Earlier this week, we published a story on the new Black Travel Alliance, which launched the #PullUpForTravel campaign on June 16. It calls on travel brands to be more transparent—and inclusive—in their hiring practices and advertising campaigns and to fill out a Black Travel Scorecard, which collects data in five major areas: employment (the current number of Black people in management or on staff); conferences and tradeshows (representation on speaker panels and in workshops); paid advertising and marketing campaigns (representation in TV, radio, print, and social media and other digital channels); press (invitations to media trips); and philanthropy (contributions to or other support of charities and organizations serving the Black community).
With a deadline of June 19, or Juneteenth (that’s today!), the Black Travel Alliance called on travel brands to communicate their metrics publicly on social media with the hashtag #PullUpForTravel—and if they can’t provide stats, to show an actionable way forward.
The intent of the campaign isn’t to shame brands that aren’t doing enough, but rather to provide a starting point for improvement. Here’s where we stand on the categories we have stats for:
AFAR is too white, and in all five categories, there is definitely room for improvement. In terms of employment, only about 4 percent of our staff is Black, and 14 percent is BIPOC. A quarter of our hires in the last few years have been BIPOC. We can do better, by bringing on guest editors, expanding our freelance roster, and supporting more Black-owned businesses in the short term and by forming a Diversity and Inclusion task force to develop a proactive recruitment process for future staffing.
On our marketing and social media side, we can do better. Eight percent of our Ambassador program is Black and 22 percent is BIPOC. We typically feature locations rather than people on social media. Of the campaigns that featured people in 2020: We only did one, and it was with writer/photographer Cynthia Andrew, who traveled to Charleston on behalf of AFAR this January.
Philanthropy has been part of AFAR’s DNA since its inception. In 2008, when Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz launched AFAR, they also started the AFAR Foundation, which sponsors travel for underserved students through its flagship program, Learning AFAR. Committed to the idea that travel is the best form of education, Learning AFAR—with the help of our partner organization No Barriers—has so far sent more than 1,300 students, targeting those in the National School Lunch Program, from eight states on trips to destinations including Costa Rica, Belize, the American Southwest, Cambodia, Mexico, Peru, and China.
Ever since the program began, we’ve seen how the young people who travel return with an expanded sense of their place in the world. After the trip, many are inspired to become leaders in their communities. Last year, a Learning AFAR group from New Orleans traveled to Ghana, the first African destination in the program’s history. The students, part of the Son of a Saint organization, have all lost their fathers to death or incarceration. But there’s still more we can do, and our team has personally committed to fundraising for Equal Justice Initiative; Black Lives Matter; Black Visions Collective Minneapolis; Fair Fight; Vote Save America; the Media Education Foundation; and more.
We will continue to share progress—both short term and long—with our community. Please hold us accountable.