Deep Diver
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Industry Briefs
ON DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION, THE U.S. TRAVEL INDUSTRY CAN’T GO BACK TO ‘NORMAL’
BY ROGER DOW AND GREG DESHIEL

Travel and tourism brings people together. It unites people of all backgrounds, breaks down barriers and opens our eyes to other cultures. While we may not all look alike or speak the same language, travel reveals commonalities that we may never have realized existed.

But, given the challenges of the past two years, we have experienced a world where travel was extremely limited. We have seen how isolation makes our culture more fragmented, our connections to each other more tenuous. The pandemic eroded social bonds created by travel and tourism. At the same time, clashes over social justice issues also exposed divides and led many to contemplate fairness and equity through a new lens, and also how our nation can and must address inequalities.

Travel alone cannot solve all of the obstacles we face. But it can be a powerful tool in fostering a deeper understanding of one another, lifting up underserved communities and workers, and helping to level the playing field for all.

That is why Tourism Diversity Matters and the U.S. Travel Association have partnered at this critical moment. Tourism Diversity Matters was founded in 2021 to address the gaps of ethnic disparities within the tourism and events industry while providing industry leaders with resources and tactics to develop more effective diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies to engage, recruit and retain a diverse workforce. DEI is a core priority of U.S. Travel, which is committed to having a vital role in effecting lasting change and supporting the development of industrywide DEI plans. Together, Tourism Diversity Matters and U.S. Travel can rally the industry toward a more diverse, inclusive and prosperous future-and play an important role in bringing all Americans together again.

Diversity in the Workforce

The recovery of the travel workforce is a key first step in facilitating greater equity and paths of upward mobility to support underserved communities. In U.S. Travel's recent State of the Workforce Report, the association found that one of the top reasons for workforce shortages in the U.S. is due to a skills gap. In other words, there is a fundamental mismatch between the industries that currently have the most job openings and how many unemployed people have experience in that industry.

This is a perfect opportunity for the U.S. travel industry to step up. Travel jobs are accessible, flexible, and can provide on-the-job training. Training individuals to be more productive and prosperous in the workplace will benefit the employer, the employee, and the communities they serve.

Travel and tourism leaders should dedicate themselves to hiring and training a diverse workforce. We must demonstrate that this is a great industry with opportunities for growth. Tourism Diversity Matters recently partnered with Destination DC, Washington, D.C.'s destination marketing organization, to launch an apprenticeship program that engages underrepresented and diverse college students by providing hands-on experience in tourism and hospitality.

Adopting racial equity workforce goals implemented through training, webinars, and mentorship programs are key foundational principles of Tourism Diversity Matters' workforce advocacy and can serve as a guide for other travel and tourism organizations' DEI efforts.

Diversity Strengthens Organizations

In a rapidly changing world, DEI initiatives are crucial to the success of businesses small and large. Diversity strengthens organizations by bringing new ideas to the forefront. Having more viewpoints and perspectives in the room is critical to effective planning and decision-making. U.S. Travel recently announced its inaugural class of Emerging Travel Leaders , who represent a diverse cross-section of industry representatives. This new program was created to expand the exposure, knowledge and capabilities of rising travel leaders as they build careers in the travel and tourism field.

The U.S. is one of the most diverse countries in the world-our industry should reflect that. We should look beyond the challenges of the past two years and aim higher than a return to "normal." We can take steps now to create an industry that is reflective of the change we want to see in our country. We must strive to rebuild the industry to be better and more inclusive than before. We have the tools and capabilities to reconnect Americans to each other and the world, and to create a travel industry that provides a path of upward mobility for America's workforce.

U.S. Travel and Tourism Diversity Matters are fully dedicated to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels-from education and training to the C-suite. As we turn the page from the pandemic and the pain of the last two years, we are deeply committed to lifting up underserved communities and workers, leveling the playing field for all, and strengthening the industry and communities that we are so proud to serve.

Roger Dow is president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. Greg DeShields is executive director of Tourism Diversity Matters. U.S. Travel and Tourism Diversity Matters have entered into a strategic partnership.

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