How to Create a Sense of Belonging Through Inclusive Storytelling

two men standing in a cavern
by Lindsay Pace
Content Manager

Do you want to build better content? Let’s start with inclusion. 

Destinations have a story to tell. Whether it’s horseback riding through an oak-dotted ridge in Branson, listening to the rollicking sounds of jazz in New Orleans or the thrill of skiing down a snowy slope in Vail, destinations bring purpose to place.

To provide better context to this purpose, we must keep the traveler in mind. Readers who recognize their identities and experiences within content are more apt to explore destinations with a sense of trust and hopefully encourage them to return.

In this post, we’ll walk through a few mindful ways to create expansive, inclusive stories. 

Define Your Content’s Purpose 

If you’ve watched a Pixar movie, you likely have noticed its vibrant narratives and seamless execution. Did you know it takes six years, on average, to create these films?

Early in the Pixar process, writers and animators build a storyboard. Creatives think about the characters: Their hopes, their limitations, and their lived experiences. Together the team asks: What are the character’s interests? How would they express themselves? Where would they go?

Like Pixar geniuses, start with a pause for reflection to establish a clearly defined purpose supported by research. As you welcome the traveler into a well-worded world, ask yourself: 

  • What biases or privileges might I hold that could affect my writing? 
  • How can I increase my understanding of these audiences? 
  • Can I collaborate with others who may be more familiar with this audience? 
  • What might this traveler want to know, and where might they want to go?

Explore Multiple Identities

disabled man skiing down a slope

Great travel writing is both an invitation to the table and a pulled-out chair. Too often, this invitation is not extended to those who are marginalized, so be willing to reframe your writing process. Here are a few simple ways to think beyond binaries: 

  • Writing about nature trails or state parks? Travelers with disabilities may appreciate callouts for local all-terrain power chair rental services or to state park resources with their disability in mind.
  • Writing about jazz in Lousiana? Consider mentioning a brief history of the genre, which bears a huge role in Lousiana's Black history. Could you point travelers to the Louis Armstrong Museum, which highlights the work of a famous Black artist? 
  • Writing a roundup of events? Check out a diversity-focused calendar and note the current cultural or religioius observations. What community spaces might have events for those? 

Strengthen Your Language

Once you’ve connected people to purpose and explored multiple identities, assess the value of your language:

  • Brush up on current diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) best practices on language or consult a DEI team for their expertise. 
  • Be willing to challenge proverbialisms or metaphors. Research their origins, and never trust that language is neutral until confirmed. 
  • Take special care when defining people by identity-based language. Language is fluid and ever-changing, so when in doubt, learn from people in their communities. Ask how you can represent them empathetically and with grace.

Make Connections to Cultivate Community

group of diverse people all standing together

People are often marginalized in more than one way, so their needs may be multifaceted. Great travel writing knows this, so it does one more thing really, really well: It lends the traveler a sense of belonging. 

What gives a traveler a sense of belonging? Connection. If you want to build equitable experiences, make connections apparent. For example, consider a traveler who is Latino and also identifies as a gay man. Recommend experiences that will allow the traveler to express themselves authentically and safely, while also feeling represented in the destination.

Fortunately, DEI practices are ever-evolving, and these tips are only a small look at how people-focused forethought can cultivate galvanizing experiences for travelers and the destinations that serve them. 

If your organization hopes to build more inclusive content, let’s strategize! Our DEI Team  facilitates conversations and programs that drive engagement and personal growth. 

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