An in-depth series of studies has been commissioned by a top New York-based research group to address the issue of diversity in travel. MMGY Global has come together with a number of travel advocacy organisations to tackle the under-representation of specific communities in the travel industry, in a series of studies that will push for drastic change. The first study to be released will focus on the experience of Black travelers.

Several Black travel groups are working with MMGY Global on the study on Black leisure travelers, and Black meeting professionals, i.e. those involved in travel event management and hospitality. One of the groups steering that ship, alongside the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals and the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, is the Black Travel Alliance — a group of international content creators who advocate for equal opportunities and "meaningful representation of Black voices" within the travel industry.

Back of young black man waking in town with bag and headphones
The study will paint a clearer picture of the Black traveler experience and highlight areas that need improvement and accountability ©mimagephotography/Shutterstock

BTA's president Martinique Lewis tells Lonely Planet the team is involved in every aspect of the study and is dedicated to ensuring that it creates long-term change that goes beyond just market research, change that will see Black travelers being taken seriously across the board. "We were really serious about how it would look for this survey to come out, especially now. And we were serious about the partners MMGY brought in, we were serious about the people we chose on the steering committee," she explains.

"We want to make sure that anybody going through with this survey is not just committed for this moment. We need to be committed, period. When all the hype dies down, what will the travel industry do to contain and amplify Black voices? We really want the industry to understand how important this group of travelers is."

Brasil, Salvador de Bahia, Portrait of woman wearing typical Afro-Baiana dress
They survey will also push for more diverse storytelling across the industry ©Westend61/Getty Images

Despite Black Americans contributing more than $60 billion annually to the travel industry, their stories and voices continue to be sidelined. And it's not an issue that's specific to the US. Frustratingly, this issue is repeated around the world in all spaces of the industry from storytelling to publishing and from conferences, to tourism boards, exhibitions and industry panels.

For tourism to move forward it has to fill in these gaps. The study aims to do that by identifying the needs, behaviours and concerns of these under-represented groups; using data from a random sample of 4500 Black travelers from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the UK to provide solutions. As MMGY's CEO Clayton Reid points out "as companies begin to evaluate their approach to diversity, equity and inclusion internally, the study will also examine the ways in which the industry needs to create products, experiences, services and marketing campaigns that connect with the needs of diverse markets."

"We want to make sure we move beyond just making the emotional argument because we've been going in circles," says Ursula Petula Barzey, BTA's Research Committee Chair. "Every time something big happens, like for example with the murder of George Floyd, we get to this point where people post black squares to show solidarity but we don't move the conversation along to the next step. And we want to do that. When there is data that makes a clear business case to make changes then we hope that more destinations, organizations and travel brands will move the needle and do something."

The results of the report, The Black Traveler: Insights, Opportunities & Priorities, will be published in late October. Find out more here.

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