people can be detrimental to brand image and integrity. Ultimately, as Teresa Baker highlights, businesses that fail to do this will end up marketing to their outgoing audience and not their incoming audience as society is demanding change: “If you don’t focus on the black community, your bottom line will suffer. Period”. Equally, for companies that have recently begun to ‘support’ initiatives such the Black Lives Matter campaign as a matter of course, this in itself really does not matter if they are only paying lip service to the movement. The true test of brand integrity is demonstrated through a company’s policies, management, and leadership structures, as well as inclusive marketing that, for example, took place before the Black Lives Matter movement began. For companies that have not yet achieved becoming fully socially inclusive and diverse businesses, this must of course be the next crucial step. However, as Portia Hart asserts, “The industry must realise that it will take time for underrepresented communities to notice these changes given they have been ignored for so long — it won’t happen overnight but indeed, it will happen”.
Engaging Local Communities
When it comes to other related issues such as engaging local communities with environmental regeneration, it is important for travel industry players to realize how crucial it is for them to first look after their local staff through beneficial social impact initiatives. It is only once basic human needs have been first met and a community begins to flourish that local peoples will have the capacity and capabilities to turn their attention towards fulfilling sustainable and regenerative environmental causes. In order to successfully achieve this, therefore, travel brands must refrain from making assumptions about what local communities need. Rather, questions must be asked to locals of their needs, and the answers listened to and respected. After this, travel businesses must then, of course, act accordingly. In doing so, both companies and communities will be in a position to successfully work together in order to not only coexist harmoniously, but most vitally, generate and ensure that m,the impact of travel and tourism is as beneficial as feasibly possible.
Finally, it is abundantly clear that, sooner or later, the entire travel industry must truly realize the fundamental intersectionality that exists between humans and the environment, sustainability, and regeneration. It is imperative that we move away from division and instead come together as a collective. It is only then that real and lasting positive changes will be seen, and the future of regenerative travel will begin to unfold.