So here we are, Happy New Year! It has been an important year for Women in Travel as the social enterprise I launched in January 2017 has just celebrated its first birthday and I reflect upon its progress and activities and draw some conclusions about gender and the status of women in the travel and tourism sector.
The Women in Travel Meetups, which took place during WTM London this past November and last April at ATM Dubai, reminded us of a number of important things:
The gig economy and the importance of entrepreneurship
Many of us from all cultures and backgrounds would like to set up or indeed grow their business but don’t quite know how. Interestingly, this is not just true for women but also for men, as for the first time since starting the event in 2014 the room was probably split fifty-fifty between men and women. Accessing finance is often the greatest hurdle for women but – as one of our speakers and mentors reminded us – without self-confidence and self -belief we can hardly hope to be successful.
Another important point is that entrepreneurship knows no cultural barriers. Whereas women may sometimes be prevented by unwritten traditional rules from working in public places – particularly I am afraid when it comes to hospitality settings – everyone with a laptop and a WiFi connection can set up a business from their kitchen table! Sometimes these remain micro or small businesses – with many getting freelance work as writers, bloggers and influencers – but in other cases, they grow to considerable size and success such as the case of Diamondair international, Underthedoormat and House of Coco.
From Iran to Dubai, London to Capetown Women are embracing entrepreneurship in droves and they won’t be stopped. The question is rather for the industry, the political establishments and society: how can we ensure that their contribution does not go unnoticed? How can we support them and encourage them so that they feel empowered to act?
Activities such as those mentioned below in this blog go some way to provide this support but the needs are increasingly global. That is why Women in Travel was truly pleased to sign a memorandum of understanding with UN-led initiative SheTrades. Our common aim is to foster entrepreneurship and access to market for women entrepreneurs, especially from emerging economies. In 2018, we will be undertaking some collaboration to this extent, so watch this space!
The role of mentors and mentoring is not one to be underestimated
As tables filled to the brim with mentees, I continued to marvel at the extraordinary powerful tool that is mentoring.
Gaining access to an individual with established experience is certainly the fastest way to learn and perhaps, to avoid repeating mistakes already made by somebody else. Furthermore, that experience and knowledge is shared for free and with the genuine intention and desire to help. Repeatedly, female mentees tell us that mentoring sessions are an incredible source of learning and inspiration.
So why not do more? Well, we have listened and we are! Mentoring will now feature in both Dubai’s Arabian Travel Market and the newly launched Cape Town’s WTM Africa, both taking place in April 2018. So watch out for sign up opportunities early in the New Year.
We gain strength in number, connections and face-to-face meetings
We live in days of uncertainty and instability. As women, we fear for ourselves and our families, close and far. Political unrest, economic stagnation, social disparity are all existing concerns. Therefore, it gives us strength and courage to come together and share our experiences, opportunities and learning. In this context, we also find strength in our diversity and in knowing that women from all backgrounds, culture and races experience similar hopes and challenges.
Women are finding travel and tourism an exciting and opportunity-rich industry. In 2018, they are hoping to work and build their future in this sector, even more than in 2017.
Learning, sharing and giving to each other generously through mentoring and networking platforms, as well as having an industry that embraces this talented will ensure an even brighter and more sustainable future to the sector.
See you all in 2018!