Founder Q&A With Roni Weiss, Exec Dir, Travel Unity

Founder Q&A With Roni Weiss, Exec Dir, Travel Unity

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Founded in 2016, Travel Unity is focused on increasing diversity in the world of travel through individual and community empowerment. We are hoping this interview with its Founder Roni Weiss, will make our membership more aware of and supportive of their important mission.

Q: Tell us about Travel Unity and why it was started.

RW: Travel Unity is a 501(c)(3) focused on increasing diversity in the world of travel through individual and community empowerment. It was founded in 2016. We had been including (diversity, equity, and inclusion) DEI conversations in the New York Travel Festival for a few years and it became clear that a separate entity was needed to address DEI issues year-round.

Q: Was there anything specific in your life that drove your interest in this area?

RW: When I was working with Africa Travel Association, I became aware of how many African-American colleagues felt marginalized both as travelers and within the industry. This was something I wanted to tackle head-on. There also are many programs that provide travel experiences for young people from lower socioeconomic groups. These experiences sometimes require raising funds for up to $10,000 USD per participant. I wanted to create an organization that would be able to use such an amount to provide local and regional experiences for many more young people.

Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced in coordinating this effort?

RW: Before 2020, there was a lot of preaching to the choir. We had been saying for years that people need to be aware of demographic shifts and not fully rely on their current markets; it’s necessary to think about new customers through the prism of DEI. With both the pandemic and social protests this year, people gave the things we’ve been saying a new look.

Q: Tell us about the Certification you’re exploring and what it hopes to accomplish?

RW: Like GSTC and the SDGs, we wanted to have publicly available Standards for all organizations that welcome visitors. We also wanted to make sure that there was a mechanism to avoid ‘woke-washing’. There are a lot of people who might be trying to do the right thing, but it’s important for that to be externally validated.

Q: How has Travel Unity been received by the industry?

RW: I think the best indicator of that is our travel industry association DEI working group, which currently has 14 different associations from across the spectrum. We’re working with them to make sure that our Standards are treated as, well, standards.

Q: How can FTA members get involved?

RW: Any FTA member can feel free to reach out directly to me. I’m always happy to chat.

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