June 15, 2024

Hands up for diversity

Three experts share their insights on how to make business travel truly inclusive

Carolyn Pearson, CEO maiden-voyage

A generic approach to travel safety falls short of good practice when it comes to duty of care. Instead you need to personalise your travel risk management.

First off, poll your business travellers and take a temperature check. Dig deep, ask lots of open questions and collect diversity data. Keep responses anonymous to protect an individual’s privacy. Ideally you want to be looking for specifics related to gender, sexual orientation, health, disability, age, and race. Offer multiple-choice responses, nobody is one-dimensional. Engage with your Employee Resource Groups and diversity networks to learn about the people they represent and their unique travel needs or concerns. Consider running travel safety deep-dives and focus groups. Always adopt a ‘never about us without us’ approach, where you allow different minority groups to tell you what they need rather than speaking for them.

Audit current travel safety information resources. Source and share relevant content such as the ILGA map on state sponsored homophobia and a list of countries where the zika virus is prevalent. Make content widely available for all employees and ensure that it can be consumed anonymously.

Pre-travel risk assessments should be considered for all destinations and be a combination of generic risks such as hotel fire or road traffic accident as well as some personal elements. Even relatively safe and local destinations could be complex for certain demographics.

It’s not OK to ask employees about personal issues such as sexuality or health issues but you can ask two ‘magic’ questions. Firstly, ask if a traveller is comfortable and feels able to take the trip. Secondly, ask what adjustments can be made to better support them on the trip. Make sure you provide a confidential ‘no justification, no travel policy’ which allows employees to decline a trip without having to justify their reasons why.

You should also provide pre-travel safety training that incorporates specific diversity elements for everybody and an easy post-travel feedback mechanism that goes much deeper than a basic travel survey. Educate or remove those suppliers from your travel programmes who don’t reflect your DE&I values or policies.

And then repeat! Make this a continuous loop of learning and improvement whilst capturing new employees as they join your organisation.

Frank Harrison, Regional Security Director UK and North America, World Travel Protection

There is great debate over best-in-class approaches to addressing DE&I in the workplace, especially when it comes to business travel. The old school approach was to target the individual traveller through self-declaration but today businesses and organisations that have developed a strong culture grounded in DEI have taken steps to facilitate a community of belonging.

Duty of Care encourages a framework where all travellers receive the same awareness and education before travel approval. By providing universality of information through awareness and education programmes, everyone has the same risk threshold and understanding, without prejudice or fear of losing personal privacy, reinforcing acceptance.

When an organisation requires employees to travel internationally, travel approvers might unknowingly expose travellers to unsafe situations or environments that may be hostile or uncomfortable to them. As identified by Human Dignity Trust, 11 countries maintain the death penalty, and 71 countries still criminalise gender and sexual orientation.

An organisation must understand their travellers; the destination, including local laws and customs; and the activity to be conducted. They must provide honest, non-biased trip advice that is uniform to all travellers. If a traveller has concerns around DE&I, there must be resources available to answer concerns, give advice, or allow the traveller to speak with an unbiased third-party travel risk provider whose focus is the safe, successful fulfilment of the anticipated journey. 

By ensuring all employees receive the same information, they can pack the proper knowledge for travel regardless of their person risk profile.

Linda Bekoe, CEO of APLBC and Founder of bekoe.com

Think of luxury or business travel and instantly you think of images featuring traditionally European, white, mainly middle-class travellers. But as travel is thankfully coming back, and as DE&I now has a much more prominent voice, many ethnically diverse travellers who’ve felt neglected and even excluded are looking for business travel or luxury experiences that fulfil their needs.

This is a huge opportunity for our sector that we all need to respond to. Change is needed and brands must take the lead in demonstrating how important inclusivity is to them. If they don’t, they’ll be left behind and their business will suffer.

We’re already seeing new competitors entering the market that are catering specifically for black or ethnic minority travellers seeking refined, personalised experiences.

For established companies, it’s not enough to rely on existing customers. If you want growth you need to attract new customers. And that means diversifying your reach.

But why have black or minority ethnic travellers felt neglected or excluded up to this point, and why have these new businesses emerged?

One significant reason is representation in advertising, and how luxury or business travel is portrayed. If someone of colour is to feel welcomed and included, they need to feel represented and see themselves reflected back at them.

But few companies within the luxury or business travel are actively speaking to black or ethnic minority audiences through their advertising.

Businesses need to address this issue and demonstrate their DE&I credentials by visibly promoting greater diversity. When they do that, they’ll become more appealing to a much broader demographic.

And they need to do it now, when the world is opening up again. Because if they don’t, black and ethnic minority travellers will look elsewhere, to the new businesses entering the market. And they’ll be lost as a customer that helps deliver your growth.