Travel insights from Rick Zimmerman, President & CEO, KHM Travel Group

In Celebrating Travel, We Celebrate Diversity

Meeting new people and learning about their cultures are among the top responses to the question, “what do you love about travel?”

Within the travel industry, we should strive for this same goal. In taking every opportunity to encourage those that have historically been underrepresented in travel to bring their fresh perspective, we will be stronger. We need diversity now, more than ever.

As an established independent travel advisor, you may wonder how this impacts you. Or what impact you could have in driving more diversity. As with any large-scale changes, it’s important to look to your community and begin the conversations with those around you. 

Travel Suppliers

Suppliers are key because they are driven to adapt quickly to consumer trends and attitudes. If you look at the marketing assets and education with a certain supplier, do they represent the audiences that you serve? Is their brand perceived as welcoming and inclusive? If not, reach out to your business development manager with specific recommendations on how they can help you market to your clients.

Your Peers

Establishing connections with advisors outside of your normal peer group can help you think differently about your business. What can you learn in a conversation with an agent who focuses on special needs travel or works with clients whose first language isn’t English? In what ways is vacationing a different experience for black travelers?

Maybe these conversations will be difficult to start. However, as I’ve seen time and time again in the past few months, when travel advisors are given the opportunity to lift each other up, they will almost always take it. 

Your Host Agency

If you are part of a host agency, ask what the corporate team is doing to increase diversity in their organization. Our agents are diverse, which means we can’t operate under the assumption that one size fits all for their businesses. We strive to be advocates and a support system for all travel advisors.

That’s why we established a Diversity and Inclusion team at KHM Travel Group a few years ago, and it’s helped us open the lines of communication with our agents and suppliers on how we can all be doing better.

You

This is about being the change you want to see in the world, and it starts with education and understanding. Host Agency Reviews recently hosted a series of webinars on allyship in travel, and I know they also have created amazing resources on LGBTQ+ travel. Organizations like Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC), Blacks in Travel and Tourism (BTT), the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA), and Special Needs Group (SNG) offer an abundance of resources, webinars, and courses to help you expand your view of the industry and how to be more inclusive in your business.

 

Being proactive in seeking out diversity in our lives and in our businesses is one of the keys to helping us thrive, both individually and as an industry.

When you think about it, to travel is to uphold and celebrate diversity. You have probably heard St. Augustine’s famous quote that speaks to this strong link between travel and diversity, “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

If we wanted to always stay within the boundaries of what we know and what’s comfortable, travel wouldn’t be such a meaningful part of our lives.  

About the Author

Rick Zimmerman is the President of KHM Travel Group, one of the country’s leading host travel agencies. Rick joined the travel industry fresh out of college where he worked as a travel agent for a small agency in Cleveland, Ohio. After a 25-year career in the construction industry, Rick returned to his travel roots and helped found KHM Travel Group in 2005. Rick is an active advocate of the travel agent community and serves on multiple travel-related Advisory Boards.

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