For this weeks Inspirational Women in Travel blog, we sat down to have a chat with Jamie Lee Abtar, Executive Director of BAME Women in Travel. Take a look at what she had to say!
1. What inspired you to work in the travel industry?
It all starts with my early upbringing in Barbados. I saw first hand the impact that the travel and tourism industry had on the development of the island and how it impacted and changed the lives of so many. This inspired me to be instrumental in the global travel and tourism industry as a force for good in developing countries.
2. How did you begin working in the travel industry and what was your first role?
I was in my final year at university and a friend told me about an opportunity to gain some extra cash with a local destination management company and I applied and got a part time job for the cruise season as an Air to Sea Hostess. In this role I worked on the frontline welcoming cruise passengers to and from the island and directing them through to the cruise ship. I was later invited back to join the executive team as junior cruise operations executive in the office when I completed university.
3. How did you get to where you are in your career today?
I moved to the UK in 2009 because I was keen to have a greater understanding of the motivating factors behind consumers choosing one destination over the next and that led to me to complete my MSc in Travel and tourism marketing at Bournemouth University. Over the years both through employment and entrepreneurship I have had the pleasure to work with travel brands and destinations including Caribbean Tourism Organization, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., St Lucia Tourist Board, Sri Lanka Training Program, Party Hard Travel, The Lantern Collection, Oceans Hotel Group and Sackville Travel to attract new diverse travel audiences through compelling marketing, PR and advertising campaigns.
4. What attributes would help someone aspiring to your role?
Without a doubt determination, consistency and being adaptable to changing situations.
5. Describe a typical day at work in 100 words?
I usually spend the first hour checking trade and consumer headlines and reviewing my task list for the day. I tend to put aside time to respond to key emails. Depending on the day I might be out for meetings or on zooms calls mostly around new business opportunities or catching up with clients. My evenings / nights are usually the time I work on developing projects, catching up on emails from the day and planning strategy.
6. What is your most memorable moment working within the travel industry?
In 2018 I launched a campaign to understand the travel propensity of individuals from an African Caribbean background in partnership with the Voice Newspaper as I was keen to highlight to travel brands and destinations the spending power of the black travel market in the UK. As a result of the project The Voice launched the first travel magazine geared towards the African Caribbean Traveller.
7. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your role and how did you overcome this?
Its been driving home the importance of racial diversity in the travel industry, the BAME Women in Travel Initiative was launched in 2018 and it has been an uphill battle to get travel brands to acknowledge the social and moral impact of racial diversity, sadly too many still believed that it wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately under the shadow of the death of George Floyd and the current Black Lives Matter movement travel brands are waking up to the reality of systemic racism. As a reaction to this we launched our Corporate Partnership which allow travel brands to collaborate and address shared challenges, with the aim to refocus energy and commitment in UK workforces to drive change and ensure that travel businesses make racial diversity a priority.
8. What drives you to succeed?
My greatest inspirations for success are my two beautiful children Jasiri and Aliyinza as well as my strong desire to be instrumental in the development of the travel industry.
9. What would be your top three tips for women who are interested in starting a career in the travel and tourism industry?
Stay on top of trends
You have to be aware of what is happening in the marketplace that you are keen to enter and staying on top of current developments definitely gives you an advantage and helps you to spot opportunities in the market.
Expand your network
Everyone can and should be a networker. Having a good network is invaluable to your career; it brings opportunities and opens doors.
Join a community
Find a tribe, a supportive community that can both support and celebrate you through your career journey and Women in Travel CIC is a good place to start.
10. What one change could help more women become leaders in the travel industry?
Attracting and developing more women in leadership roles requires company-wide change, driven from the top. If companies address culture as a priority in their business, we would accelerate progress.
11. How do you relax when not working?
I am a big fan of solo trips and when that is not possible long relaxing baths and yoga are certainly helpful.