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Is There Plus Size Diversity In Travel Marketing? #PlusSizeTravelToo

March 14, 2019

Is There Plus Size Diversity In Travel Marketing? #PlusSizeTravelToo

March 14, 2019

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.

*results taken from a sample of 198 people
**results taken from a sample of 187 people
  • Jess March 14, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    This is such an amazing piece Kirsty! It’s so shocking that there is no diversity, or is it? Because let’s be honest, it’s something we’ve always known.

    Major love and a very proud friend.

    xoxo
    Jess
    The Crown Wings | UK Travel & Lifestyle Blog

  • Simone Ribeiro March 14, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks for sharing it, Kirsty. You are being the voice to many of us that already knew there is no diversity. That is very brave of you to put together such an interesting research. As a plus size woman myself and traveller, I feel the pain.
    Thanks again. I will share it on my social media.
    xx

  • Darren starkey March 15, 2019 at 3:48 am

    What a great read. Keep up the good work

  • marie aygat March 15, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Great inspiring post !I never seen big sizes ladies or gents on those travel marketing stuff …a long way to go still .

    http://www.mariesconnections.com/

  • Francesca Wellman March 16, 2019 at 10:57 am

    This is a fantastic post. The lack of representation in the industry is an issue – I’m never sure whether at size 16 I can really count myself as plus size but I still feel noticeably bigger than the majority of the influencers you see getting the big opportunities. We do live in an age where we are led so much by what we see on our feeds and in marketing materials – the fact that not everyone can see themselves in those situations is wrong.

  • Laura Lovette March 20, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    When will the media learn that we want to see diversity all around?! Hopefully some change will come from this article. I’ll be sharing a link to it in my weekly recap post on Saturday, it’s not much but I hope it helps get the word out 🙂

    https://www.lauralovette.com/

  • I'M KIRSTY LEANNE

    My mission is simple. I want to help change the way travel looks, showing both brands and society that plus size people really do travel too. In a community where plus size travellers are made to feel unwelcome, I want to inspire and advise people like me on how they can make the most out of their own incredible travel experiences.Join me as I share my own personal experiences, my best tips and tricks and all of the challenges I face along the way. It won’t always be an easy ride, but it sure as hell will be a fun one.

    Working together, we can change the way that travel looks today

    WHAT TO EXPECT

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    • AD | GIFTED 💙 It’s not very often I post a photo of myself looking so serious, but apparently my new hair gives me all kind of sass I didn’t know I had 😂🙌🏻
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Today has consisted of lots of content writing work, recording interviews for the Plus Size Travel Too podcast and packing most of my things ready for America. Just a couple of bits to buy tomorrow and I SHOULD be ready to go next week ✈️🇺🇸
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If there is anything that should on my America packing list (either Trek America or Walt Disney World), let me know now so I don’t forget it. And yes, before anyone says, I do have my passport 😂😇
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I haven’t had short hair since I was in secondary school, so naturally I was scared to have to have so much off - especially as I would use my hair as a bit of a security blanket when taking photos. I’m still not *100%* in love with, but my hair feels much healthier and I’m definitely feeling a little more confident 👏🏻🙌🏻
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I have so many plans for both kirstyleanne.com and Plus Size Travel Too But I know if I do too much at once I’ll probably burn out. I think sometimes I forget that I have a full time freelance content writing position alongside my blog, as I seem to think I can do everything all at once. As amazing as I’d like to think I am, am definitely not super woman 🤦🏼‍♀️
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I don’t actually know what the point of this caption is anymore so I guess what you can take from this is that more exciting things are coming, but I don’t know when 😂 #plussizetraveltoo #plussizetravel #plussize #plussizetraveller #travel #presstrip
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📸: @brogantatexo
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I hope you’re all excited because although things are a little quiet around here lately, I’m off on my next adventure in 10 DAYS. On the 22nd of May, me and my brother are flying to New York for 2 days before we start the Trek America Atlantic Dream tour. ❤️
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The tour will take us to some incredible places, including Washington, Philadelphia, Shenandoah, Ocoee, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Destin Beach and Orlando. Once we reach Orlando, we’ll be staying for 8 whole days where we’ll be going to Disney, Universal and the Kennedy Space Centre. .
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Whilst I love working for myself, preparing for three weeks ‘out of office’ has meant I’m working double time every day in order to fund my huge trip AND the bills I usually have to cover with my day day to earnings. If there was one thing I would say I miss about employment, it’s holiday pay. 😂
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Since I disappeared a few weeks ago, I guess a FEW exciting things have happened. So, here’s a little catch up: ✈️ I booked flights to California with @fordtography in January 2020. I haven’t been back since I lived there in 2012, so I’ll am SO SO excited. 📸 I bought a new camera and I can’t wait to get some shots with it soon! 🇺🇸 It’s now only 18 days until America and I honestly can’t believe it’s nearly here. Can it be 22nd May already? 🙌🏻 I’ve pitched some AMAZING collaborations with brands for my trip and managed to tick FOUR of my dream brands to work off my list in the space of a few days. Oh my god.
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Okay, I think that’s all for now. What have you all been up to the last few weeks? Tell me everything! 👀 #plussizetravel #plussizetraveltoo #plussizetravelling #fatgirlstravelling #travelinclusivity #fatgirlstraveltoo
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On a completely different note, how gorgeous is the dress from @joanieclothing? It’s perfect for this incredible heatwave we’re having - especially with a pair of chub rub shorts underneath. The plus size holy grail 🙌🏻 #joaniegal #joaniegals #psfashion #psblogger #psbloggers
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Although I only spent a couple of hours in Bosnia and Mostar, I definitely want to go back to explore more of this beautiful country. ✈️
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What country surprised you the most?
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If you watch, who do you think will end up the Iron Throne? 👑 #got #gameofthrones #winteriscoming #forthewatch #allmenmustdie
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Festival season is well and truly underway and I’m loving all of the out there outfits already. In the past I’ve always been put off dressing up for festivals as I thought I wouldn’t find anything that’s both comfortable and fashionable in my size, but this year I’m spoilt for choice (especially on the @prettylittlething @prettylittlethingplus website 👏🏻)
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P.S. I think this is my *favourite* photo of me ever 🙌🏻
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❤️ Dress gifted from Pretty Little Thing
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    • ✈ PLUS SIZE TRAVEL PROBLEMS PT 1 ✈
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Although I talk a lot about the problems plus size people face when they travel, I wanted to go that one step further and show it in a way that would make EVERYONE want to listen. With such a long list of images I wanted to create, a couple of months ago I hired an incredible designer (@creatiffy_) to help create them for me. She has done an INCREDIBLE job, as I feel they really get across how we may feel when we're travelling  even if we don't say it outloud. Whether it's being worried you won't fit on a ride or awkwardly laughing off that a tray table doesn't fit, deep down we're thinking something completely different to what we may be saying or doing.
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So, whether you're plus size and you can relate to these images or you're straight size and you want to help bring attention to the #plussizetraveltoo campaign, I would LOVE it if you could share this post far and wide. Tag your friends, post on your stories or even send them over direct message. Thank you so so much ❤
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PT 2 COMING NEXT WEEK 🙌🏻
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