Destinations and travel businesses must address concern about racial discrimination to capitalise on untapped market
Safety concerns and racial discrimination are fundamental constraints on the choices of British Black and Asian travellers, according to research led by the University of Surrey in collaboration with Women in Travel CIC.
Respondents from British Black and Asian communities reported instances of racial harassment, microaggressions and/or discrimination while travelling, experiences which influenced their decision-making behaviour. The Surrey report, one of the first in the UK to provide a snapshot of the travel characteristics, motivations and decision-making processes of travellers from these ethnic groups, highlights commonalities and differences with other groups of travel enthusiasts, and identifies how ongoing prejudice and stereotyping mean travel companies and destinations could be missing out on a lucrative market.
The research, which included a quantitative online survey, found that British Black and Asian respondents travelled more frequently both within and outside the UK than their White counterparts. 92% of British Black and Asian respondents travelled within the UK at least once a year and 99% travelled abroad, compared with 85% of White respondents saying they travelled within the UK and 73% abroad. British Black and Asian respondents were also more likely to enjoy multiple trips, although the duration of White respondents’ UK trips was typically longer. The researchers found that the stereotypical belief that travellers from British Black and Asian communities prefer familiar destinations, visit friends and family, and rarely explore new places is wrong. On the contrary, leisure and recreation were cited as the primary reason for travelling within the UK and abroad, and adventure was the second most common reason British Black and Asian respondents gave for travelling abroad.
Further disproving the stereotype, British Black and Asian survey respondents said word of mouth and online information were their leading sources of travel information, whereas White respondents cited past experience as their preferred source of information. Focus groups delving into these answers revealed that they are largely driven by the need to identify how safe a destination is for Black and Asian travellers and to explore the prevalence of racism.
The report notes the problem of underrepresentation in the travel industry, for example, the lack of diversity in advertising, and scarcity of Black and Asian professionals working at senior levels, and suggests changes to enable the industry to better target this market segment:
- Build an independent platform for travellers from Black and Asian backgrounds and create an independent travel-related association to represent these communities’ interests, drive research and share information and data
- Create a research network focusing on UK travellers from Black and Asian backgrounds enabling key stakeholders to better understand and tap into the potential of these communities
- Build networks with Black and Asian communities and co-create travel experiences
- Embrace a culture of diversity and inclusion in leading travel brands, hotel chains, cruise lines, and other major tourism sectors and when commissioning marketing and advertising
- Support, encourage and improve the visibility of travel businesses owned by people from Black and Asian groups
- Start an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) accreditation for travel businesses
- Train staff on issues of diversity, equality and inclusion. The report identifies the need for a training toolkit for organisations that goes beyond the traditional EDI training currently on offer and which focuses, for example, on unconscious bias, casual racism, microaggressions, and stereotyping
- Engage online content creators to actively represent different perspectives
- Organise training for destination management organisations and local service providers
Women in Travel CIC has already addressed some of these recommendations within its multi-cultural network and industry training, and will further develop tools in collaboration with the University of Surrey to help travel businesses understand and engage with the issues.
Dr Albert Kimbu, Head of the Department of Tourism and Transport at the University of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and project lead, said:
“There is a serious dearth of research into this undervalued segment of the travelling public, which means the industry is missing out. The time is ripe to integrate more perspectives into mainstream discourses relating to travel and tourism. The industry can’t pretend that race has no impact on travellers’ experiences. We need collaboration across the industry with a wide variety of active voices to co-create travel experiences through a balanced approach that will ensure equality, diversity, and inclusion in the tourism sector.”
Jamie-Lee Abtar, Multicultural Community Lead at Women in Travel CIC, said:
“A growing British Black and Asian middle class, who are keen explorers of new destinations and tourism experiences, creates huge opportunities. Travel and tourism companies that address the specific concerns of these travellers and help them overcome their barriers to travel will benefit from a large market. It makes business sense, as well as being the right thing to do to improve inclusion.”
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