Do you ever put off writing something because you know that realistically as one lone person with very little influence, you really can’t make that much of a difference?
And if you put your all into doing actual research, it’s probably going to make absolutely no impact what’s so ever?
Well, I’ve put off writing this post for longer than I can even remember for that exact reason. I’ve started writing this million and one times, contemplated pitching it to bigger media outlets and even shared my shocking research with my friends to see what they thought.
Finally, I’ve decided I can’t take it anymore and I HAVE to speak out.
Disclaimer: Before I get started, I want to point out that the intention of this post isn’t to start a hate campaign towards any UK travel brands. The point of this research is that to hopefully reach brands, and for them to be aware of what they’re doing (and that they can make changes that could potentiality help them reach a market that is often too scared to travel). As the study is on the travel industry as a whole and I was taking 10 companies as a sample, I will not be naming any specific names.
So what is the blog post all about?!
I’m guessing the title has probably given it away, but a couple of months ago I decided to do some research into the representation of plus size people in travel media.
I took 10 of the biggest travel agents, tour operators and airlines in the UK and individually analysed their marketing materials to determine whether or not I thought plus size people were well represented. After all, plus size people travel too, right?
The media and marketing materials I looked at were travel brochures, websites, social media accounts and any advertisements or videos they may have created. I also looked briefly into their influencer marketing, if they had carried any out over the past 12 months or so.
I was as thorough as I could possibly be, making sure I checked a similar sample from every single travel company. In some instances, some of the companies I looked at didn’t use certain aspects of marketing – all of which I have made note of in the spreadsheet I was using to track my research.
To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting when I decided I wanted to start this project, but I was definitely hoping I would be pleasantly surprised by what I found. That was definitely NOT the case.
What I actually found that there was absolutely no diversity at all and 95% of the marketing materials in my sample were filled with slim-white-happy-same-sex families. There were NO plus size travellers, NO travellers with a disability, very few travellers of colours and little to none single or same-sex families.
Whilst I would LOVE to be able to cover all of the topics in detail, I don’t feel as though I am in the best possible position and for the purpose of this post I want to focus on the plus size travel industry specifically.
Okay, so where does the 5% come from?
Having done extensive research on each of the brands I used in my sample, my results showed that only 5% of their marketing strategy featured plus size people. Where is that 5% from exactly? Influencer marketing.
Whilst brands are not featuring plus size people in their tv adverts, their brochures or on their social media – they do appear to be working with a number of plus size bloggers when it comes to press trips and gifted stays. Of course, this isn’t anywhere near as frequent as it is with straight size bloggers, I feel like I can call this progress for the most part.
What I feel hasn’t improved when it comes to plus size influencers in the travel industry is the diversity in group press trips. Whilst I have attended a number myself, the majority are still filled with the same people creating the same content.
But Kirsty, why is all of this important?
Although I understand that this may seem like a very small issue and if you’re booking a holiday or trip, marketing materials and representation is not the first thing on your mind. Whilst that may be the case, for a lot of people – me included – feeling as though you are represented is vital when making a decision.
Imagine flicking through a brochure or scrolling through a website and seeing only straight sized people. As someone with body confidence issues, it’s hard not to feel as though you’re going stick out like a sore thumb throughout your entire holiday. You won’t want to go to the pool, you’ll feel self-conscious on excursions and a night out would feel like a nightmare. Personally I felt have felt all of these things, and more, when travelling.
Whilst I was doing my research I decided to ask plus size people (size UK 16+) whether or not they would be put off booking a trip if they felt they weren’t represented in the brands marketing materials and 39% of people said yes, they would*.
In response to this question, I also had a couple of people reach out to me to say that they have cancelled trips after booking as they felt they weren’t represented within their marketing. One person, in particular, told me ”me and my partner were supposed to be going on a tour and were initially cautious due to being the higher end of their age limit, however, we were excited to go and meet more people. After researching the company more and delving into their social media/promo material I felt that I wouldn’t be comfortable on their trips, I’m an able-bodied, medium fat, and still there was no one that reflected me in any of their advertising, in any of their guides, and I felt due to this I wouldn’t feel comfortable and would feel out of place in group activities so I cancelled our trip and self-planned instead”.
I also asked straight sized people (below size 16) if they would feel put off travelling with a company that uses plus size people in their marketing and 91% of people said no**. The general response was that people feel travel companies should show a range of sizes in marketing materials – whether it be online, on social media or in their brochures.
What does all of this mean?
Whilst I don’t want to make presumptions, the research that I carried out has definitely shown me that due to lack of representation, travel brands could actually be missing out on a whole audience. I regularly get messages from people telling me that they are not confident enough to travel and I can’t help but feel that if they felt as though they were represented in the industry, they’d feel much more inclined to book that dream trip.
When people tell me that seeing me travelling and doing the things they’ve wanted to do has encouraged them to travel, imagine the effect a major travel brand featuring plus size people in their marketing could have?
I am just one person and I know a travel brand would have SO MUCH more influence if they were to start creating diverse campaigns that represented a wide range of people. Ultimately, it could increase spending power for them, encouraging plus size people to book with them due to the diversity they champion.
What can you do to help?
I know change can’t happen overnight and if I am honest, I am not expecting anything as a result of this post because I alone do not have the power to make a difference. Basically, I need your help.
Luckily, there are lots of ways you can help this information and my message reach the right people. Whether you consider yourself plus size or not, you help could make all the difference.
- If you haven’t already, please share this post on your social media channels. Whether it’s sharing the Facebook post, Retweeting it into your Twitter timeline or mentioning it in your Instagram story. Tag @kirstyleanneuk and @plussizetraveltoo and I will thank you a million times over.
- Follow the @plussizetraveltoo account on Instagram to show brands the WE DO HAVE POWER when it comes to travel marketing and that we too create incredible content whilst travelling.
- Use the #plussizetraveltoo hashtag to help gain momentum on the Plus Size Travel Too campaign. The more people talking about this the better. I want people to see us and recognise the power we have.
As much as I wish I could make this change alone (mainly because I’m far too proud to ask for help at the best of times), change won’t be made unless people start to highlight the issue at hand.
If there is anything else you think you can do to help me spread this message, please do not hesitate to get in touch to let me know.