The first International Women in Travel & Tourism Forum will take place in Iceland in January, with 60 industry chief delegates each asked to bring a female “future leader” in a bid to foster “real reflection and exchange of experiences and thoughts”.
The forum, for which TTG Media is media partner, is targeted at those passionate about tackling gender imbalance in the workplace.
It was set up after Alessandra Alonso, founder of Women in Travel (CIC), chaired a WTM London 2018 panel debate celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
She was joined by Eliza Reid, the First Lady of Iceland (also a United Nations special ambassador for tourism); Zina Bencheikh, regional general manager for Europe, Middle East and North Africa at Peak DMC; and Jo Phillips, chief people officer at Carnival UK.
After establishing a need to encourage those in the travel industry to better articulate their vision of a gender-inclusive industry, together they came up with the forum, with the help of Promote Iceland.
Alonso has been leading the initiative, having worked to support women’s advancement in the industry for 15 years.
She founded social enterprise Women in Travel (CIC) in 2017, dedicated to empowering women through employability and entrepreneurship in the travel industry, having initially co- founded gender-focused company Shine and the Shine Awards.
In January 2018, she went on to oversee WIT’s launch of Women Returners, a programme working with charities including Crisis and the Refugee Council to help under-represented or vulnerable women into travel, tourism and hospitality jobs.
The new Bame Women in Travel initiative, meanwhile, assists black, Asian and minority ethnic women in
the travel and tourism industry to “fulfil their economic and individual potential” through mentoring and training services.
January’s delegates will have the chance to attend a full day of talks and mentoring, including “reverse mentoring” sessions, which will see some of the “future leaders” become the mentors and lead the conversation on topics that matter to them, from access and networks to confidence and technology.
Reflecting on her journey, Alonso described the international forum as “a natural next step”.
“Shine was one in a barren land, while now there are tens of [women in travel] initiatives, which is fantastic.
“What hadn’t happened yet, though, was something that would give a more international perspective and which includes time to provide mentoring.”
Alonso described the forum as “the perfect opportunity to disrupt the scene”, bringing together different generations of talent.
“How can you have a pipeline of women to inherit the industry if you don’t understand their needs or what they experience in the workplace?” she said.
“Often you have a preconceived idea about what someone might want and what their career might look like. Let’s hear it from them.”
Alonso stressed the value in bringing together stakeholders from around the world. “Gender equality and equity are different things in different countries. There’s so much value in mixing people up and asking the up-and-coming generation in different countries what it’s like for them.”
Beyond the discussion, Alonso stressed the forum would also be “very practical”.
“We all want to create something that will have some follow up and practical actions,” she said.