Insights: Diversity in Travel with Martinique Lewis

With Traverse 19 fast approaching, we thought we’d take the opportunity to have a catch up with one of our wonderful speakers, Martinique Lewis.

We are so excited to be joined in Trentino by Martinique, who will be discussing the importance of diversity and inclusion in the travel industry.She is a digital disruptor, a travel consultant, the creative lead of NOMADNESS Travel Tribes. Martinique strives to change the face of travel by advocating for better representation.

She has worked directly with tourism boards and some huge global travel brands to create content that is exciting and influential. Here we asked her a few questions about what sparked her love of travel, her favourite places and what we can all do to help further inclusion in the travel industry…

You have a very obvious passion for travel, what made you fall in love with it and what inspired you to begin travelling?

My name is a country, so I feel like I had no choice other than to love travel! Lol, my mom has always been a traveler and I truly believe it was passed down in my genetics! In all seriousness there is a gene called DRD4-7R and it’s said to be in 20% of the worlds population! I must be in that 20%!

With a grandmother born and raised in Panama, culture has always been a huge part of my family. The acceptance of people who are different than you, the different food, the wonderful music and the beautiful customs all sparked my interest from a young age. But I also grew up in California where everyone is of a different race, sexual orientation and religion. A place where you celebrate Mexican independence on September 16 and Rosh Hashanah with your best friend whose Jewish every autumn.

My travel really picked up once I studied abroad in London at London College of Fashion, thats where my teachers told me I’d be successful in any country I went to because I understood Marketing on a global level. That was 2008, and 11 years later I’m here and absolutely loving everywhere the wind blows me!

What country/countries have you most loved visiting (and why)?

Amsterdam changed my life significantly, and is the reason I am so vocal in this industry. I went on the Black Heritage Tour created by Jennifer Tosch that completely is rewriting history. Being told there was no black history in all of the Netherlands Jennifer Tosch is proving the history books wrong!

“Amsterdam changed my life significantly, and is the reason I am so vocal in this industry”

Black history in Amsterdam was specifically left out because slavery was illegal but all you have to do is go to the Red Light District and literally look up. Having your slaves faces on your property was a status symbol and the next time you visit prepare for your mind to be blown! Everything your teachers taught you, untrue! It literally changed me!

My other favorite place is Roatan , Honduras! I have created a family there of amazing people who are doing amazing things! Everyone thinks Honduras, isn’t it dangerous? Not at all and Roatan is actually an island separate from the mainland. its the one place I can go and be able to get every experience! I can swim with 100 year old turtles that are bigger than me, or play with sloths. I can take a rum class, zipline, go on a yacht and don’t forget feed iguanas that are terrifying but harmless! And the culture, all I can say is wow! You have the Garifuna community there, the arab community there and the native Honduran’s its amazing!

Can you tell us a bit more about your work with NOMADNESS Travel Tribe – A travel lifestyle brand for black and brown tourists globally? 

Absolutely! I absolutely love NOMADNESS Tribe and allows me a platform to make a difference and educate over 100k community members. As the creative lead I plan and create all content you see from newsletters, social media, and the website. It was started in 2011 by Evita Robinson and over the years has grown into a trusted community in this space that injects over 50 million travel dollars in a 7.6 trilllion dollar industry. It is the reason you see a lot of other travel movements today as a lot of them came out of NOMADNESS. NOAMDNESS is also the creator of Audacity Fest, the first festival of its kind that specifically celebrates black and brown travelers globally.

This year is our 2nd year and will be held in Memphis Tennessee. Each year we are proud to bring the best in black and brown travel like Oneika Raymond, Glo Graphics, Kelle Edwards, Kifah Shah, Jubril Agoro, Phillip Calvert, Rondel Holden and thats just to name a few! It’s a place black and brown travelers come, learn, and share experiences that we go through directly from our perspective! We can’t always get that at other travel conferences so it’s a big deal! We’d love to have you guys this September!

Have you witnessed a shift in attitudes within the travel industry towards underrepresented travellers and travellers of colour? If so, has it been recent and fast-paced, or something that you’re noticing slowly? (Obviously helped by wonderful people like you who are vocal and so passionate about changing the face of travel)! 

It is so slow, but at least it’s happening. Nothing changes if nothing changes, and that’s why we have to start being more vocal. With the growth of the black travel movement and diversity in travel in general there’s no choice but for it to change.

“Nothing changes if nothing changes, and that’s why we have to start being more vocal”

Travelers of color are starting to get featured in major publications, be invited as keynote speakers and be considered for influencer campaigns/trips. But if nothing was ever said I’m not sure how different it would look. And I understand, if you always see your race, size, age, religion or sexual orientation reflected in travel ads and promotions you wouldn’t realize it’s a problem. And that too is a problem. We have to start being more aware and address situations as soon as they happen. I have full faith that 2020 will look incredibly different!

I’ve read that you’ve said before that some of the brands and destinations that you have publicly called out have issued apologies – but have you noticed that they’re acting on this? 

So with specifically two of them I’ve noticed and I’ve smiled. I tell my community all the time I don’t mind taking the overall hit if it sparks change and they are able to travel freely. A lot of journalists and influencers are afraid to speak up because they think it’ll negatively impact the amount of work they get. I do understand that, but understand that is not the case with me.

“I tell my community all the time I don’t mind taking the overall hit if it sparks change and they are able to travel freely”

I called out one global hotel chain for the wording they used with a very popular black influencer. When it initially happened I did a whole Instagram story about it on a travel platform I worked with previously. I take IG stories very serious because the effect it has on people is so much bigger than we think. I added music that evoked emotion and at the end I encouraged people to boycott them in every country. People were canceling vacations, weddings you name it. I also wrote the president of north America and the next day he wrote me back, and issued an apology. This past December they launched a campaign with that same influencer and even though people had mix reviews on their intention it proves they’re listening and they care about their image and how we view them.

With a travel and adventure show, a brilliant colleague of mine sent me an email they launched about their upcoming shows and told me how for the past 10 years they’ve had little to no diversity. So I called their offices and sent an email and last month they hired Travel Channel host Kellee Edwards ”Kelle Set Go” and we were all proud to see her. Now that show is on our radar to attend. We go where we see ourselves reflected because that shows us that the brand cares.

What can brands and DMOs do to keep pushing inclusion and diversity in the travel industry? What can content creators do?

We won’t see anything outwardly if there’s no diversity internally. Brands have to have a diverse staff in order to understand all different travel communities. It’s obvious why influencer trips, and conferences look a certain way, but that has got to change if you want minority travel professionals support. Content creators can start attending events and speaking up, everyone’s voice matters and you have to use it to be heard. And that’s all creators.

After speaking out on an issue with an influencer trip, some influencers from the trip reached out and said they noticed the problem also. But if they don’t give the feedback nothing changes.

All last year I traveled to a ton of travel conferences knowing I’d be the only person of color, but I didn’t care because my presence was known and I had to opportunity to change the perspective and create awareness of the diversity issue.  Everyone needs to exchange in dialogue and give the feedback on both ends, as long as you come correct with the facts and your case studies you can prove the power of your travel community.

If you have been inspired by Martinique’s words and would like to join her to hear her speak at our conference from 8-9 June at Traverse 19, tickets are still available here


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