The first Festival of Inclusion in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure saw more than 1,200 attendees and 75 speakers convene over two days.
Panel discussions, case studies and debates took place with an aim of creating inclusive workplaces in the HTL industry.
Tea Colaianni, founder and chair of diversity and inclusion group WiHTL, which organised the event, said:
“We believe that no single company can make a difference on their own and that together we can foster collaboration, sharing, learning and the co-creation of tangible solutions. And that industry wide collaboration is exactly what shone through at the festival.”
Speakers included Paul Pomroy, McDonald’s UK & Ireland chief executive and June Sarpong, TV presenter and diversity expert.
Pomroy told the audience: “As a leader, what has worked really well is encouraging conversations on diversity, asking leaders what steps they are taking to create inclusive cultures in their teams. Through celebrating those leaders who are embracing and shifting their cultures, the rest of the leadership team now understands what is expected.”
Keith Barr, IHG chief executive, added: “Chief executives and executive teams need to lead the inclusion agenda and lead it authentically – it’s not about governance. It’s not about a tick-the-box exercise or compliance. It’s about fundamentally leading and driving the cultural shift needed.
“This industry is set up to support and develop the best talent but it’s about collectively rebuilding it to be better, in a more diverse and inclusive way, and I’m quite confident we can do it. We’ve got momentum, but we just have to make sure it doesn’t get lost with all the other priorities that can be out there.”
The conference also heard from Nichole Viviani of theme park operator Xplor, the festival’s headline partner, who said: “One of the quotes that we found really helpful at Xplor to remind ourselves of this fact is ‘if we’re not intentionally including, it’s likely that we’re unintentionally excluding.’”
Bourne Leisure chief executive Paul Flaum added: “If we can all provide an environment where we inspire each other, we educate each other on who we are, why we’re unique, why we’re all special and we create an environment where it feels easy to talk to each other, then this will enable us all to bring our true selves to work.
“If we do this then we can create an industry which will allow everyone to truly flourish.”