World Tourism Day: What does it mean to leave no one behind?


As we approach the end of yet another year of the tourism crisis by way of COVID-19, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has appropriately focused this year’s World Tourism Day (Sept. 27, 2021) on Tourism for Inclusive Growth.

“The human desire to travel and explore is universal, which is why tourism must be open for everyone to enjoy. So too must the many social and economic benefits that tourism brings be available to everybody.” – Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General UNWTO

This theme comes on the heels of three global events that underscore its relevance: the worldwide public health crisis, large-scale climate disasters, and a global reckoning with racism, resulting in high-profile protests around the world.

The JayRay team has been reflecting on the future of tourism. A good story only goes as far as your understanding of the diverse needs and priorities of your stakeholders and customers. We must seek to understand those who have historically been underrepresented and change our approach to engage more people. Research from MMGY Global shows that Black, Indigenous and People of Color seek recommendations from their peers on places to visit and are less likely to make travel decisions based on advertising alone. People notice how welcoming a place feels to how culturally representative it is.

A recent Expedia Group study affirms this. Two in every three Americans are looking for their travel provider and the destination they visit to value diversity and inclusion. This number is even higher for Gen Z and Millennial Americans. Separate research shows 54% of Black travelers in the U.S. are more likely to visit a destination if they see Black representation in travel advertising.

With an honest assessment and audit, it’s important to ask: does your destination meet the unique needs of the community you seek to serve? Teriro Mzezewa wrote a thought-provoking New York Times article and explores “What is the relationship of people and places? Where are sites of belonging?”

Destinations across the globe are taking action to become more inclusive. Visit Britain sets a good example with its inclusive tourism action group to ensure representation. In Mexico City, a statue of an indigenous woman replaced one honoring Christopher Columbus. Destinations must consider the effects of sites where historic injustices may be physically or socially marked.

The call to action on World Tourism Day is more than targeted marketing to underrepresented groups that can be discriminatory in and of itself. Entire systems need to change to achieve inclusivity and equity. And what greater “system” is there than tourism?  It’s a global industry that inspires us to connect with one another. That seems like a great place to start thinking about inclusion.

 Resources for additional reading