The travel industry voiced its opinion during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests. But what actions should Managers take to promote equity in travel?
Throughout 2020, the United States experienced protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement, placing a spotlight on diversity and equity across society — including diversity and equity in travel. As a result, many large airline carriers, hotel chains and car companies responded in proactive and, some might say, controversial ways. As a Travel Manager you too can take action to support equity in travel and the needs of your individual travelers.
This month, we celebrate Juneteenth as the date of emancipation for slaves in the United States after the Civil War. At a time when airline Executives and other important figures in the industry are emphasizing equity in travel, it’s important for Travel Managers to fully understand the roles they play in equipping everyone with what they need to travel successfully for business.
The Travel Industry Responds to Protests
Large corporations do not always respond to social movements in the United States. But there was something different about the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that spread across the nation in the summer of 2020.
American Airlines made the controversial decision to allow employees to wear Black Lives Matter pins at work. Delta made a similarly controversial decision by raising a Black Lives Matter flag at its Georgia headquarters. These are just 2 examples of the outpouring of support by large corporations inside and outside of the travel industry, as well as the Executives that lead those corporations.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian even went so far as to distribute a memo addressing the importance of equity in travel and society-at-large. The memo read:
“We’ve also taken a hard look at our own record on diversity. People of color currently represent 43 percent of Delta’s current employees, 35 percent of our overall leaders and 18 percent of our top 100 officers. But our Black colleagues represent 21 percent of our employee base, 16 percent of overall leaders and 7 percent of our top 100 officers. That is not a picture of equity, nor is it reflective of the world we serve. As your leader, I take ownership of that performance and am committed to correcting our course as we become a more just, equal and anti-racist company.”
Travel industry leaders like Marriott issued similarly supportive statements on behalf of Black Lives Matter, emphasizing equity in travel and committing to be part of the solution to racial injustice.
Travel Industry Actions to Promote Equity
Statements of support and commitments to action are nice, but they mean little without follow-through. How is the industry following through on its general commitment to equity in travel?
You can find diversity programs within almost all of the large vendors operating in the travel industry. We’re talking about large airline carriers like American, Delta, United, Southwest and others. We’re talking about large hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott and others. And we’re talking about large car rental companies like Hertz, Enterprise and others.
The relatively new Travel & Meetings Standards group is also doing its part to address diversity and equity in travel. This group formed in 2020 to provide leadership within the travel industry. After the Black Lives Matter protests, this group formed a Diversity, Inclusion & Equity committee designed to talk about these issues and to take meaningful action within the travel industry.
While it’s good that travel vendors are addressing diversity and equity, and it’s good that an industry association has formed to address diversity and equity, it’s also important that companies engaging in business travel do their part to promote diversity and equity.
What Does This Mean for Your Job as a Travel Manager?
As a Travel Manager, diversity and equity are already part of your role. That’s because diversity and equity are important components in the duty-of-care responsibility that you have toward your Travelers.
This duty-of-care responsibility means that you are committed to keeping your Travelers safe and healthy as they work away from the office. And it also means that you are putting them in a position to be treated equitably, no matter where they travel for work.
In the short-term, take action by evaluating your vendor relationships throughout the industry. About 32% of travel buyers consider diversity and racial equity issues when configuring their travel programs, according to a Business Travel News survey. This consideration is responsive to the societal changes we experienced in 2020, and it’s also good from a risk management standpoint. The best way for you to promote equity in travel and to live up to your duty-of-care responsibility is by choosing vendors that also emphasize diversity and equity as important characteristics.
Also, it’s always a good idea for Travel Managers to spend time talking to their Travelers about their experiences. As equity in travel becomes an increasingly important theme, have conversations with any people of color who often travel on behalf of your company. Let their words and their experiences help guide your decision-making as you promote diversity and equity in your travel program.
Get Duty-of-Care Support for Your Travelers
Risk management and duty of care are becoming more and more important within companies large and small that ask their team members to travel. It’s difficult for any company to live up to its duty-of-care responsibility using only in-house resources. At JTB Business Travel, we provide duty-of-care services that help our clients actively manage risk within their travel programs.Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help your company live up to its duty-of-care responsibility.