Empowering underserved communities: Expedia Group’s drive for more inclusive travel

Empowering underserved communities: Expedia Group’s drive for more inclusive travel
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Expedia Group has used the EXPLORE conference at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas to highlight initiatives that empower underserved communities worldwide.  

    In a groundbreaking move towards fostering diversity and inclusion within the travel industry, Expedia’s Global Social Impact and Sustainability Team is dedicated to shaping a travel landscape that is safe, welcoming, and accessible to all.

    During the two-day conference, Aditi Mohapatra, vice president of global social impact and sustainability,  highlighted the company’s commitment to promoting global travel for everyone, regardless of background or identity. Mohapatra emphasised the cruciality of authentic representation in travel experiences and unpacked several ongoing projects designed to achieve this goal.

    Aditi Mohapatra, Explore vice president of global social impact and sustainability.

    One such initiative, Made To Travel Fund, supports 17 nonprofit organisations dedicated to breaking down barriers to travel access. The targeted grant-making program supports impact-driven organisations working to remove the obstacles to travel globally. Through the fund, Expedia provides organisations with funding to advance solutions that benefit travellers from underserved and underrepresented communities. Additionally, the Open World Accelerator Program collaborates with innovative startups and small businesses catering to the needs of underserved travellers.

    Mohapatra underscored the need for data-driven insights into the lived experiences of travellers from diverse backgrounds. To this end, Expedia Group is conducting extensive research into the full spectrum of travel journeys, encompassing trip planning, destination experiences, and intersectional issues.

    “What we found is that much of the research in this space of inclusive travel centred on one identity, didn’t look at intersectional issues, and limited the scope to one part of the traveller journey,” Mohapatra said.

    “What we wanted to do was look at the full experience: how are underserved travellers navigating their full travel journey? Everything from trip planning to when they’re at the destination. We also looked at four different traveller identities: travellers with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ travellers, Latin X travellers, and travellers of colour, not only their unique experiences but also their shared experiences. What does it look like across all of those communities, and what are some of the pain points and the needs for these different identity groups?

    “We also looked at how intersectionality plays a role in their experience and how we can truly shape the travel industry that meets the needs of all travellers.”

    Preliminary findings from the research reveal a pressing demand among travellers for authentic representation in advertising. Over 70% of Black, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, and other underserved travellers expressed a preference for travel advertisements that accurately reflect their communities.

    In response to these insights, Expedia Group has implemented inclusive marketing principles and established a rigorous review process to ensure authentic representation in all marketing communications. However, Mohapatra acknowledged that much work is still needed in this area.

    Furthermore, the travel brand recognised the significance of prioritising diversity and inclusion from a business perspective. Studies indicate that a vast majority of underserved travellers are more likely to engage with travel providers that embrace diversity and inclusion initiatives.

    Despite these strides, Expedia Group acknowledges the challenges ahead, including the need for comprehensive data and educational resources. The company seeks to overcome these obstacles through collaborative efforts with industry partners and advance inclusion across the travel sector.

    As part of their commitment to fostering dialogue and sharing best practices, Expedia Group invites stakeholder feedback on enhancing their support for diversity and inclusion efforts. The company pledges to continue leveraging its convening power and providing valuable data insights to drive positive change in the industry.

    In a testament to the transformative impact of inclusive travel initiatives, Lawrence Phillips, a participant in the Open World Accelerator Program, shared his journey of founding Green Book Global. 

    This groundbreaking platform enables travellers of colour to plan trips with confidence and less anxiety by providing user-generated travel insights from their perspective across nine dimensions for cities worldwide.

    “I would love for inclusive travel to actually usher in systemic change. Travel can actually change communities. I think that is super impactful, super powerful,” Phillips said.

    With initiatives like these, Expedia Group is poised to lead the charge towards a more inclusive and equitable travel industry, ensuring that every traveller feels valued, represented, and empowered on their journey.

    Explore panel at Expedia 2024 conference.

    Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au


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