Intrepid’s Ethical Marketing Guidelines: 2022 results and evolution in 2023
By Leigh Barnes, Chief Customer Officer
In 2022, Intrepid Travel became the first global tour operator to introduce a public policy and guidelines around ethical marketing. But what does that actually mean?
At the most basic level, we wanted to ensure our marketing was more inclusive and diverse. To help us achieve this, we published five commitments along with 23 measurable actions to guide our work.
In August 2022 I published a progress report outlining how we were tracking towards those goals. Today, I’m sharing the full results from 2022 along with some reflections and actions for 2023.
The fact is this process has not always been easy – and it shouldn’t be. We’ve discovered areas where we need to do much better and we’ve come across challenges that we didn’t expect.
All up, in 2022 out of our 23 measurable commitments, we met or exceeded 18 of them.
I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. We’re definitely not perfect but we are committed to the work.
Diving into the results, here is how it broke down in each of the 5 commitments – and what these numbers actually mean.
- Commitment 1: Diversity, equity and inclusion (achieved 9/14 targets)
- Commitment 2: Openness and transparency (achieved 3/3 targets)
- Commitment 3: Reject neocolonialism (achieved 3/3 targets)
- Commitment 4: Sense of belonging (no specific targets)
- Commitment 5: Ethical digital marketing (achieved 3/3 targets)
In 2022, we had more BIPOC, plus-size and LGBTQIA+ travellers, content creators, and writers represented in our marketing than ever before.
In total, 65 per cent of all content creators we partnered with in 2022 identified as BIPOC creators. We also invested in more Black-owned businesses, advanced our reconciliation work with First Nations communities and forged new partnerships.
There were five commitments that we did not achieve and where I will be pushing our team to do better:
- Indigenous or First Nations content creators hired (3% with a target 10%)
- Photos of plus-size travellers (10 with a target of 20)
- Evergreen LGBTQIA+ inclusive content (3 with a target of 5)
- Stories authored by LGBTQIA+ writers (6 with a target of 10)
- Commissioned stories on our blog voiced by BIPOC travellers (32% target of 50%)
Reflecting on where we fell short, it is clear that we did not focus on or invest in these areas enough, which we will address in 2023. If you look at our one of our most public marketing channels, social media, you will hopefully already see changes taking place. And behind the scenes we have already secured a few partnerships with creators and brands that will put us well on track to achieve the targets above.
Beyond this, the biggest challenge we’ve had is in tracking our progress while ensuring our community has agency over their stories and identity. Our current method involves sending a survey to all creators and people featured on our social channels to self-identify their gender, ethnicity and more. While this is not mandatory, it helps us to accurately represent people and perspectives. However, we don’t have a 100 per cent completion rate, which means we don’t always know how someone identifies. This can influence results, since we don’t make any assumptions on how people identify.
Going forward, we need to ensure we have accurate data and a better method. This is how our program will be able to scale and it’s something we’re actively looking into.
2023 AND BEYOND
Investing in becoming inclusive throws up plenty of lessons but these commitments have formed a strong foundation and we plan to continue with them into 2023.
One area that we have already changed is our commitment to at least 25 per cent of our sponsorship budget invested in BIPOC events and community initiatives. The fact is that this year we had to make a lot of calls internally on what “counts” as sponsorship, making it difficult to arrive at a true number.
To ensure we have a solid commitment in 2023, we’ve removed the percentage commitment and instead commit a minimum of $100,000 AUD annually towards BIPOC events, partnerships and community initiatives globally.
In the interest of full transparency, we have also increased our commitments in the area of DEI from 14 to 16. Adding ‘10 stories published on The Journal about BIPOC travellers and experiences’ and ‘5 stories published on The Journal about LGBTQIA+ travel’. These are addition to our existing commitments to commission more stories from BIPOC and plus-size travellers, to ensure we are also accountable for the content of the story not just the writer.
We also recognize that potential these guidelines have to help amplify and support other underrepresented people and communities in travel. Later this year, we will re-engage with existing and new consultants to explore how we can expand these guidelines and deepen our impact. If you have any leads of suggestions, shoot myself or our Vice President of Communications, Mikey Sadowski, a message on LinkedIn.
Or send an email to email@example.com, which goes to a small group of senior leaders at Intrepid.
The updated ethical marketing guidelines can be found here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/ethical-marketing-guidelines
Thank you for your ongoing support and holding us accountable for being better every day.