Well, it matters to me when I travel. It is why I travel whether for leisure or business, to spend time holidaying or working in someone else’s place. Whether it is the landscapes of Yorkshire, Scotland or Pakistan, the cultures of India or South Africa, I travel to enjoy our world’s diversity, I crave it. The accelerating trend for experiential Travel reflects this desire to enjoy diversity.
Young people travelling to party destinations are also pursuing diversity, cheap alcohol and the freedom of being away from home. My parents ventured to resorts for a dose of sunshine but expected to find English food and beers. Looking back to the origins of mass Travel abroad, it seems clear to me that expectations of diversity have increased.
At the virtual WTM in November, we have a panel on tourism and racism. Some will be shocked by this arguing that discrimation in the sector is rare; others will disagree. Tour operators, travel agents, OTAs and guides offer what the consumer wants to buy – if they do not, then they fail. But client expectations change and perhaps we have a responsibility to reveal the whole truth, warts and all.
The National Trust in England has for several years been revealing the origins of the wealth which enabled the building of grand houses and monuments; including “the global slave trades, goods and products of enslaved labour, abolition and protest, and the East India Company.”
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Mark Twain famously wrote that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness ….” I am not so sure but it is a worthy aspiration. Twain finished his sentence “…and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
Mejdi Tours are leaders in socially conscious tourism and the originators of the Dual Narrative Tour ™, with two guides, one from each side of the conflict. They are the world’s leading experts on post-conflict tourism now operating tours in 20 countries.
At WTM London in November last year Aziz Abu Sarah, co-founder of Mejdi Tours, made a simple but profound point “The mistake is to think travel is about distance,” he said. “Travel is about change. It is about discovering difference.” At the heart of travel and tourism is difference.
As the pandemic struck America and the Black Lives Matter movement raised issues of racism, Mejdi started a live stream weekly travel show hosted by Aziz to continue to educate travellers about responsible tourism. They have produced a host of programmes about Crossing Boundaries and offering others in responsible travel and peacebuilding a platform.
As racial tensions rose, Mejdi continued its mission to help bridge divides. They created itineraries offering travellers a chance to explore the diverse communities and narratives of the United States through Mulitplicity Tours. “Bridging the Red & Blue Divide,” visiting key sites in Washington with two guides – one conservative, one liberal – who shed light on America’s complex political landscape. “The Civil Rights Movement,” traces the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement through the South, travellers are enabled to consider how a pivotal period in history continues to shape American society. “Native American Culture,” Travelers are immersed in Native lands, connecting with the earth, encountering tribal positive way that brings people together and fosters an appreciation for diversity.
They are pushing the envelope, but we should all be doing more to celebrate diversity, to see it as an asset, not a threat.