Each year the travel and tourism industry opens up the world to a wide range of travellers regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, abilities and sexual orientation. And in recent years, many companies have begun the process of exploring effective strategies to nurture a culture that reflects and understands those they seek to serve, in all their diversity.
With the launch of their successful virtual Meetings & Masterclasses focusing on often overlooked topics such as unpacking the African Diaspora travel market and travellers within the LQBTQ+ community, promoting Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) continues to be a critical business priority for Africa Travel Week (ATW).
“Every organisation is in a different part of the D&I journey — and it is a journey, which means it’s an ongoing process,” says Martin Hiller, Director of Content for Travel, Tourism & Creative Industries at Reed Exhibitions.
“While our masterclasses were successful, and embody our core brand values, the work goes far beyond that and we’ve learned there isn’t a quick fix when it comes to fostering diversity and inclusion. It’s not as simple as filling a quota or checking off boxes, nor is it a one-and-done initiative.”
Since the launch of WTM Africa, ATW’s flagship travel trade show, the organisation has laid out specific goals in creating a foundation for their D&I work throughout their suite of live shows. But with the postponement of the 2020 event due to COVID-19, they saw an opportunity to apply the resources available to the ATW team through Reed Exhibitions to advance diversity within the various segments of the organisation.
This included a consultation with Ron Walden, Reed’s first global Executive Sponsor for Race, who, in his current role drives actions such as recommending where to target charitable donations, setting targets for ethnic minority representation, overseeing how to work with recruitment agencies and how to drive mentoring and sponsorship.
“Using all of his experience and advocacy, Ron has provided additional leadership on race and ethnicity when it comes to decisions regarding content, confirming speakers for webinars and other digital initiatives that we are planning to embark on,” Hiller explains.
This year, ATW also teamed up with their current network partner, SEEZA Tourism SME Network, to run a series of webinars aimed at sharing useful market and other industry-related information with travel and tourism SMEs and entities supporting them.
Says Septi Bukula, the organisation Founder: “Our collaborative efforts with ATW have been a great success with dynamic topics that have ranged from strategies to successfully continue operating under COVID-19, to how digital technologies are shaping the future of tourism and the impact thereof on SMEs. These sessions have been positively received by SMEs in our own network.”
Hiller adds that ATW has also built a strong relationship with the Africa Tourism Association (ATA) headed by CEO, Naledi Khabo, a corporate strategy leader with over 20 years of experience.
“Naledi has also been integral to our process of sourcing diverse thought leaders to participate in our digital events this year. We are so grateful for her guidance in helping us to refine the topics for our masterclasses and our first series of webinars that touched on the international diaspora and Pan-African traveller,” he says.
Speaking on behalf of ATA, Khabo confirms that they have enjoyed a collaborative partnership with Reed Exhibitions and Africa Travel Week for some time, and most recently had the opportunity to contribute to their D&I initiatives. “We look forward to continuing and extending our partnership to ensure these are not short-term, reactive measures, but rather we are laying the foundation to drive long-term systematic change. The real goal is not the continuation of diversity and inclusive conversations, but that all conversations are naturally diverse and inclusive,” she says.
Another well-established and collaborative relationship is with the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA).
“IGLTA and the IGLTA Foundation are proud of our expanded collaboration with ATW/EQUAL Africa to increase understanding and support for safe and welcoming LGBTQ+ tourism in Africa and around the world,” says IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella. “Partnering on their LGBTQ+ webinars this year gave us the opportunity to build upon the outreach of IGLTA’s 2016 Cape Town convention and deepen ties across the continent in the name of equality.”
In having to dive deeper into the digital space this year, Hiller explains that he and his team have continued to proactively educate themselves and their spheres of influence. “We’ve been conscious to apply our learnings so we can act in more meaningful and effective ways,” he adds.
He goes on to highlight some of the immediate actions undertaken by and in the pipeline for Africa Travel Week:
- ATW Connect, our digital arm, serves as an accessible platform featuring various articles and information sources on diversity and inclusion.
- The SME Pavilion stand at WTM Africa creates exclusive opportunities for SME travel and tourism companies to showcase their products to top international buyers. It first appeared at WTM Africa 2019 and will be present at all future shows.
- The Crafters Pop Up Market at WTM Africa and ILTM Africa offers small businesses the opportunity to sell their proudly African products to the travel community, including international buyers. This partnership with the Cape Design Institute offers small business an opportuntity to sell their proudly African products to the travel community and international buyers at our live shows.
- Our #UnlockAfrica social media campaign appeals to all local and black-owned businesses who have had joy, success, triumph and fulfilment during these times to share their stories with our wider travel and tourism community. The aim is to inspire and shift focus to the positive and the good that is still happening in our sphere.
- Governed by and compliant with Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy, Reed Exhibitions hiring choices align with the larger aim of transformation.
- EQUAL Africa will return in 2021 a co-located bolt-on event and conference programme to promote and better understand the LGBTQ+ travel community.
“We’re incredibly proud of the foundation we’ve built and we will continue to highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Hiller concludes.