Back in September of this year we issued our first thoughts about Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the business travel sector. The blog and subsequent interview of three travel community members was viewed thousands of times and was very positively received judging by the public and private comments. So, we know that we are on the right path by pro-actively listening to voices in our market.

But what have we discovered so far and what action should we be taking as a company and an industry?

What We Heard…

Through all of the interviews and the longer, ongoing engagement we have had with people interested in a more equitable sector, a few things have become increasingly clear;

BLM Rocks – The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has raised the D&I issue for everyone affected by prejudice; from other ethnic groups to those affected by accessibility and beyond. In each of the interviews we have had so far, they recognise that the BLM movement has been really powerful in creating the right dynamic for change, for the benefit of everyone.  A focus on the black community doesn’t distract from other D&I stakeholders, it shines a light and further empowers them.

Calling All Allies – What people affected by prejudice want is allies to create opportunity for them to rise and offer them the chance of a voice. Those of us in positions where we can facilitate that “seat at the table” should overtly consider representation from more diverse groups within our industry.

Diversity & Inclusion Benefits Us All – D&I doesn’t just relate to visual prejudices, we should be searching out more diverse thinking too, and that comes from more diverse backgrounds. Inviting more diverse representation to the table, whether it be the boardroom, senior team members, on educational panels or the like, benefits us all as it brings thinking and perspectives which we might otherwise not have considered.  And with an increasingly diverse population it also directly strengthens our connection with our increasingly diverse consumers.

What We’re Doing…

It’s important that we walk-the-walk as well as talk-the-talk, so what is it that we have committed to do at FESTIVE ROAD?

Commitment #1 – Understand & Act Within Our Business

The Global Equity Collective (GEC) is a comprehensive diagnostic for D&I.  We’ve taken that assessment to understand where our strengths and weaknesses lie as a business.  We clearly know that we attract talented women to our business, but we have to ask ourselves why we haven’t improved racial diversity or why our balance is weighted significantly towards women? So, we commit to developing the areas where we can do better and to championing the areas where we already do well.

Commitment #2 – Influence Our Wider Network

One thing the GEC diagnostic reminded us was that using our profile/platform to continue to raise the issue and encourage positive action is just as important as undertaking action ourselves. We were challenged to encourage the industry to provide a seat at the table where possible for more diverse speakers. We therefore also commit to stimulating wider diversity into our client support & event work.  We already started this process with our work on ensuring gender diversity for the speakers we work with on industry and client events, so now we will widen that focus to wider D&I in events and interviews that we facilitate.

Commitment #3 – Keep On Listening

Immediately after our initial blog, we started a D&I slack channel to help us create a safe environment to talk & share within our company.  We also ensured we were represented on existing D&I groups such as the TAMS D&I Committee and widened our listening exercise beyond the black travel community to other D&I stakeholders. We continue to hear loud and clear that all D&I communities are looking for allies like us to support where possible and foster an environment for further dialogue.  So, we commit to keep listening, and continue to make this part of our every day industry observation.

I was recently reminded of a famous mantra of the founder of Swedish furniture store, IKEA, who embarked on a philanthropic mission to ensure good furniture was available with a charitable foundation as the basis for the company.  About 10 years ago I was fortunate enough to visit their HQ in Helsingborg where I discovered this mantra.

There’s much work to be done, oh what a glorious future.”

There is nothing more fitting to illustrate the work ahead of us when it comes to D&I.

Focusing our efforts on creating better equity through increased diversity and more robust inclusion is going to be a long journey, but what greater good can there be than using our sector to raise us all up.

Written by Paul Tilstone, FESTIVE ROAD, UK