Hear from Brian Kelly and Oneika Raymond on the future of inclusive travel
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2020 has been unlike any other in recent memory — from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to the continued protests for racial justice. While virus-related travel restrictions are starting to lift (albeit with many caveats), we’re still seeing policies in most countries and states that prevent many travelers from freely entering. And there’s still progress to be made for a more inclusive society.
That’s what led TPG’s founder and CEO, Brian Kelly, to welcome award-winning journalist and television host Oneika Raymond to his most recent Future of Travel webinar. With visits to over 100 countries under her belt, Oneika is committed to inspiring women and people of color to see the world — and she and Brian covered a range of topics during their conversation.
Read on for some of the main takeaways from the webinar, and scroll to the end for a full recording of the session.
How Oneika got into travel media
Despite her current role as a travel influencer, Oneika didn’t always have this on her list of professional goals. She grew up in Toronto, Canada, and really enjoyed the city’s extensive multicultural make-up. However, the world really “opened itself up” for Oneika during a study-abroad program in France — and led her into international education. She spent 10 years in a variety of locations, including France, London and Hong Kong. But eventually, she realized that she wanted to work directly in the travel industry.
Five years ago, she left teaching and went into travel media full-time, creating original, travel-hosting content and working hard to make a name for herself. Her driving force? “I didn’t see any travel hosts that looked like me,” she said on the webinar. While inspired by personalities like Samantha Brown and the late Anthony Bourdain, she didn’t see anyone that reflected her — and this began resonating with women of color.
“I love the Internet,” she added. “You can create your own stuff, and I didn’t need a big platform to put me on.” By utilizing Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, she built a presence — to where bigger companies began coming to her to solicit her contributions.
Where Oneika has experienced racism
As noted above, Oneika has visited over 100 countries. The one where she’s experienced the most racism? The United States.
“I won’t mince words, make no mistake. The most racist country I have ever been to, ever lived in … has been the U.S. The rhetoric is extremely xenophobic, racist, anti-LGBTQ … and it’s unfortunate, because I see a lot of Black travelers who are hesitant to go abroad, and they may be better off going overseas.”
In her years spent in Asia, she encountered a lot of interesting interactions — including hair-touching and unsolicited photos. However, those came from a place of curiosity, not a place of malice. As a result, she shies away from discouraging people of color to travel to these areas.
Top content sources for diverse travelers
When asked about some of her favorite content sources for people of color, Oneika had several recommendations —most around leveraging social media. Despite some backlash that sites like Facebook and Instagram have taken, they’re still a great resource for connecting with like-minded travelers, according to Oneika. Hashtags in particular can make it easy to accomplish this — she mentioned #blacktravel, #travelnoir and #nomadness as popular options.
“There are communities of every flavor, of every type online. Sometimes all it takes is doing a Google search for those terms or typing in the hashtag on social media — particularly Instagram — to find these groups, because they’re such a treasure trove” of information.
Brian and Oneika also referenced Black Travel Alliance, a new group that’s compiling Black travel content creators to amplify their message, and Oneika also gave a shout out to a friend’s new book, The ABC Travel Green Book, which provides resources for Black travelers across the world.
What can the travel industry do?
Oneika has (unfortunately) encountered many forms of discrimination in the travel and media industries, and she recognizes the need for systemic change.
“Cultural sensitivity is key, and it must be at the corporate level. Having these seminars, having these touchpoints, doing scenarios … How do you react with sensitivity? How do you ensure that you are very inclusive? How do you question in a way that’s not interrogative?”
However, she pointed out that society still has a long way to go in addressing the implicit bias that often leads to these interactions. “As human beings, we need to take responsibility for ourselves, educate ourselves. In 2020, with all the information that is at our fingertips … there’s no reason to be so ignorant.”
This can even be as simple as verbiage, like using “differently-abled” rather than “disabled” to describe a traveler in a wheelchair or with limited vision or hearing. “The onus is on us,” she emphasized.
How TPG is leaning in to diversity
Here at The Points Guy, we’re actively engaged in these diversity efforts. In June, Brian published a statement on behalf of the entire team, reiterating our commitment to diversity and inclusion — though recognizing the work that still needs to be done. And while this is an ongoing endeavor here at TPG (and at our parent company, Red Ventures), we’re excited about a number of key initiatives that have already launched:
- We announced a new fundraising campaign with Prosecutor Impact, a non-profit organization that focuses on criminal justice reform by leveraging data, training and policy advocacy to better equip prosecutors with the tools they need to drive institutional change. You can still donate to this effort here, and Brian will be matching up to $50,000 in donations.
- We made a $100,000 donation to the National Association of Black Journalists, an organization that supports the development of Black journalists, media professionals, educators and students pursuing this critical line of work. You can make your own donation to the NABJ at this link.
- We launched a GoFundMe campaign for the Ali Forney Center in New York, a group that supports homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City — 90% of whom identify as people of color. Through this effort, we raised over $65,000 for the center.
- We’ve continued to ensure our editorial coverage features diverse voices — including Monet Mabrick, Juan Ruiz and Montoya Hudson.
These efforts and many more will continue as TPG works hard to become the inclusive workplace we all want it to be.
Full webinar recording
Be sure to check out the full recording of the session below
“The Future of Travel with Brian Kelly” is a series of live events looking ahead at what’s in store for the travel industry as it begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Join Brian as he interviews top experts and company executives on a range of topics, including traveler health, cleanliness measures, loyalty programs and what it all means for the traveling public.
For recordings of past sessions, please visit the following links:
- Future of cruising with Carnival CEO Arnold Donald
- Your health and travel with Doctor Mike
- Airline operations with JetBlue President and COO Joanna Geraghty
- 6 things America’s top flight attendant (Sara Nelson) thinks about the future of travel
Featured photo by Richard T. Nowitz/Getty Images
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