International Women In Travel and Tourism Forum

International Women In Travel and Tourism Forum
12th February 2020 Alessandra Alonso
Alessandra Alonso
In Events

There is only one word to describe the first International Women In Travel and Tourism Forum that took place in Iceland at the end of January: EPIC! Around 100 people met in Reykjavik over two days to discuss the future of women in the global travel and tourism industry.

There were some bumps in the road; snow blizzards, grounded planes, and a complete restructure of the Forum. In the end there were engaged, honest, and insightful conversations among industry representatives from 18 countries. Nothing could have truly prepared us for the series of atmospheric events, but we are so grateful to the delegates, partners, and sponsors for making it work and being there against all odds!

Looking at the feedback received the impact of this event was far reaching. It has been overwhelming and thrilling to see how many delegates took to social media to share their thoughts, comments and reflections. There were some that could not attend in 2020, and have reached out to let us know they will not miss the next edition. We have had tourism boards come forward to ask how they might bid to host the next forum! We are so excited for what the future holds for the IWTTF.

This is only the beginning, based on the information learned during the
event. We found that there is still a lot to do to ensure the global Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality industry embraces diversity and inclusion to the highest extent. More industries need to take part in the discussion, more men to engage, and overall more voices must band together to join us in articulating what kind of industry we need and want for the next 100 years. We’re so excited to have the Forum be a catalyst for this ongoing discussion, and the changes that will need to follow. We are grateful to all, but especially out found partners Carnival UK, PEAK DMC, and Promote Iceland for share our visions.

With a total of 1 key note address, 1 guest speaker, 25 panelists across 5 sessions and an intensely participated reverse mentoring finale, the Forum was rich in discussion, story-telling, and debates. Much ground was covered, but below are some of the clear cut things that resonated with our team here at Women In travel:

1. The need for dialogue and collaboration among all parties. Private and public sector; men and women; different areas of travel, tourism and hospitality. If we are really to prosper as an industry, diversity and inclusion must be achieved through a collaborative and combined effort. This means also bringing to table the silent voices; the unsung heroes and those who can share their leadership journeys to inspire others.

2. Actively involving men in diversity and inclusionthrough events like this Forum and, moreover, by encouraging them to serve as ambassadors, allies and sponsors of
[gender] diversity. The men in attendance meanwhile articulated the need to break
through the paralysis that sometimes stops them from acting in fear of unintended
consequences. Women were also encouraged not to run away from having difficult
conversations with their male colleagues.

3. The role played by education, at home, in school, at work and overall in the broader society in fostering gender balance. Informal conversations must take place regularly and from a young age, involving boys and girls.

4. The importance of coaching and mentoring to support and encourage women to pursue their career further; but also a safe place to explore ideas and foster understanding among senior colleagues, peers and juniors.

5. Small and replicable steps are best. Calling out inappropriate behaviours;  sharing good practice (such as those we heard in Bright ideas) and ensuring
that senior leaders role model the right behaviours, for example by not hiding
their family commitment to junior colleagues.

6. The role of Government. As seen in Iceland, achieving gender parity has been a journey involving legislation as well as on-going dialogue. Similarly in countries where women may still luck some rights or are not considered competent, opening dialogue with the government is critical to instill change.

We look forward to the future ahead, and to progressing the discussion in 2021!