October 16, 2022

Building Diversity into the Hospitality Experience

Ways to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry has long had a diversity issue. 

With the alarming lack of inclusivity in both the traveler experience and in corporate offices, marginalized groups have been kept on the outskirts of experiencing luxury hospitality.

As the industry rebuilds from the impact of the pandemic, we have the opportunity to build back better. From large industry players to new start-ups, here are a few companies and initiatives that are working to create a more inclusive and accessible travel experience and industry.

What the Industry Titans are Doing

In 2021, Hilton set a target that people of color make up 25 percent of its C-Suite by 2027, and the company publicly reports on its progress for accountability.

To help shift the landscape in air travel (more than 90 percent of pilots are white men), United Airlines partnered with groups such as the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals and Latino Pilots Association, offering $2.4million in scholarships to their Aviate Academy inaugural class.

Additionally, Alaska Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to drop grooming and uniforming rules that upheld the gender binary, quickly followed by Virgin Airlines

When the big players and household names of the industry implement DEI goals or practices they spark conversation that brings more awareness to the changes that need to occur in the industry and can begin setting new benchmarks and expectations in the industry.

Emergent Start-ups that are Moving the Needle 

Increasing equity in the hospitality industry means empowering marginalized groups at the individual level. 

Hospitable Bridge emerged to accelerate POC-female-owned hospitality businesses, through mentorship, seed investments, and hospitality pipeline growth.

Acknowledging the lack of diversity at the upper levels of the industry, newly formed DEI Advisors is collecting and sharing advice and perspectives from industry leaders to give people the inspiration to empower their own personal success. Their online video series features interviews covering topics in DEI, leadership, life lessons, and more. 

Grassroots efforts to empower the individual like these are how the industry can expedite change.

Connecting Hotels with Local Communities 

The revenue gained from the hospitality and tourism industries are an important driver of economy for many cities around the world. Benefits include job creation, infrastructure build out, and the sharing of cultures that might otherwise be overlooked. However, ensuring those benefits are being extended to all members of a local community, particularly the native and marginalized members, is important. 

Saira Hospitality is transforming the way hotels connect with local communities through education. The organization partners with hotels to create pop-up schools that provide local communities with the knowledge and skills needed to build a career in hospitality.

Giving travelers a way to access and give back to native and locally-owned businesses is an important aspect of supporting local, marginalized community members. Indigenous Tourism is enabling this by bringing Indigenous-owned companies to the forefront of Canada’s tourism industry.

In the US, Journey Black Home has an aggregated list of over 200 black-owned AirBnb’s in the US. Additionally, TripAdvisor newly offers ‘owner identity tags’ to help travelers more easily find and support businesses from a wide range of communities and backgrounds. 

Whether through employing local talent or ensuring traveler dollars are going directly into the pockets of the local, minority-owned businesses, hotels and restaurants have a responsibility to partner, highlight, and support the communities they are in.

Companies Increasing Access for People with Disabilities 

A key group often overlooked by the hospitality industry is the disabled; ADA standards set the bar low and are frequently skirted. 

Pioneers like Access Now connect people with disabilities to restaurants, parks, hotels, and more that meet their needs and are verified by intelligent technology. IncluServe offers a new hospitality certification program that audits hotels to ensure people with disabilities are included at every phase of their journey. Even AirBnb has increased its focus on accessibility, now requiring hosts to upload photos of any accessibility features they list (which has led to over 150,000 verifications in over 100,000 listings around the world). While these are small steps, it’s shedding important light on a historically overlooked segment, hopefully opening the door to larger-scale changes to create more accessible travel experiences.

Putting Words to Action 

As the hospitality industry evolves, it is initiatives and companies like these that are helping to create a more diverse and inclusive experience for travelers and members of the industry, making traveling more accessible, attainable, and enjoyable for marginalized groups. 

Whether you’re a hotelier gearing up to open a property or a service-provider in the industry, integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion is a key way we build a better future for the hospitality industry. R&Co. is a great partner to do just that. Through offerings like DEI-focused operationalization plans or brand development for minority-owned businesses, we are constantly working to empower diversity in the industry and make travel more accessible for all.