Diversity and Inclusion in the Tourism Industry


Diversity and Inclusion in the Tourism Industry

As the spread of vaccines prompts the reopening of cross-border travel in many countries, one of the prominent topics is how to cater to sexual minorities among travelers. The LGBT tourism market is estimated to be worth ¥22 trillion according to the World Travel Forum (WTF), yet challenges persist.

A survey of 2,000 Americans with sexual minority identities revealed that over a quarter felt they should not reveal their identity while traveling. In some countries, there are even laws that impose harsh penalties for simple actions like holding hands with a same-sex partner.

Travel information website Asher & Lyric notes that out of the top 150 most visited countries in 2019, 51 countries criminalize same-sex relationships, and 35 of these countries lack legal protections for sexual minorities. Furthermore, 58% of sexual minorities spend more time researching their travel destinations and accommodations due to concerns. About 60% have even had to change or cancel travel plans due to issues related to their sexual orientation.



In light of these circumstances, online travel company “Orbitz,” under the umbrella of Expedia, has introduced a new search feature to easily find LGBTQ-friendly hotels. More than 35,000 accommodation partners that have signed the “Orbitz Inclusivity Pledge,” opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will be suggested to users.

These endorsing partners promise to thoroughly eliminate discriminatory practices from all staff interactions, utilize gender-neutral language, and provide employee training regarding gender-related matters.

As attention to diversity and inclusivity grows, the tourism industry is expected to provide experiences that allow everyone to enjoy their travels as their authentic selves.

Orbitz users can now search for LGBTQ-friendly accommodations


D&I and Personalization

Opening up the world to more travelers regardless of gender, age, ability, ethnicity, or sexual orientation – what does diversity and inclusion mean for tourism? Let’s explore this from the perspective of service/UX design, which is our area of expertise.

First, let’s trace back the origin of the term “tourism” to the Chinese classic “Yijing,” where it is said to originate from the phrase “観国之光 利用賓于王” (“The light of the country is observed, and the benefits are used as guests of the king”). “観” means “to observe” and signifies “showing one’s own state to foreign countries,” while also including the meaning of “inspecting foreign systems and cultural artifacts.” This could be perceived as the supplier’s and consumer’s perspectives, respectively. With that in mind, how does the response to D&I impact these supplier and consumer viewpoints?

For suppliers, embracing diversity can lead to innovation, creativity, competitive advantage, and even long-term customer loyalty through message dissemination and resonance against discrimination. According to a 2019 report by Accenture, there are four key initiatives prioritized for D&I.

For consumers, this involves diverse travel purposes, maximizing travel experiences, and obtaining physical and psychological safety. Notably, there has been a surge in reevaluating travel methods and destinations among African American communities, seeking to give travel new meaning beyond luxurious spa trips or sunbathing cruises. They are turning to personal challenges such as long-distance cycling or exploring all 50 states of America, finding ways to enrich their lives through travel.

The key to achieving these lies in personalization, as seen in the highlighted article’s Orbitz example, which aims to provide a tailored experience for LGBTQ+ travelers. Platforms like Airbnb, Trivago, and TripAdvisor are also integrating AI and machine learning for personalized recommendations based on users’ preferences.

While concerns over excessive optimization and the joy of planning one’s own trips are valid, the essence of travel lies in encountering new perspectives. Pursuing D&I through personalization could alleviate safety concerns, offer identity-based experiences, and bring forth a new era of travel filled with exploration and discovery.

Airbnb uses AI and machine learning to personalize search results, Trivago partners with Tripl to enhance personalized search technology, TripAdvisor minimizes decision fatigue through machine learning.

Of course, concerns about excessive optimization or the enjoyment of planning a trip yourself are understandable. Nevertheless, travel’s charm lies in encountering new values. Through personalization-driven D&I efforts, we can anticipate reducing safety and security concerns, delivering identity-driven experiences and discoveries, creating a new positive trend for travel.

Airbnb uses AI and machine learning to personalize search results

Embracing the Essence of Travel Experience

In a survey by the comprehensive online travel service “Airtrip,” over 65% of respondents reported experiencing anxiety when traveling abroad. Looking back on my own experiences, I can empathize with this feeling.

My last destination was New York, three years ago. It was a month-long extended stay during my university’s summer break. It was my second time visiting, but beyond concerns about safety and language differences, I also felt the unease of being a “minority” as a Japanese person. This sensation, foreign to my everyday life in Japan, brought excitement as well as persistent nervousness.

Amidst this mix of emotions, my journey began. Rather than “traveling,” I sought to experience “living in the place.” I deliberately avoided making elaborate plans. The only thing I decided was to “skateboard in the authentic American way,” and for half the month, I immersed myself in skateboarding.

While I visited famous tourist spots like Times Square, MoMA, and THE MET, what remains vivid in my memories is the time spent with local skateboarders. Experiencing how a community with shared interests lives in a foreign land was incredibly fascinating. While we shared similarities, I also noticed differences, leading to new discoveries. Experiencing such “diversity” firsthand and understanding it turned out to be a fantastic travel experience for me.

The trend of prioritizing community experiences in travel is now expanding. Especially in Paris, there’s a growing movement for exploring women’s history and rights, LGBTQ+ focused guided tours, and exploring black culture in Paris. These experiences are not only about discovering Paris but also about travelers projecting themselves into the narratives.

Of course, the definition of a “good travel experience” varies from person to person. As a suggestion, why not consider planning your next trip with keywords like “diversity” and “inclusion” in mind?

Seeking Travel’s Meaning, Not Just Its Relaxation

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Please note that some article titles are translated for contextual understanding. All links have been hyperlinked as requested.

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