Comment: Travel has a lack of black people in senior positions

Hannah Mursal, founder of ME Travel, says companies need to do more than tick a diversity check box

The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the lack of black people in senior positions in travel.

Surprisingly, Murs Entertainment Travel (ME Trave) – which makes travel arrangements for musicians and sports stars such as The Courteeners, The Horrors, Chronixx and Kano – is the only black-owned entertainment travel agency in the UK.

You can find plenty of junior or senior agents from diverse backgrounds in the sector.

However, when you start and look further up the chain of command, its very rare to see black managers, independent agency owners or managing directors.

Having worked for 15 years in travel, working in the leisure, corporate and entertainment sub-sectors, I’m now working on projects to help other black entrepreneurs to follow in my footsteps, becoming independent agents.

The first day in a new job often feels the same. Speaking from experience, you have that ‘spot the black person’ feeling, and automatically have a cultural understanding.

Most racism we see is systematic, and ingrained into our UK culture, so it’s hard to change the way people think overnight. However, it’s also generational, which makes it important for us to change the opportunities given to the next generation.

I have had great women in the industry to inspire and support me. I now feel it’s my duty to be that example for women of colour.

Late in 2020 I was asked to talk to some travel and hospitality students at Lambeth college and it was exciting to see the diversity in the class with students of all races, genders, and ages.

I came off the video call moved. I didn’t realise the impact it would have on the students and the teachers. They were excited to see someone who looked like them, who had worked with household names. They never imagined it was something they could achieve.

Besides the usual ‘who’s the biggest diva?’, I was asked ‘was it difficult to get to where you are as a woman?’ and ‘did you have any issues being black?’. Having those questions was great because it’s something that isn’t often asked, so it helps start to show change in mindsets.

There have been incidents where I’ve been overlooked, or my company has been taken as a joke, and I’ve been referred to by colleagues as ‘you people’. Occasionally, there has been a condescending ‘oh you’re still going’.

In the past, I’ve been sent black clients from suppliers because I can ‘handle’ their demands or asked if I can look after rap and hip-hop clients because it’s considered ‘black music’.
These demands are no different to any other race. But I’ve never been someone affected by people’s comments, I just concentrate on been innovative and successful.

Echoing what has been said in other industries, people need someone who looks like them to break boundaries.

Workplaces need to do more than tick a diversity check box. We have had the same conversations about women in business now its time to have the conversation about race in business.

Moving forward, ME Travel has grown during the pandemic adding a lifestyle sector and waiting for touring to restart.

When it does, I will definitely be hiring a diverse staff throughout the company.

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