Delta Air Lines is working to promote diversity in travel ads with a new library of 100 stock images, NBC News reports.
According to the Mandala Research Firm, Black travelers contribute $63 billion to the travel and tourism economy. Studies show that 17% of African-Americans travel more than six times annually, not including at least one international trip. However, that boost in travel has yet to be reflected in advertising, which still paints a Eurocentric view of western travel. From airports to online ads and commercials, advertisement for travel has historically been white-washed. Despite the influx of Black travelers, the content nor the target audience has changed.
Travel Noire’s Marissa Wilson previously spoke with CNN about this skewed view of travel and its impact on African-Americans’ sense of belonging within the travel space.
"If you look at major campaigns or advertisements for travel -- especially luxury travel -- you don't see brown faces...That causes an issue because, psychologically, it makes those people feel like this isn't made for them or that they're not supposed to be traveling. We wanted to infiltrate that narrative and flip it on its head," Wilson told reporters.
The Black travel site was founded in 2014 primarily to address the lack of inclusion. It promotes travel accessibility, resources for Black travelers and reviews that address their needs.
"We were amazed at how hard it was to find a community of travelers who looked like us, much less find high-quality images or stories about them online. Travel Noire created a space for people of color to see themselves in the travel industry by curating beautiful images, placing [us] all over the world, and making the travel industry a space that was for [people of color]," said Wilson.
Many Black travelers have followed suit, documenting their travel adventures with the hopes of creating community and sharing tools and tips with others. From those traveling across the globe to learn more about the diaspora, to couples curating databases of safe spaces for Black people to lodge, the travel sector is filled with Black travelers looking for a respite from their day-to-day routines while sharing information along the way. For some, travel is not relegated only to vacation time, but it has become a lifestyle. Jessica Boyd and Steven M. Hughes, co-founders of Journey Black Home, a blog that documents their experiences, eats, and stays, and supports Black-owned businesses, previously spoke to Because Of Them We Can about their own journey to nomadic living.
“For several years, we’d been making loose plans to move from our hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, to a bigger metro area. We eventually settled on a few new cities to consider but ended up putting the thought of moving on pause when the pandemic hit full force in 2020. After locking down for over a year, in July 2021, we revisited the idea of finding a new home. Rather than just pick a place and go, though, we decided to sell nearly 90% of our belongings to travel Black America and live nomadically on Airbnb,” explained Boyd.
Now major corporations are catching up and doing their part to document, support, and encourage the more diverse landscape of travel. Recently, Delta Air Lines announced their new photo library in partnership with Adobe entitled “Faces of Travel.” The initiative is aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion within travel advertising, curating a collection of 100 images of Black and brown travelers from all over the globe.
For the library, Delta and Adobe teamed up with Kin, a creative company “designed to advance social change through culture.” Mexico-based photographer Seo Ju Park was tapped to capture the travel photos, featuring an array of images including Black women riding bikes, having a drink with friends, and eating at a local restaurant. Adobe will house the images in their stock library, and they will be available for free on the software for users to download in service of social media content, advertising, etc. The goal is to promote and encourage more diverse content in travel advertising, which is a small but necessary step in promoting inclusion for Black and brown travelers.
“Faces of Travel” was designed to "better reflect the diverse customers we see on our planes every day and ensure they feel seen and heard in broader travel culture. The importance of this initiative goes beyond Delta, and we want to encourage others to take part in this movement because we know that it will take all of us to truly reflect the faces of travel,” said Delta director of lifecycle marketing, Shannon Womack.
The airline joined forces with a women-focused digital media company, Refinery 29, for a launch initiative held at the Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure exhibit in Manhattan, New York. Delta hosted a private viewing of the photo library and a behind-the-scenes video shot by Park, the photographer responsible for the photos on location. A panel discussion also took place to discuss DEI in the travel space; Refinery 29’s vice president of brand innovation and strategic partnerships, Chelsea Sanders, Kin co-founder Kwame Taylor-Hayford, and NYC-based creative director and stylist Alexander-Julian Gibbson were the panelists.
“We get to normalize that we travel - all people from all races and backgrounds. I just want people to feel secure and that they can explore without having to change who they are - visually, culturally or emotionally,” said Park in the video.
This is not Delta’s first go at promoting diversity and inclusion either. In February of 2019, they partnered with the first and only Black-owned estate winery in California's Napa Valley. The Brown Estate wines were initially added to Delta domestic flights in honor of Black History Month, and the airline quickly expanded the partnership through the winter of 2019-2020.
"Partnering with innovative, diverse suppliers from certified small, minority and women-owned businesses like Brown Estate is fundamental to Delta's strategy to keep climbing year-round…Seeking employee perspectives and leveraging unique ideas brings us closer to meeting that goal while creating the highest quality experience for our customers," said Heather Ostis, Vice President of Supply Chain Management.
The Atlanta-based airline did it again earlier this year, naming Hampton University as a Delta Air Lines Propel partner. Hampton is one of only 40 programs accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI); the University’s Department of Aviation in the School of Engineering & Technology was created in 1985. Delta launched its Propel Collegiate Pilot Career Path Program in 2018 with the goal of empowering the next generation of pilots. The partnership with Hampton was the first of its kind; its goal was to increase diversity and build pipelines for students from underserved communities interested in a career in aviation. The program is an extension of Delta CEO Ed Bastian’s commitment to advancing racial justice and diversity within the company. Hampton students who join the Propel program will not only receive aviation training but also have the opportunity to get directly hired by Delta if they meet the necessary requirements.
“Adding Hampton University as a Delta Air Lines Propel partner evokes a myriad of thoughts and emotions. Delta believes connecting the world requires that we first respect the world through seeking diversity, promoting inclusion, creating equity, and driving accountability towards these goals. Considering the history of HBCUs and that of Delta, I am proud to see the company doing just that. I am grateful to the individuals who have worked behind the scenes to provide opportunities to a group that has been underrepresented in this field for far too long,” said First Officer Monique Grayson, a Propel program interviewer.
Last year, Delta also partnered with the Atlanta Global Research and Education Collaborative to launch the “Keep Climbing: Navigating Global Spaces with Black and Brown Faces” program, an initiative focused on increasing the number of Black students who studied abroad. This collaboration allowed Delta to partner with six local Georgia colleges and universities including: Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Emory University, Agnes Scott College, Spelman and Kennesaw State to provide students with the opportunity to study abroad.
Delta's latest initiative is an extension of that commitment and one that hopes to expound on the work. By promoting inclusion in travel advertising, the airline hopes to do its part to expand the narrative of not only what’s possible but what is already happening. An exclusionary account of history is no history at all and by all accounts, Black people are traveling and traveling in droves. Advertising and propaganda are key factors in shaping societal views and, by making sure Black and brown travelers are included in ads, the new collection of stock images is able to paint a more “inclusive and accurate view” of travel around the world. Long gone are the days when Black people can be excluded from the narrative without repercussion. African-Americans are now creating their own media and building entire communities through those lenses. It is only smart that other companies follow Delta's lead!
Black women riding bikes courtesy of Delta Air Lines stock images in partnership with Adobe. Photo Courtesy of Seo Ju Park/Adobe Stock