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Whether you’re looking to have the best cultural experience, LGBTQ+ insight in a new city or simply just looking for added safety, queer travel requires a diverse and accessible framework. Here, we do not use the word ‘diverse’ in the corporate tick-box sense, but in ensuring that travel companies acknowledge the wide array of identities, relationships, needs, vulnerabilities, and accessibilities that exist in ‘queer travel’. Today's LGBTQ+ travel is mostly viewed through a white, cis-gendered male lens, which is inevitably ignorant to the specific issues experienced by those outside of these categories. A 2020 Travel Weekly survey on diversity in the travel industry concluded that; ‘marketing and advertising for leisure travel overwhelmingly cater to and features white travellers’. Clearly exposing a wide-set issue within the industry.
The under-representation of Queer Black, Trans, Intersex People of Colour (QTIPOC) is unfortunately nothing new in our society - with a global lack of representation and support for QTIPOC across all industries. These issues call back to one central statement - the fact that 85% of CEOs are white men. With a lack of diversity in the top tier of businesses, it is not surprising that this under-representation bleeds into other company sectors. Here we see how the majority of businesses existing in our society HAVE discriminatory foundations, which emphasizes the need for more QTIPOC-owned companies. Lightning Travel Recruitment created a candle to remind us of the problem at hand. Smelling like lack of diversity - plain vanilla, all profits are being donated to Moonlight Experiences. It is important to collaborate and amplify with existing marginalized voices in businesses and organizations already doing the work not just once but over a long-term partnership. Other actions include providing a platform to promote inclusivity and diversity rather than talk on behalf of marginalised groups to create change. When we discuss issues surrounding diversity in travel it's about including everyone including those with accessible needs. Doing better doesn't mean it sidelines other groups but it's about doing better to level the playing field. When Black voices are uplifted, we all get uplifted regardless of who we are.
See below a few LGBTQI+ travellers we don't see on travel media and campaigns unapologetically exploring the world. Left to right; @thequeernomads, @twotransnomads, @flyyestguy, @life.beforebabies, @deeristravelling, @genniaandlenny.
With the creation of institutions such as the Black Travel Alliance, Women in Travel and BAME Women in Travel, it is evident that the travel industry lacks sufficient attention on those not white, male and heterosexual. A call to these identities cannot be achieved with 85% of CEOs still being white men, which shows the need for more QTIPOC to be employed in higher, decision-making positions.
In an interview with the executive director of BAME Women in Travel, Jamie-Lee Abtar highlights racial bias in the travel industry despite the pool of talent full to the brim with BAME women and QTIPOC. She explains;‘The lack of diversity in leadership positions play a big role in creating impressions, shaping the customers' experiences and connecting to other travellers from varied backgrounds. The answer is simple - have more QTIPOC in higher positions throughout the travel industry, (throughout every industry for that matter). No one can help cater to the QTIPOC travel experience better than...you guessed it, QTIPOC! Companies need to undertake an active effort in the employment of QTIPOC and all other marginalized communities in leading and decision-making roles. Moonlight Experiences is happy to signpost, make recommendations and facilitate workshops to support the industry to uplift the community. If your business, place of work or organization isn't attracting diverse employees or customers, the question is, what is it about the product or service that isn't inclusive? we all deserve to feel included in the travel industry.
In the past 2 years, we have seen the radical transformation of the travel industry chaotically reacting to the Covid-19 crisis, and in the reconstruction and reinvention of travel, as we know it occurs, this is the best time to reinforce the industry with authentic and impactful diversity. And with the hyper-consumption of media and social issues in today’s environment, it must be said that this is not a temporary or isolated issue. Short-term improvements and token diversity hires will not meet the standards for sufficient change. Support for Black-owned travel companies like The Black Explorer, Black Travel Go, and of course Moonlight Experiences is essential for industry reform.
The work that these companies do is proving that niche does not mean small. While many individual identities deserve to be catered for, there are plenty of spaces in various cities across the world which provide safety and community for QTIPOC. We should never be pushed into a binary and become limited by the mainstream or commercial. While on the topic of diversity within industries, we need to be specific as possible. Calling for awareness of queer issues is not the same as calling for queer Black and People of Colour issues - and without this distinction, queerness is inevitably viewed through whiteness. On the ‘Over the Rainbow’ Podcast, Aisha Shaibu - founder of Moonlight Experiences - spoke about some of the issues QTPOC face while travelling. ‘Being Black, being in a country where there are not many Black people, and being queer with a fiancée...it’s about the assumptions made and having to navigate these issues’ - Aisha Shaibu on ‘Over the Rainbow’ Podcast. Click here to listen more about the conversation on queer travel.
These conversations need to be brought to mainstream attention. There is an intense privilege in travelling freely without concerns of queer-phobia and/or racism. With QTIPOC usually invisible on travel advertising, we often need to remind people, we exist! There are so many beautiful and amazingly talented QTIPOC travelling the world that deserve to be seen!
The World is slowly re-opening and our collective urge to travel has never been stronger. Every single person deserves to travel in peace and complete safety, regardless of identity. Moonlight Experiences is the first travel company in the UK and Europe that is run by a Black queer woman. It is also the only one that is dedicated to queer nightlife through tourism. Moonlight Experiences is doing the work to amplify queer women and marginalized voices to tackle the lack of diversity and visibility.
Moonlight Experiences is led by a dedicated queer collective of diverse voices who are changing the perception of queer culture through curated activities and stories from the community. We are using the economic power of LGBTQ+ tourism to tackle the lack of QTIBPOC representation in travel. Profits go towards amplifying marginalised artists and supporting queer venues.
Find out more: www.moonlightexperiences.com
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