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raceAhead: The Travel Industry’s Diversity Problem

As summer vacation season winds down – only to be replaced by fall conference season – it’s discouraging to note that it’s entirely possible to for you book your journey, give the pilot a perfunctory once-over, get settled into to your aisle seat, and check-in to your hotel – and never encounter a travel professional of color.

Although the travel sector made modest diversity gains in 2015, the entire industry – from airline pilots and flight attendants to reservation takers, hotel clerks and tour guides – remains overwhelmingly white.

Skift, an analyst firm covering the travel industry, has published their annual review of diversity in the travel business. The tale of the tape: Some 91% of airline pilots are white, as are 73% of flight attendants, 70% of travel agents and 81% of tour and travel guides. The best news came in the hotel and motel desk clerk category, which is now 52% white. “And that took a long time to get there,” the report explains. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

“When one considers the rapidly increasing buying power of women and people of color, the opportunity costs for a lack of diversity can be massive,” says Genhi Bailey, Director of Diversity and Inclusion from the law firm DLA Piper. (Just one example: African American vacation spending grew 52% from 2015 to 2016, says MMGY Global, a global travel marketing firm.)

“Of course diversity is not the only factor to success – the product or service must be a quality one, but diversity can help organizations gain and maintain market share.” As someone who travels a lot for business she says, “I ALWAYS notice when there is a person of color behind the desk – especially at high-end hotels and facilities. And I remember those places.”

Diversity, even behind the scenes, leads to a better customer experience in a world where everyone travels. “We have built out the diversity of our product teams and we saw the caliber of our testing and experimentation improve significantly,” says Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com. She says the company employs people from 100 different nationalities, 50% of whom are women. “We found we were able to create better, customer-centric product features more quickly with a more diverse product team.”

For the face-to-face world, Bailey says that focusing on the pipeline is key. “Target diverse students studying hospitality at places like Cornell University and UW-Stout,” she says. Smart companies offer targeted internships and fellowships even for high schoolers, but, she cautions, “be sure to hire more than one diverse candidate at a time – being the “lonely only” can lead to feelings of isolation and attrition.”

But with the airline industry facing a fairly significant labor shortage for pilots, why are they still so stunningly white and male? We’ll dig into that in a separate column. But one air carrier, the regional Republic Airlines, is trying some interesting things. We’ll peek into their cockpit.

 

 

 

On Point

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Organization calls out Donald Trump for avoiding Hispanic media
Latino Victory, an organization that advocates for Latino representation in politics, published an online petition accusing Donald Trump of ignoring Hispanic media for over a year – with the exception of personal attacks on individual reporters and denials of access to the candidate.“Unfortunately for Donald, if he wants to get to the White House, he has to go through us.”
Media Matters



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Wall Street Journal


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2 Dope Boys

Politics and test score gaps in the U.S.
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Sage Journals


Tulsa man harassed, shot and killed by neighbor for being a “dirty Arab”
For nearly a decade, Khalid Jabara, along with his brothers and parents, had been harassed by their neighbor, Stanley Vernon Majors. Majors screamed ethnic epithets and threats. He’d even hit Jabara’s mother with his car. The family filed a  restraining order. Last week, Majors walked up to the porch of the family’s home and shot and killed Jabara. The Council on American-Islamic Relations told CNN his death mirrors a growing trend.
CNN

The Woke Leader


What we mean when we say we’re not a racist
Greg Howard, a David Carr fellow at the New York Times, has written an important essay on our long, tortured history with the idea of being “racist,” and how the toxic nature of the accusation prevents us from talking about real solutions. “Racism ceased to be a matter of systems and policy and became a referendum on the rot of the individual soul,” he writes. “This was a convenient thing for white Americans to believe.” A must read. 
New York Times


When the police kill the homeless, nobody cares
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The Guardian


On being a black administrator at school
Kelly Wickham Hurst is an educator, administrator, advocate and blogger, known for her willingness to tackle the tough issues of race and income inequality in Illinois classrooms she’s overseen for two decades. When she was demoted from her school administration job, labeled as “difficult” and “hard to manage” – she decided to quit and become a full time advocate for justice in the classroom. “My work relationship mirrored that of the students I was advocating for in the first place.”
Tuesday Night

Quote

In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law.
—Donald Trump