At WTM Africa 2023 on 4 April,a panel of experts – which included Michael Gladwin, Tarryn Tomlinson, and Aimee Lentz, and moderated by Michaela Guzy, Founder of OhThePeopleYouMeet – discussed the role of listening and learning in driving inclusive travel in Africa.
“There are many elements to inclusivity. It’s important that we learn and share insights and experiences every step of the way,” said Tarryn Tomlinson, CEO of LiveAble Access Consultancy.
“We need to start with conversations on how spaces can become open for the maximum number of people. This means making sure people of all ages, varying sizes, abilities, and from every community feel welcomed,” she added.
What does ‘inclusive travel’ mean?
Inclusive travel essentially means that everyone operating in the travel space, from tour operators and airlines to accommodation suppliers, can create and offer a more comfortable and seamless experience for all.
A team or company’s impact in making real, sustainable strides toward change must begin internally. Panellists discussed how this can be done one step at a time to build a better, more diversified, and educated team.
“We recognised that we needed to start from within to create more diversity amongst our team in order to become inclusive for our customers,” said Aimee Lentz, Group Brand Manager, Jewelvest. “Planning and building strategy looks different when done so from a new awareness and with more voices and representation included.”
Moving towards inclusivity, step by step
According to the panellists, the best place for companies to start is to bring in experts for a full audit, looking at both external factors, such as a company’s website and communication platforms, and internal factors, like parking and access.
The goal is to constantly evolve, learn, and create a higher standard for everyone – and there is no better expert to learn from than someone who is part of the communities that have not previously been involved in the conversation and design.
“Sensitivity training, LGBTQ+ boards, and open conversations with staff members, from an individual to a group level on both language and action, are all ways to create real, sustainable change,” said Michael Gladwin, Owner and Founder of Afrigay Travel. “Direct conversations with housekeeping teams, and more within a hotel or travel company, helps to debunk myths, create new perceptions, and sustain new approaches to all guests.”
Gladwin, Tomlinson, Lentz, and Guzy shared how important it is for travel and tourism groups to look at successful campaigns with inclusivity at their core run by companies and associations across the world.
Gladwin cited a few companies here in South Africa, including the Southern Sun Group, which have become a great example in making strides for real change. Tomlinson noted Dubai’s approach to having guides available at the airport to direct accessibility for all passengers with disabilities. “It creates a welcoming experience from the very first point of contact,” explains Tomlinson.
Travel brings us together. The industry is open-minded in nature and enables us all to experience each other’s communities while allowing us to listen and understand the world in a new way. This openness and connection have the potential to create real change.
Throughout the session, the panellists agreed that while there is a lot of work yet to be done, there is plenty of opportunity for the industry to become more understanding of everyone’s differences – and create an enjoyable travel space for all.
Companies interested in an inclusivity audit can contact Tarryn Tomlinson’s LiveAble Access Consultancy via firstname.lastname@example.org or + 27 (0)78 926 1232 to book a free consultation. The Consultancy utilises the seven principles of Universal Design to create spaces that are accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of age, ability, size, or need. Along with an access audit, the Consultancy specialises in disability sensitivity training and inclusive marketing.
Companies looking to focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion can get in touch with Michael Gladwin’s training company, All Stay, via email@example.com or +27 (0)83 271 9162. All Stay is accredited by the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA).