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Comment: It’s time to change the way we all see the world

Why now is the moment for a more inclusive approach to travel marketing, says Leigh Barnes, Chief Customer Officer, Intrepid Travel.

Finally, travel is starting to get back on its feet and that means we’re all switching our marketing engines back on.

It feels great to get back to do what we do best – create, sell and lead the best travel experiences ever for our customers. But as we’re all getting ready to implement our plans for 2022, let’s take a pause to consider how we’re marketing travel to our customers.

The pandemic has once again reinforced this is not an inclusive or equal world – and as travel companies restart those marketing engines, we have a responsibility to ask how we want our industry to be now – and in the future.

To recognise this change, here at Intrepid we’ve introduced an updated vision – to change the way we all see the world. A huge part of that is reflecting on the work we’ve done in the past, and how we can change for the better in the future.

The result is our new ethical marketing guidelines, which are designed to help guide our approach.

The development of these guidelines has been a real learning curve and I’d like to share my top three takeaways, which any travel company can implement:

1. Seek external voices

You can’t change what you can’t see – consciously seek out diverse perspectives to point out your blind spots. Our guidelines have been developed with a passionate group of consultants, including: Evita Robinson of NOMADNESS; Annette Richmond of Fat Girls Traveling; Chantel Loura, LGBTIA+ Activist & Storyteller; Meera Dattani, Ethical Travel Consultant specialising in decolonisation; Joanna Haugen, Freelance Journalist specialising in intersectional sustainability; and Mandy Braddick and James Saunders, of IndigenousX. I urge every business to seek these sorts of diverse external viewpoints.

2. Ask your customers

I make a point of phoning a few customers every week. This has highlighted the power of explicitly inviting your customers to give you a shout when they see things that don’t feel right to them. If you ask them, they’ll tell you. Our experience showed that some content or stories that someone like me understood as perfectly acceptable are perceived in a very different way for other people. For example, we recently revised the descriptive language for our Kokoda trips in Papua New Guinea based off a customer’s feedback to ensure we describe them in a more sensitive and inclusive way acknowledging the area’s history.

We’ve recently introduced a new email address (accountability@intrepidtravel.com) as another way our community can get in touch.

3. Measure and report

We talk about this a lot – in every part of our business – because you can only change what you measure. That’s why we’ll report publicly on our promises and progress.

For example, in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we will ensure that at least 50 per cent of the content creators we partner with identify as BIPOC, 10 per cent of our content creators are from the plus-size travel community, 10 per cent are from the LGBTQIA+ community and 10 per cent are Indigenous. You’ll be able to see how we’re tracking in our annual Integrated Report, which is published each year to provide a transparent view into our financial and social performance as a business.

We’re also working with our People, Purpose and Product teams to ensure that not only is our marketing inclusive, but so are our trips, brand and employee experiences. For example, over the last 18 months we’ve focused on increasing the amount of First Nations experiences within our tours, which both enrich trips and provide an opportunity for cultural exchange and new connection.

I know we won’t always get it right. We will make mistakes. We won’t ever be “finished”.

But I hope you’ll join us on this imperfect journey anyway.

We encourage anyone who would like guidance around more inclusive marketing to reach us at accountability@intrepidtravel.com.

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