Dear Travel Industry: "If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?"
While racism, xenophobia and sexism have always been present in American culture, there is simply no denying that tidal wave of hate and ignorance spilling out of the current administration has infected the nation. As someone who has worked with many leading travel and hospitality brands, I am simply stunned at the silence on these issues by so many people, especially at a leadership level. This is not the time for silence or apathy in favor of greater financial returns. Where is the integrity? Let me explain my specificity of industry here…
First of all, I work in/with these industries — as well as media & communications — and see posts, stories, and interviews day in, day out. If the barrage of instagram posts in various destinations with rarely any local cultural/historical context in a feed drove me crazy a year ago, it has seriously sped up my deletion of inauthentic “travel influencers” from my social outlets now. And my eye-rolling at a certain type of wooden executive repeating the same, empty talking points has lead me to tune out, as so many of us tire of hearing tired verbiage in an industry that is ripe for multicultural celebration and storytelling. Now this could read a little ‘on the high horse’, and I love a good travel tip or pretty picture as much as the next person – I share these too – but at a time where so many people around the world are suffering and being attacked for being “other”, where is everybody? Why aren’t more people speaking out against the intolerance? (*I hardly mean everyone, many people are walking the walk, but far too many are not saying anything, anywhere. Not online, not offline). Travel is more than sticking a pin in a new location, it is about experience and growing from meeting new people, seeing new things, learning about differences. Our world is richer for diversity, so is our country and so is our workplace. Speaking on behalf of your staff (which here in Los Angeles where I currently work, is largely made up of a Latino workforce), after regularly being attacked both on a government level and harassed on the street, OR speaking out against overt racism when you fancy yourself a travel expert, conveniently trying on different cultural hats on your journey’s only to toss them aside with indifference or fear of losing followers, is just sad. It should be a fundamental responsibility by leadership or those with a platform — speaking out against racism as an entire industry building itself on multiculturalism. Hiding behind a corporate title or you “personal brand” is just lazy privilege. And sadly those with the most privilege, are usually the most quiet, usually back-patting about the wrong kind of ‘help’ or empty philanthropy, and I am constantly being disappointed.
“If you stand for nothing (Burr), what will you fall for?” ~ Hamilton (Musical)
Cultural diversity has a significant role in the hospitality industry. Both due to global customer-relations as well as an international workforce. Anyone who has worked with hotels or restaurants in particular knows their incredible, diverse staffs are the very foundation of their business. Just as writer & bloggers know their stories are richer for meeting with a wider range of people. I have worked in both areas, and learned new languages, customs and history along the way — it has been wonderful. There is frequently an obvious racial divide between management and workers, which I have seen reflected in many of the largest companies and cities in America. And so the silence at the top, breeds suspicion and distrust on various other levels.