"The travel industry can combat anti-Asian hate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by changing how it represents the Asian community."
he year 2020 sent seismic shocks through the travel industry. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a major upheaval that is still being felt, and it will be a while before the industry gets back to “normal,” whatever that means now. In addition to the death and sickness the pandemic has caused, it has also sparked a second upheaval: Asian hate. There has been an alarming rise in xenophobia, with a recorded 1,900% rise in Asian hate in America since the start of the pandemic. More than 2,800 incidents of abuse have been recorded against Asians and, as a group, they have been scapegoated for the devastation the virus has caused.
Changing how the travel industry responds, represents, and amplifies the voices of the Asian community can help combat the rise of Asian hate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a worrying trend as an Asian traveler who makes a living as a travel content creator, but the travel industry can and should play a role in helping to fight it. The Asian community has become one of the most significant demographic groups in terms of spending power and frequency of travel, so it’s important that the industry do its part to combat xenophobia that targets Asians as it helps flows in revenue to the tourism economy. Travel has always been recognized for its role in fostering diversity, spreading culture, and encouraging tolerance and understanding of different groups. At a time like this, the travel industry can play a significant part in the fight against Asian hate.
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By changing how the travel industry represents, engages, and stands with the Asian community and how it uses its power to elevate BIPOC influencers and social media content creators, it can combat the rise of this wave of hatred and become a true beacon of diversity and strength.
Here are three ways the industry can do that:
By Working for Better Representation of Asians and BIPOC
This means more than simply putting an Asian or BIPOC on the cover of a marketing brochure. It’s a start, of course, but real impact occurs at the top. More specifically, there is a need for representation behind the scenes and in the boardrooms of the travel industry: the executives, marketers, directors, and other decision-makers who are the most significant drivers in the industry. Real change starts at the top and begins with a diversified group of leaders with different perspectives. These types of leaders challenge assumptions and points of view. They are the gatekeepers who have the final say on whether new ideas, products, or campaigns will enter the global market. Progressive leadership is essential in such an important role. We all have our blind spots and biases, which is why it is so important to have diverse perspectives. In diversity is strength–for example, the best juries are carefully chosen so that people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives can come to the best decision in a trial.
There is a financial benefit to a diverse organization, especially at the top. Diverse leadership examines long-held assumptions, takes a holistic view of customers, and has a more authentic view of what its customers want.
Studies have shown the many ways that diversity in leadership improves performance:
- Diverse companies have a 2.3% higher cash flow (Deloitte study).
- Diverse management boosts revenue by 19%.
- 43% of companies with diverse boards recorded higher profits.
- Gender-diverse boards are 27% more likely to create superior value.
By Raising Pay Levels and Opportunities for BIPOC Working in the Industry
Better pay does not just mean for full-time employees; it also means compensating contractors better, including social media content creators and influencers, many of whom are BIPOC. Leaders in the industry can work toward using more diverse influencers and compensating them fairly for their services. This comes under the broader heading of how travel organizations can do a better job of engaging with their communities.
Unfortunately, a recent article in Cosmopolitan, titled “Inside the influencer Pay Gap,” has shown that there are inequities in the pay and perks that are given to social influencers, and they are often people of color. Strong leadership at the top of organizations is needed for better fair wage practices.
By Changing the Signals Your Company Sends
When I Google Asian tourist, multiple images of the stereotypical Asian tourist with cameras around their necks pop up; but if I Google travel influencers there are pages of mainly white travel influencers. If you want to make your travel company more inclusive of BIPOC, you should provide visible representation of them across your sales and marketing plan.
By focusing on innovative ways to spotlight diversity, companies can reimagine what travel marketing looks like.
Promoting Diversity in Travel Makes Economic Sense
Pre-COVID-19, Asian American spending power was projected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2022. At the same time, Chinese citizens were enjoying a golden age of leisure travel. A 2018 Skift study found that 130 million Chinese tourists took an international trip in 2017, a six percent increase over 2016, “making China the world’s largest outbound tourism market.” Forty-two percent of these globetrotters were “independent” or seeking experiences not tied to tour groups.
Here are more encouraging statistics. U.S. Hispanic travelers spend more than $56 billion in leisure travel annually. African-American travelers spend upwards of $60 billion. Asian-American travelers have a projected spending power of $1.3 trillion globally by 2022.
With projections like this, it makes solid economic sense for travel companies to understand these diverse groups, reach out to them, and work for fairness and equity in the travel market.
Unfortunately, Asian travelers including myself experience prejudice while traveling and are often monolithically viewed as Chinese when there are scores of separate cultures in Asia. Stereotyping like this can create egregious racism and microaggressions.
A commitment by the travel industry to combat this kind of racism through campaigns of racial and cultural awareness through storytelling, creating more opportunities and fair wages for their work and placing them in leadership positions will go a long way toward making positive changes.
If you work in the travel industry you have the power and a voice to help in fighting Asian hate, and the time to start is now.