As a Travel Manager, it’s important to understand the varying experiences that your team members will face. For example, traveling as a person of color (especially in international destinations) will be far different than the experience of others.
How can Travel Managers prepare people of color for business travel? Are there special best practices or tips that should be adhered to in foreign countries? Read on to learn more about the travel experience of people of color — both in the United States and abroad.
1. Racial Profiling is Prevalent
The concept of racial profiling is no stranger to people of color. They are used to being treated differently (and often with suspicion) simply based on the tone of their skin. Unfortunately, whether you’re black, brown or white, racial profiling is prevalent when traveling. In fact, it’s so prevalent that documentaries have been made about its history. “Traveling While Black,” for example, goes back to the Jim Crow era when black Americans were greatly restricted from travel.
Security personnel and flight attendants often treat people of color differently than white Travelers. Even security technology in airports can discriminate against people of color. The same holds true when using public transportation, when renting cars and when staying in hotels.
2. There’s a Fine Line Between Unfriendliness and Racism
Because of things like racial profiling, people of color likely expect to face racism when traveling. This is a perfectly valid expectation, though it’s important to remember that there are cultural differences when traveling from state-to-state and country-to-country.
For example, at least one study ranked Minnesota as the friendliest state in the Union. The same study ranked New York as the least friendly state. People of color traveling from the Twin Cities to Manhattan are likely to notice this change in culture. It’s not necessarily racism (though it could be); it may be a simple lack of hospitality.
A similar study of nations found that Portugal is far friendlier than the United Kingdom. The same person of color traveling from Minnesota to London may encounter a bit of culture shock — which could be a lack of friendliness rather than racism.
3. ‘Americanness’ Stands Out Most During International Travel
If and when your team members do travel internationally for business, the “Americanness” of people of color is likely to stand out more than the color of their skin. Due to the unique culture of the United States, Americans tend to stick out to Europeans and natives on other continents.
People of color traveling for business in foreign countries may face a blend of discrimination against Americans in addition to racism. This can be an overwhelming amount of animosity for an individual Traveler to encounter.
4. Expect Staring in Foreign Countries
People of color are ever-present in most parts of the United States. That is not the case in many foreign countries, especially in Asia. If and when people of color at your company travel internationally, they are likely to feel as if people are staring at them constantly — because they are.
5. Foreign Nationals May Ask Blunt Questions
In addition to the staring, citizens of many foreign countries are not afraid to pose blunt questions to people of color. They may ask about physical appearance, clothing, the culture back at home, and even how much money a person of color makes. These questions might be considered rude in the United States, but they are perfectly acceptable in some foreign countries.
Some foreign nationals may be so bold as to take pictures of people of color — sometimes without even asking. This is more common in Asian countries where people of color are not as ubiquitous.
Get Support for Your Diverse Group of Traveling Team Members
At JTB Business Travel, we provide a range of services aimed at supporting people of color and other Travelers. The JTB team includes a diverse group of travel professionals who are well-equipped to support clients, no matter the situation. We take seriously the experiences of people of color, and we have spent time reflecting on what they should mean for our business and the services we provide.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business Travelers.