Transforming Travel: An Ongoing Journey To Inclusivity

By Atlyn Forde - CEO, Communicate Inclusively -

In the world of travel, where cultures collide and adventures beckon, there lies a pressing need for inclusivity. As a seasoned leader in the travel industry, my journey has been one of discovery, both in the joys of exploration and the shadows of exclusion. With years of experience spanning various roles, from marketing leadership at tourist boards and tour operators, to a global management position at a leading travel tech company, I’ve seen the industry’s potential and its pitfalls.

Despite the growing awareness of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion issues, the travel industry continues to face significant challenges in fostering inclusivity:

  • Limited awareness and resources for DEI initiatives.
  • Unconscious bias leading to discrimination against customers and colleagues.
  • Underrepresentation of minoritised groups in the workforce and leadership.
  • Economic losses due to exclusion of diverse travellers.
  • Ageism, accessibility barriers, and lack of diversity in marketing campaigns.

But it wasn’t until I transitioned into the financial services sector that I truly grasped the magnitude of the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) gap in travel. Surrounded by a financial sector notorious for its lack of diversity, particularly in leadership roles, I witnessed firsthand the negative repercussions this had on customer service and outcomes. Armed with a passion for change, I took the reins in implementing inclusive practices within my organisation while championing DEI initiatives on a global scale.

My efforts didn’t go unnoticed. I was honoured with two prestigious DEI awards, one from FT Adviser and the other a Women’s Recognition award, solidifying my commitment to driving change. But my journey was far from over. With a lifelong dream of launching a consultancy, my path led me to establish Communicate Inclusively—an agency dedicated to fostering inclusivity in marketing, communications, and culture.

“At the heart of the Inclusive Travel Forum lies a commitment to support and sustain change”

Through my consultancy, I continued to maintain strong ties with the travel industry, speaking at renowned events like the TTG Diversity Forum, World Travel Market, and the Tourism Society. The overwhelming response highlighted a glaring need for change—a need that transcended individual efforts and demanded a collaborative approach.

The stats speak for themselves:

  • Only 16% of UK travel companies have dedicated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies (PwC).
  • Just 12% of senior managers in the UK tourism sector are from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, compared to 16% of the UK population (Tourism Diversity Network).
  • Women hold less than 8% of board positions in the UK travel industry despite making up 60% of the overall workforce (Travel Weekly)
  • The economic impact of exclusion is significant: A 2020 report estimated that the UK tourism industry could lose £28 billion per year by failing to cater to diverse travellers (EY).
  • Accessibility remains a major barrier: A 2023 report revealed that 66% of tourist attractions in London were not fully accessible for people with disabilities.  (VisitBritain).
  • Marketing campaigns often lack diversity: A 2022 study found that only 20% of tourism marketing campaigns in the UK featured travellers from diverse backgrounds (Marketing Week).
  • Microaggressions and discrimination are reported by travellers: A 2021 survey found that 25% of disabled travellers and 20% of LGBTQ+ travellers had experienced discrimination during travel in the UK (Which? Travel).
  • Limited travel options for those with specific needs: Only 12% of UK hotels offer accessible rooms (Tourism for All).

Thus, the Inclusive Travel Forum was born—a beacon of hope in an industry yearning for transformation. Drawing inspiration from successful models in the financial services sector, the forum aims to democratise access to DEI resources and expertise, empowering organisations of all sizes to embark on their journey towards inclusivity.

“We pave the way for a more inclusive future, one where every traveller and colleague feels valued and respected.”

At the heart of the Inclusive Travel Forum lies a commitment to support and sustain change. Our membership portal and events serve as a year-round gateway to a wealth of accessible and practical resources, from training modules and workshops to expert guidance, policy templates and best practices. Through collaboration and shared learning, we pave the way for a more inclusive future, one where every traveller and colleague feels valued and respected.

In our pursuit of inclusivity, the Inclusive Travel Forum focuses on key themes and focus areas: recruitment and retention, inclusive language, leadership progression, accessibility, marketing representation, cultural intelligence, mentoring, and allyship. Through targeted interventions and collective action, we strive to create a travel industry that celebrates diversity in all its forms.

So, join us on this transformative journey. Become a founding member of the Inclusive Travel Forum and unlock a world of opportunities to shape the future of travel. Together, let’s build a world where every journey is inclusive, and every traveller feels at home.

Visit or email to embark on this journey of change.


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