Tourism and travel industry pushed to embrace diversity, inclusion measures


Interest in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives has exploded over the past year or so among operators keen to repair relationships and expand their reach, says the head of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.

The association launched monthly webinars in January for those eager to better welcome visitors who are Black, Indigenous and other people of colour.

T-I-A-O president Christopher Bloore says he sees interest in the issue beyond the association level, noting individual businesses are putting together their own D-E-I (diversity, equity and inclusion) packages, or bringing in experts or consultants to help them build their businesses to make their workplaces more inclusive.

Oakville, Ontario-travel agent and consultant Shalene Dudley points to shifting travel patterns that emerged after pandemic measures closed airports, with more city dwellers taking road trips when they were unable to hop on a plane.

Dudley says in some cases, that brought BIPOC travellers into relatively homogenous communities unaccustomed to catering to a diverse clientele, giving rise to misunderstandings.

She co-founded the group Let’s Get Uncomfortable to address equity issues in the travel and tourism industry, and co-founder Britney Hope pointed to multiple Ontario counties that have requested anti-Black and anti-racism training ahead of tourist season.

Hope says as a result of COVID, there are now destinations seeing significantly more Black, Indigenous, people of colour coming into their communities to enjoy their spaces, and they’re not prepared to be a safe space for these groups.

Tourism Industry Association of Canada president Beth Potter says she’s seen a significant push towards diversifying the workforce, a key step to addressing labour equity and improving service.

She says the tourism industry has always welcomed all the visitors but now it’s a matter of making sure that the visitors see themselves within the tourism workforce as well.