If traveling is a privilege, then traveling fearlessly is a freedom reserved for few.
The work being done by the Black Travel Alliance has compelled us at Matador Network to look critically at ourselves. The comprehensive, consultant-led audit we are now beginning will demand a commitment of months, if not years, and will force us to confront many uncomfortable truths about this all-too-white industry and our complicity in its perpetuation. For years, Matador has urged you to travel fearlessly. Our intent with these words was to encourage you to seek out the world’s people and places with an open mind. What they neglect to acknowledge is the reality Black travelers, and travelers belonging to other BIPOC communities, face. To explore the world as a Black individual is to consider deeply how you will be received and perceived. It is a necessity to research how racism may afflict your intended destination, and how it could impact you. Bottom line: The mantra to “travel fearlessly” dismisses the experience of traveling as a Black person.
We will not stop at our tagline. Below we have listed our company’s core values and how we have succeeded or failed in manifesting those values in a truly inclusive way. We embrace the work ahead to get us where we need to be, and we stand in support with all other travelers walking this path.
1. We believe travel is an essential human experience.
If so, we must ensure we are speaking to all travelers, representing the full breadth of this essential human experience. We pledge to take the following steps to reconcile our brand position:
- Conduct an initial set of interviews to gain perspective from Black travel groups and influencers
- Perform an audit of our brand architecture to determine ways to prioritize diversity and equity in everything we do
- Evolve our editorial to deliver an even more inclusive perspective that acknowledges the dynamic of privilege in travel
- Create and adhere to strict community management guidelines to foster a welcoming space within our social communities
- Revisit all public-facing elements of our brand to ensure more inclusive representation
2. We believe travel is the ultimate education.
If so, we must continue to elevate and empower a wide array of viewpoints for travelers everywhere to learn from. Over the past years, Matador has used our points of major influence — brand partnerships, budgets, and bylines — to push for this diversity. In 2019-2020, approximately 79% of our overall on-screen talent budget for video projects went toward diversity representation, 82% of which specifically went to Black talent. Approximately 16% of the freelancers published by our editorial team were BIPOC. Black Travel is a core topic in our website’s main navigation and is included in our content plans year-round. We acknowledge that these efforts can and should improve.
Even more critically, we recognize that company decisions still filter through the lens of our historically all-white leadership team. These are the individuals who ultimately shape our content. It is essential we develop a staff that embodies conscientious perspectives and processes at each touchpoint. We pledge to:
- Integrate mandatory implicit bias training for all new and existing staff
- Add a consultant to lead Diversity + Inclusion efforts and form a Diversity + Inclusion Council Group with representatives who will keep us accountable and continually address a changing landscape
- Prioritize diversity in future hiring decisions, including freelancers for editorial and branded video production
- Make our contributor guide more easily available to freelancers for pitching
- Connect more BIPOC freelancers with press trip and panel opportunities
We look forward to expanding our full-time staff and freelance talent network as soon as we regain the momentum that was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, we are committed to furthering the careers and goals of the Black travel community in other ways.
3. We believe the world would be a better place if everyone traveled more.
If so, we must foster an industry and infrastructure that creates abundant space for the advancement of diversity. We pledge to:
- Prioritize BIPOC talent as we build creative concepts for brand partnerships, and to consistently convey our commitment to diversity to our advertising clients
- Audit our partner and vendor consideration lists to include Black resources inclusive of influencers, production, partners, and businesses
- Attend conferences, events, and meetings (e.g., Audacity Fest, Women in Travel Summit) to recruit new partners and explore new sponsorship opportunities
- Increase formal partnerships with diverse media publications and social pages
- Create a pipeline for young talent through internships, mentorship, and other programs
- Donate gear to Black youth organizations to promote entrance into video and photography fields
- Support nonprofit organizations that empower Black youth to travel
Thank you Black Travel Alliance for pushing us all forward. To learn more about the Black Travel Alliance and how to support their efforts, visit their website here, and follow them on Instagram @theblacktravelalliance.