Written by Kelsey Frenkiel, CREST Program Manager

We are on a mission to improve our policies and practices to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive space for our staff and partners.

We know that responsible tourism cannot be sustained when it is designed by a homogeneous group of people because they cannot speak to all the ways that tourism benefits or harms diverse communities.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a key component of tourism sustainability. In this post, we’ll provide an update on our work as it relates to DEI, including an explanation of why it is important to the travel sector, and how we are defining it.

We call upon all tourism organizations, businesses, governments, and individuals to assess their own policies and practices.

What does Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean?

We use the following definitions in our discussions around DEI: 

Diversity: The understanding of individual differences along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, geographic background, life experiences, age, physical abilities, cognitive abilities, health, physical characteristics, body composition, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other perspectives and ideologies. 

It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. 

Diversity is a reality created by individuals and groups from a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences. 

Equity: Fairness and equality in outcomes, not just in resources and opportunity. We recognize that each person needs something different to succeed and; to reach their own purpose, values, and goals. 

Inclusion: The achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equitable access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Travel & Tourism

We believe that sustainability cannot exist without diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. True sustainability balances the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. 

Black, indigenous, and people of color make up a huge portion of the hospitality workforce in the US. For many US indigenous communities, tourism is a major source of revenue. Marginalized communities that are disproportionately affected by rising sea levels and flooding are at the mercy of millions of tourists driving, flying, and cruising to their destinations every year.

The Black Travel Alliance’s recent #PullUpForTravel study confirmed that black travel content creators are under-represented in the travel industry and “there is, for the most part, lip service paid to diversity and inclusion.” The majority of tourism policymakers, planners, and managers do not have those voices at their theoretical tables. 

CREST is a founding member of the Future of Tourism Coalition. Our guiding principles emphasize “seeing the whole picture,” “collaboration,” bringing equitable tourism benefits to destination communities, reducing tourism’s social burden, and protecting the sense of place. In this way, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in sustainable travel and tourism are a “must have,” not a “nice to have.” 

There is evidence for the return on investment more broadly: according to McKinsey & Company, “companies in the top quartile for workforce diversity are 33 percent more likely to financially outperform their less diverse counterparts.” Tourism businesses, governments, DMOs, nonprofits, and others must be willing to make an investment in these principles in order to do their jobs well. 

What CREST is doing to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive

Why DEI is important to CREST

Our vision is to transform the way the world travels. Travel impacts everyone, and so it must be designed and managed in a way that is equitable and brings all voices to the table. We have developed a DEI Vision Statement to guide our work in this area:

The CREST staff  diligently working to improve our organization and ourselves through a diverse, equitable, and inclusive lens. We acknowledge our imperfections but strive to make intentional improvements each day. We seek to create a more equitable future for destinations and communities through sustainable tourism solutions by challenging marginalization in tourism development, bringing a diverse spectrum of voices to the forefront of our initiatives, and fostering equitable access to opportunities and resources to the best of our ability. 

Who we’re working with

CREST is working with Papilia, a woman-owned company that offers customized diversity, equity, and inclusion, communication, leadership, talent management, cultural learning, coaching services, and wellness solutions for travel organizations and individuals in the travel industry. 

What steps has CREST taken so far?

So far we have taken the following actions: 

  • Conducting a DEI audit to understand how to improve our internal and external practices
  • Holding unconscious bias and emotional intelligence training sessions 
  • Reviewing and revising our staff and internship recruitment process 
  • Reviewing our website to ensure it is accessible for people with different abilities 
  • Conducting an audit of our conference speakers in order to establish a system that encourages the amplification of different voices  
  • Conducting a DEI staff survey to serve as a baseline to measure progress and to create annual DEI metrics/accountability measures 
  • Examining how to ensure underserved and marginalized identities are represented through our programmatic portfolio.   

What will this mean moving forward?

Our next steps are: 

  • Developing baseline DEI metrics and accountability measures 
  • Developing a DEI policy
  • Integrating DEI into our five-year strategic work plan 
  • Diversifying the composition of our board members 
  • Expanding our stakeholder mapping process with each project 
  • Updating our Academic Affiliate and Experts Network recruitment and onboarding process  
  • Developing a communications strategy that informs and generates conversation about topics critical to advancing sustainability and DEI in the travel industry. 

You can find more information on CREST’s evolving DEI commitments and actions on our DEI page

We call upon all tourism organizations, businesses, governments, and individuals to assess their own policies and practices. We invite you to reach out to Program Manager Kelsey Frenkiel if you are interested in learning more about our journey or have questions, comments, or feedback to share.

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