BE: During a recent trip, I was the only black person in first class, while back in coach, the passenger list was fully diverse. On my return trip, I decided to wear my “Black and Abroadâ€ shirt to signify that “the movementâ€ is moving on up [laughs]. My Caucasian seatmate was thrilled to sit next to me and decided to take the opportunity to ask me about my travels and to compare notes. Something we learned together is that the travel bug is universal and transcends all color lines.
Being that you’re a frequent traveler of color that also works in the industry, have you and your colleagues noticed the change in the demographic boarding the planes? In what ways has this changed your marketing strategy?
YES — and I want one of those shirts, too! Again, I am keenly aware of the disparities, but most people aren’t. On a recent trip, I was seated in business class, and I was the only person of color. I placed my designer purse on my seat, while I attended to something elsewhere in the cabin. When I returned, my seatmate looked shocked and quizzically looked at me as if he was trying to find a way to ask if this were actually my seat.
When he could no longer keep his curiosity at bay, he remarked, “Oh, I didn’t know that you were allowed to be up here.â€
I simply smiled and replied, “Oh yes! We can sit anywhere we want to now.â€
Clearly, diversity in travel marketing is not just for our benefit. While I was annoyed, I felt sorry for this ignorant individual. He clearly had no idea that people of color travel in classes of service other than economy! I could only assume he felt as though it was out of my price range, or maybe I belonged in economy [class] because I did not “lookâ€ like him. I did not let it get to me; I refused to.
My colleagues, friends, and I have all noticed the changing “faceâ€ of travel over the last few years. Travelers are younger, less status conscious, and a lot more diverse. Like previous generations, I think millennials are traveling more, to explore the world around them. With the advent of low-cost and/or value carriers, like Norwegian, they are finding it easier and more affordable to experience the cultures of places they’ve only read about. They now know that they can afford to visit cities like Oslo, Helsinki, Bangkok, and Stockholm instead of merely reading about them.
Obviously, I work for a Norwegian carrier—hopefully, our name was a dead giveaway—and in Norway, they have a very homogeneous demographic. As such, the marketing has often been a reflection of that. However, when you enter one of our aircrafts, you can see how diverse our crew is.
Since joining the company a year and a half ago, I’ve seen less people-focused advertising and more price-focused advertising. Price appeals to a broader range of people, and I think this is a good way to engage people, who make travel decisions accordingly. Also, having a local team in the markets in which you operate helps. We can flag any issues related to diversity when necessary, and point out the nuances for region specific marketing.