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IWTTF 2024: Tolene van der Merwe: ‘Education is key and IWTTF offers this in abundance’

IWTTF 2024: Tolene van der Merwe: ‘Education is key and IWTTF offers this in abundance’
6th May 2024 Simona Listvanaite
Simona Listvanaite
In Events

Embarking on a journey toward inclusivity and diversity in the travel industry, we are elated to have Visit Malta as the Silver Sponsor of IWTTF Forum 2024. Their unwavering commitment to promoting DEI aligns seamlessly with the ethos of our event, resonating with the very essence of what we strive to achieve – making tourism a Force for Good.

In a conversation with Tolene van der Merwe, UK & Ireland Director of Visit Malta, we delved into their renewed participation, their dedication to DEI, and the transformative experiences they’ve encountered through their involvement. Join us as we explore their insights, aspirations, and the profound impact of their advocacy within the travel landscape.

WIT: This is the second time you’ve sponsored IWTTF, why is it important to you / Visit Malta?

Tolene: Visit Malta is thrilled to be sponsoring IWTTF again this year.  As an event that is committed to promoting DEI in the travel industry, we believe in the important work that IWTTF does to enhance tourism as a Force for Good.  Malta is an inclusive destination that welcomes all people equally, a country with a rich tapestry of cultures historically is what makes Malta so special.  This inclusivity extends to the travel industry as well, with a strong focus on ensuring equal opportunities and representation for all.  I am excited to be part of IWTTF’s event and help promote DEI in travel and as a whole in our everyday lives.

WIT: What is your highlight from the last few years attending IWTTF?

Tolene: The level of conversations that are held.  The difficult conversations that take place and the fact that everyone feels safe in the environment to share their own struggles.  This has opened my eyes to the world and I always walk away from the event wanting to do more and be a better person.

WIT: What are you most looking forward to about the day?

Tolene: Meeting inspiring people and learning more about how we as an industry can and still need to change and continue fighting hard for DEI

WIT: Visit Malta has really championed DEI in recent years – what commercial benefits have you seen from this strategy?

Tolene: Malta remains number 1 on the IGLTA Europe Rainbow Index and this showcases that the destination is warm, welcoming and friendly.  Malta has recovered very well from the past few years and by concentrating on showcasing Malta as welcoming for all, we have had a great 2023 arrivals year with a record-breaking 3.1 million arrivals globally.

WIT: Can you share any forthcoming plans or campaigns you are working on?

Tolene: We continue to strive to be better, there is a focus on Accessibility and learning how we ensure that we have the right information out there for accessible travel.  We will never stop promoting Malta as a Warm and Welcoming destination and keep evolving with our campaigns.  We had a busy start to the year and our focus has been largely on gastronomy and adventure with the wonderful Ainsley Harriet having a five-part programme on his time in Malta, this has stood us in good stead going forward.  We have the VisitMalta Cup in August which is the second year running and this year it is Tottenham vs FC Bayern – at the Spurs grounds.  We continue with our OOH campaigns and our tour operator partnerships and are already starting to plan for 2025.

WIT: What would you say to other tourist boards about the benefits of getting involved in IWTTF?

Tolene: IWTTF is a great organisation to help with driving DEI within the destination and in the market.  Working with Alessandra to push the ideas and boundaries in driving DEI in destination has been wonderful and we are always coming up with new ideas that do take time to implement but we have continued to drive.  Education is key and IWTTF offers this in abundance, if there is a topic you need more information on the team is willing to work with you to gain the knowledge and share.  It is a fantastic organisation and the event is rewarding.


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