On stage at Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld conference on Thursday, Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann and Azamara chairman Orlando Ashford discussed the travel industry’s need to improve racial diversity.

Ashford is chairman of the Black Travel Advisory Board for Northstar Travel Group, Travel Weekly’s parent company.

Weissmann said the travel industry had “taken a hard look at itself” since the murder of George Floyd and “found itself wanting” in the areas of inclusivity, diversity and equity. He asked Ashford if any progress had been made.

Ashford said there had been “light coming from a dark situation” in the form of conversations with friends and colleagues that hadn’t previously taken place. 

However, Ashford added that with the travel industry mired in the Covid-19 crisis, diversity issues were no longer at the forefront.

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“As the industry works its way back, there’s an opportunity. And in that opportunity is where I see some hope,” he said. 

“Whenever you get into a conversation [about diversity], the fear is that we’re just going to talk,” Ashford continued. 

Ashford said the Black Travel Advisory Board has had conversations about imagery in travel periodicals, making sure that different racial groups are represented in photos that go with articles. There’s also been conversations about making sure there is balanced representation in hiring.

“What I do know is that God has sprinkled the desire for [the travel industry] to see the world evenly across all people,” Ashford said. “It’s the right thing to do and it’s beneficial because it will help us run better businesses.”

Ashford complimented Northstar for forming the Black Travel Advisory Board and enabling him to be a part of it, and for “moving beyond ideas and thoughts to actual impact, because we’re tracking and measuring” diversity in imagery and hiring.

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