Tourism

Tourism and travel industry forced to take action on diversity and inclusiveness

TORONTO. Travel and hospitality experts say businesses hit by the pandemic are increasingly aware of a long-standing blind spot that could help them recover this summer: the BIPOC traveler.

Interest in diversity, fairness and inclusive initiatives has skyrocketed over the past year or so among operators looking to build relationships and expand their footprint, according to the head of the Ontario Travel Industry Association, which launched monthly webinars in January for those who want a better welcome. visitors who are black, indigenous, and other people of color.

“People start asking questions and people start saying: what can we do better? How can we be better at this?” says TIAO President Christopher Bloor.

“And I see it not only at the level of associations like us, but I see individual businesses creating their own DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) packages or bringing in experts or consultants to help them build their business to make them work. places more inclusive.”

Oakville, Ontario, travel agent and consultant Shailene Dudley points to a change in travel patterns that has come about since pandemic measures shut down airports. Not being able to board a plane, she says, more city dwellers are taking to the road to explore the delights of the countryside.

According to Dudley, in some cases this has led BIPOC travelers into relatively homogenous communities unaccustomed to catering to a diverse clientele, leading to misunderstandings and racial conflicts.

She co-founded the group Let’s Get Uncomfortable to address issues of fairness in the travel and tourism industry, and co-founder Britney Hope pointed to several Ontario counties that have requested education against blacks and racism ahead of the travel season.

“There are destinations right now where, due to COVID, a lot more black, indigenous, people of color are coming into their communities to enjoy their space, and they’re not ready,” Hope says.

“They are not ready to be a safe place for these groups, they are not ready to welcome them in a way that makes them feel welcome. It goes far beyond satisfying cultural needs.”

Prince Edward County resident Judith Burfoot recalls the general influx of day-trippers who descended on her community in southern Ontario after pandemic restrictions shut down airports, taking over an already popular provincial park and drawing the ire of some locals alarmed by trash problems. and sanitation.

According to her, if there were quarrels between residents and visitors, it would be unfair to attribute this solely to intolerance.

Burfoot, a black woman who moved to the county 12 years ago from Toronto, doesn’t believe rural people are less tolerant than city dwellers: “I definitely had some racist scum in Toronto,” she says.

But experiencing racism in a small town with a few other BIPOC residents is a different feeling than experiencing it in a city where “there are hundreds (like you),” she says.

COVID-19…

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