Discover more from Talking Travel Writing
Why diversity matters in the travel media
How can you be a better ally as a travel writer?
The murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests that erupted across the globe gave the world pause for thought – and action. And in the travel industry, companies, publishers, writers and editors began to tackle lack of diversity within our ranks.
There's a self-awareness creeping through the the travel media that simply didn't seem there before, and recently, important conversations on race, colonialism and diversity are finally getting the airtime they need.
Within travel media, exploring destinations through only a white lens leads to writing rife with “tired old clichés” and “boring stereotypes” writes Ash Bhardwaj in this excellent article in The Telegraph.
Travel writing so often fails to reflect the nuanced, complicated reality and history of destinations, says Meera Dattani in this piece about how travellers – and travel journalists –- can take steps to avoid approaching a new destination with a colonial gaze. “We can’t be ignorant on our travels anymore.”
But a lack of diversity also misses the mark by failing to represent great swathes of the travelling population. “Black people are under-represented in the travel industry despite the fact that Black people spend over $63 billion on travel annually,” says Donna-Kay Delahaye, a blogger and launch member of the Black Travel Alliance.
Founded by Black content creators and journalists, the Black Travel Alliance seeks to hold the industry to account for a lack of diversity. Their #PullUpForTravel campaign asked brands, PR companies and media to analyse how they fare against the Alliance’s Black Travel Scorecard, which examines Black representation in terms of staff, conferences, on social media, press trips and in charitable causes that they support.
“The campaign has highlighted that the majority of travel brands have little to no black employees and that their workforce is not diverse,” Donna explains. But, “it has also caused a lot of travel companies to ask how they can make diversity a priority in their organisation.”
This conversation isn't just one that brands and larger companies should be having; all of us can work towards being a better ally to our Black and POC colleagues.
That's why we reached out to journalists across the industry for their practical tips on what we can each do to make the travel media, and our own writing, more reflective of the diversity of the destinations we visit and the travellers for whom we write.
How can you be a better ally as a travel writer?
Donna-Kay Delahaye, Blogger at Hues of Delahaye and founding member of the Black Travel Alliance
Speak up! If you don't see any diversity represented at conferences, press trips, marketing campaigns, say something.
If you've been invited on a press trip, suggest names of black writers you know would be a great fit.
PRs and Editors: seek out black writers to tell stories year-round, not just during Black History Month.
Meera Dattani, Travel Journalist, Editor and founder of the Unpacking Media Bias newsletter
Add local quotes to add perspective, ‘life’ and even humour to the piece – otherwise it can read as if the writer passed through the place like a ghost.
Seek out experiences that genuinely represent the destination, if you really want to address stereotypes and keep the ‘colonial gaze’ in check. It’s all too easy to do what’s always been done, and end up regurgitating the same old tropes and tours.
For editors, using a diverse pool of writers – not just ethically diverse but in all ways diverse – is an obvious one, but it’s also about being braver in terms of what you commission and publish. I genuinely don’t think this means no Top 10s or that you can’t just write about a really cool place. It’s about mixing it up, and using travel writing as a force for good to update perceptions of the world.
Travis Levius, Freelance Writer, Editor, Content Creator & Tourism Consultant
It is important when writing about cultures foreign to your own to practice due diligence. When in doubt, research: is the term or phase I'm thinking to add in my story archaic or considered insensitive? There's an abundance of online resources and demographic-specific articles which shed light on problematic terminology. What was okay to say then might not be okay to say now... and it's your job to check this.
AITO — The Association of Independent Tour Operators is a group of vetted specialist tour operators, who operate under the association's quality charter.
Acronym of the day
Eatery — “Have you heard about that new eatery everyone’s raving about?” said no one, ever.
Sign up to read the inaugural edition of Meera Dattani and Shivani Ashokas' newsletter, Unpacking Media Bias. It'll make you better at spotting unconscious bias in the media – we're very excited to read it when it lands next week!
Another eye-opening read this week is by Monisha Rajesh, author of Around India in 80 Trains and Around the World in 80 Trains. For The Times, she wrote about the realities of a British staycation for ethnic minorities.
If you missed the live version and aren't a member of the BGTW, you can now pay £4 for access to the Decolonising Travel Writing webinar chaired by Meera Dattani and involving panellists from across the industry. It offers a series of practical insights into how journalists can strip away charged colonial perspectives and language from their writing.