On a mission to lift the visibility of Blacks in journey: Travel Weekly

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When the coronavirus pandemic shut down leisure travel
earlier this year, content creators found themselves grounded — an unusual
situation, especially for those who focus on travel.

That’s the position Martina Johnson and her husband, Leslie,
found themselves in. Though the Johnsons both keep full-time jobs in the
technology field, they also run the blog and social media presence of ThatCoupleWhoTravels.com. They started looking for different ways to connect
with their followers and turned to other Black content creators.

“When Covid happened, obviously we couldn’t travel anymore,”
Martina Johnson said. “Everybody was bummed about that, and we started having
mastermind calls just as a way to support one another and to come up with ideas
to continue to serve our audiences.”

The calls began in March, but when George Floyd was killed
on May 25, the conversation shifted into the formation of something larger: the
Black Travel Alliance.

The group had 18 members on its launch team. 

“We were all like, OK, enough is enough,” Johnson said. “We
were tired of not just the police brutality, because obviously that is
terrible, but that incident just brought so many other things to the forefront.
Things that we’d always been dealing with, but when you literally see someone
murdered on television, it’s like, OK, things have to change. We have to make
this world better for our children and, quite frankly, for ourselves.”

The Black Travel Alliance is working to both support Black
content creators and increase Black representation in the travel industry on
multiple levels.

It launched with the #PullUpForTravel campaign, through
which it sought to gather key performance indicators from travel companies
about Black representation in five areas: employment, conferences and trade
shows, paid advertising/marketing campaigns, inclusion on press trips and
philanthropy. The group has been posting these indicators from various travel
groups on its social channels and its website. 

Now, Johnson said, the alliance will turn that data into the
Black Travel Scorecard, a look at where companies stand.

“We’re not here to shame the industry and to shame companies
who are problematic in their diversity initiatives currently,” she said. 

“I think some people [think] we’re just here to shame them
and only call them out, but that’s not the point. You have to get a baseline of
where you are to ever be able to make improvement.”

There are many issues the alliance is attempting to fix in
the travel industry in the long term, according to Johnson. She said the
majority of press trip attendees are white, as are the keynote speakers and
presenters at travel conferences. Advertising and marketing often neglect to
include Blacks in messaging, and they’re under-represented on staffs of travel
companies.

She also cited a 2018 Mandala Research report, showing Black
Americans spend $63 billion a year on travel.

Not only is it morally wrong that Black people aren’t better
represented, Johnson said, “but it’s also bad for business.”

“I believe that African Americans would spend even more on
travel if there were more Black people telling their story,” she said.

The alliance is also creating a directory of Black content
creators that the industry can access for press trips or for marketing or
advertising opportunities.

Too often, Johnson said, travel companies will claim they
didn’t know how to find a Black content creator to work with, “but we’re
creating a directory so there’s never an excuse of you couldn’t find a person
of color, you couldn’t find a Black person, to do something.”

Johnson said, “Our greatest hope for the travel industry is
that one day we won’t have to have these conversations, that diversity and
inclusion will be embedded into the fabric of the industry, that it will no
longer be an afterthought or a second thought. 

“That’s our greatest hope, but in the meantime we want equal
pay and equal opportunity.”

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