NORWOOD, MA – Tourism Cares has partnered with four industry-leading partners, The TreadRight Foundation, The Travel Corporation (TTC), TripSchool and the Media Arts Institute of Alabama to develop a pathway of recruiting and training historically underrepresented individuals to pursue careers in travel and tourism, with a primary focus on tour guiding and directing.
“We are committed to recruiting, training and mentoring Black, Indigenous and other underrepresented individuals and encouraging them to pursue careers in the group and escorted tourism industries,” said Leon Burnette, the founder of Media Arts Institute of Alabama, who is responsible for the vision of this program. “Their representation in travel preserves our nation’s diverse history and ensures our authentic stories and the nuances of the culture’s traditions, arts, and events that they know so well are shared.”
Tourism Cares, the industry non-profit with a mission to unite the travel industry and use its positive impact to help people and places thrive, will act as the administrator for this program. “The Pathways Project is a much-needed activation point for our industry, putting action in place in support of diversity, equity and inclusion”, said Greg Takehara, CEO of Tourism Cares. “It happens to coincide with a critical time in our industry in terms of addressing larger workforce challenges.”
Tour guides represent the frontline of the escorted and guided tour industry. They are the essential interface between the tour operator, the destination, and the guest, and critical to ensure representation is a part of a destination’s story. This workforce development initiative is designed to recruit, train and place individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds in positions as cultural heritage tour guides, tour directors, interpreters, and storytellers, creating a further pathway for advancement opportunities in the industry. Mitch Bach of TripSchool notes: "We train hundreds of tour directors and guides through our various courses and keep hearing the same refrain – ‘I wish I had discovered this career sooner.’ Unlike other hospitality careers, tour directing & guiding takes you out into the world, free from bosses and offices, and lets you share your love of culture, history, and food with eager travelers. We're so pleased to be part of the Pathways Project to offer career training and mentorship to new, diverse communities."
“Meeting Leon Burnette last year and listening to him very openly explain why there were so few Black travel directors in the United States was a humbling moment,” said Richard Launder, Director for The Travel Corporation USA and on behalf of its non-profit organization, The TreadRight Foundation. “Representation matters, and there is not enough of it in our industry. While this is true at all levels, it is especially so amongst our storytellers, guides, local specialists and travel directors, the faces of travel in this country. We are very proud to work with Leon and our other partners on the Pathways Project, an important step towards further change.”
The Travel Corporation through its not-for-profit, The TreadRight Foundation has made an initial capital contribution to kickstart this program and is eager to welcome other tour operators to join in the effort in what needs to be an industry wide initiative.
The program will actively recruit communities underrepresented by the industry and selected applicants will be provided with online learning, active mentorship, and an in-person training boot camp. Upon graduation from the program, each participant will be poised for success and assisted with employment opportunities.
The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) further announced its support of this critical initiative, citing the need to raise awareness, diversify the industry, and present opportunities for underserved communities.