What Does Racism Have To Do With Tourism?  

What do you need to consider before you travel in the UK?

City break or country calm?

Can I park nearby?

Is there free wifi?

Is breakfast included?

Is the area racist? 

British Black and Asian respondents to a recent study stated that instances of racial harassment, microaggressions and/or discrimination while travelling, were all experiences which influenced their decision making behaviour about travelling. The report identified concerns for physical safety and racial discrimination as the most overwhelming concern and constraint to travel choice. How confident are you that Cumbria’s reputation is anti-racist? How would you know? 

The report by University of Surrey in collaboration with Women in Travel CIC found that British Black and Asian travellers were more likely to rely on word of mouth and online information as the leading sources of travel information, whereas White travellers cited past experience as their preferred source of information. 

“The industry can’t pretend that race has no impact on travellers’ experiences.” – Dr Albert Kimbu University of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

So Cumbria’s reputation and actions on racism matter far more than you might think. Covid-19 means Britons are holidaying in the UK more than ever. Compared with the pre-Covid coach trips of overseas travellers whose stays are carefully orchestrated and controlled, Britons are independent travellers who will have many more touch points with the tourism industry, from local cafes and shops, to B&Bs, the fells and lakes, pubs, restaurants and leisure activities. When the visitor experience is widened like this, how confident are you that their experience will be a good one?

“We all sat down drinking our drinks, having a good night when the lady behind the bar starts telling one of her customers how she hates all Muslim people.” –  TripAdvisor Review 

“Simply diversifying these spaces with an ‘add brown people and stir’ approach that isn’t deeply anti-racist, is always going to be ineffective.” – Evie Muir Founder of Peaks of Colour 

Whilst anti-racism is something that all organisations should be embracing for the good of everyone, as profits are often the driving factor we wanted to highlight how anti-racism makes good business sense too.

Image credit @the.wanderlust.women

The myth busting report is called Engaging New Travel Audiences: Understanding The UK BAME Travellers’ Decision-Making Process. It showed that the stereotypes surrounding travellers from British Black and Asian travellers communities that state people from these communities prefer familiar destinations, travel primarily to visit friends and family and rarely go to new places are wrong. Another recent report The Black Pound report also highlighted how businesses are drastically underestimating and missing out on the spending power of the Black pound. Statistics from the reports showed 

  • Disposable income of £4.5billion 
  • 92% travel in the UK at least once a year  
  • #1 reason for travel is Leisure and Recreation 
  • #2 reason for travel is Adventure  
  • More likely to enjoy multiple trips 
  • Love to explore new places 
  • Twice as likely as White consumers to favour and trust brands that are representative at all levels of the business (remember that tokenism stinks and can be smelt a mile off) 

So how is the tourism industry responding to this great news!? Are different voices from British Black and Asian communities being consulted on the future of the industry? Are businesses embracing anti-racism? 

Let’s take one example, and look at the leading tourist organisation in the UK – Visit Britain. An organisation whose job is to drive up the economy through tourism. Their awards are some of the industry’s most sought after and quite literally the gold standard of tourism in our country. So are the Visit England and Visit Britain awards judges a great reflection of the British and global visiting public? Before you run off to google it, we checked. Every judge is White, and sorry if we’re wrong but every judge perhaps bar one, appears to be over 30. We note there is a specific Accessibility judging panel who judge the Accessible & Inclusive Tourism Award, representatives are all White. The focus appears to be solely on disability which is undoubtedly a much needed area but it is unclear what else is meant by ‘inclusion’. It is unclear whether any are representative of the LGBT+ community, we hope some are. It is also unclear what the socioeconomic status of the judges are too, I suppose that we’re pointing out that there doesn’t appear to be an intersectional approach. 

Where are the different perspectives and experiences? What are the existing judges judging on? Who set that ‘standard’? Is racism a consideration? Would they recognise it if they heard or saw it? Where are the Black and Brown people? Where are the young people? Are there people who identify as LGBT+? Are there people who don’t have deep pockets?  Beyond the representation of the judging panel, does the judging process itself consider any of these things? What processes find out about racism for example? How could it be checked?  

These ‘oversights’ are actually systemic racism in action, we aren’t saying this is being perpetuated on purpose, but when things are pointed out it becomes the responsibility of the tourism industry to address the topic and make meaningful change. The tourism industry needs to understand that the colour of people’s skin, their faith, their sexuality and their culture are factors in their visitor experience, right from decision making to how much they enjoy their trip and crucially their likelihood of returning.

This is a complex topic, but with the industry being such a giant in Cumbria’s economy it’s a much needed conversation and we’re glad to say that early discussions are underway with Cumbria Tourism. 

If you’d like to explore how your business can become anti-racist we have introductory conversations available from £250 which create those lightbulb moments within the organisations, through to our full 8 step programme which leads organisations to our GOLD standard of anti-racism. Get in touch to find out more:  hello@antiracistcumbria.org.