The CEOs were there to make those in the industry uncomfortable and look at the issues travel tends not to confront, but also to present ideas and solutions, Lebawit Lily Girma, Skift global tourism reporter, said in her introduction.
Climate action, diversifying the tourism chain, and community were the three areas the discussion focused upon.
Regarding diversifying how Africa is presented as a region, it’s important to recognize it’s typically marketed as a safari destination to U.S. and European markets, Khabo said. “It’s marketed to white individuals, to be exact,” she said. “Why not tap into the diaspora, what does that look like, those new markets, new customers, new marketing strategies?”
It’s also important to look at the supply chain a little differently, added Khabo, explaining that if you’re talking about the trade in terms of buyers and suppliers, there’s a new buyer and new people are making decisions about how consumers are traveling. Group travel leaders and influencers are not in the supply chain that’s regularly looked at, despite being an industry worth billions.
Sampson said he thinks a lot about supply chains and particularly the challenge of leakage money that doesn’t stay in the community.
“It’s interesting how much increased demand there is for all things local, but one of the biggest challenges we have in our industry is there are no standards for how local is defined,” said Sampson. “It could be defined by whatever geographic spread you want. Local could be across the street or just across the border, and local isn’t always synonymous with diversity or supportive of community needs. I get concerned about ‘local washing,’ slapping the local label on something and not applying a DEI lens.”
There has been a lot of diversifying in terms of messaging, which is a great start but just skims the surface, Girma said. “What’s being missed there in terms of shaking up the chain?” she asked.
Khabo said if you think about diversity at all levels to include marketing messaging and storytelling, then it’s great to get more diverse storytellers and stories. The images we’re seeing are more reflective of the population, but we also need to think about how diverse are the decision makers, executive leaders and councils.
“I’ve been asked to be on a lot of advisory boards, but advisory boards don’t have any power,” Khabo pointed out. “What’s actually happening that’s not just performative and window dressing?”