More than 100 travel companies, industry associations and destinations have pledged to work towards equality for women in travel, and to boost female representation in leadership roles.
Travel leaders gave the so-called Cancun Declaration their backing at the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Global Summit, which is being held this week in the Mexican holiday hot spot.
Nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova was at the summit to support the launch; initial signatories include Carnival Corporation, Hilton, Intrepid Travel, Clia, IHG and Expedia.
Their commitment involves providing equal opportunities for women by removing barriers, ensuring fair treatment, and encouraging greater financial, professional and social independence.
The declaration also seeks to recognise the contribution of women around the world, and the importance of an equal, equitable environment that allows them to thrive as leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.
Travel has historically been, and continues to be, an industry staffed overwhelmingly by women, yet led by men. Gloria Guevara, who is the first female president and chief executive of the WTTC, said it was an honour to champion the initiative.
"The pledge with the launch of the first Women’s Initiative in Travel and Tourism by a combination of the private, public and academic sectors to work towards women’s equality, marks a significant step forward," she said.
"Globally, women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic which has exacerbated the pay gap, the opportunity gap and the shocking lack of senior positions and leadership roles across the travel and tourism sector.
"This needs to be changed. WTTC research shows women play a vital role and represented 54% of travel and tourism’s employment worldwide. Yet, while more than half the sector is accounted for by women, too few occupy senior or strategic roles."
Guevara also unveiled a new public/private/academic partnership to promote diversity and drive inclusivity, which the WTTC said would help lead the way to achieving equality for women throughout travel and tourism.
Navratilova said while things were changing for the better, the battle for equality remained "constant". "Change happens much quicker when it comes from the top," she said.
"Companies would be more profitable if more women were in positions of power and boardrooms were less homogenous and reflected the diversity of their customers."
For the private sector, in the short-term, the Women’s Initiative has two core aims – to develop skills and create formal sponsorship and mentorship programmes for young women in business.
It will encourage women to bring in new ideas and skills to broaden the wealth of experience and expertise from women at all levels across the entire travel and tourism sector.
Senior women leaders will also be empowered to become mentors and share their skills and experience with the next generation of female travel and tourism leaders to nurture and develop new talent.
Where possible, companies will also be asked to assign a senior executive or board member to be a sponsor for gender diversity and inclusion, who is accountable for progress.
The private sector has pledged to increase female representation in leadership positions by between 30% to 50% by 2030, and will aim to increase representation of women at board and C-suite level by a third.
Other aims include reducing gender pay gaps, implementing gender diverse slate requirement for all open roles, sharing progress annually, and publishing an action plan to achieve change.