Travel Industry: another case of ‘best and whitest’?

Travel Industry: another case of ‘best and whitest’?

If like me you have even vaguely followed the social media fun-fair caused by the Oscar ceremonies, it won’t have escaped you the fact this year a number of quasi political statements / messages have been made on the occasion by actors, director and hosts.

Actress Patricia Arquette for example in her acceptance speech talked about the need to get women  in the film industry a fairer deal when it comes to pay and salaries….Travel industry please take notice.

Even more interestingly, In opening the event host Neil Patrick Harris began  “We’re here to celebrate the best and whitest — I mean brightest,” clearly deploring the lack of diversity at this year’s top event ( and probably at previous years too). This really set me thinking about possible parallels with the travel industry. I have been investigating and advocating the role of women in the travel and tourism industry for over a decade now, but what about ethnic minorities’ women AND men? Where are the inspirational African and Asian role models in this supposedly truly global and international industry?  How many could I think of international status? Very few indeed if any, was the answer. So I did a quick search through tourism associations, agents groups and similar and here in the UK hardly an ethnic face popped up. For example trailing through the 100 most powerful women in the sector according to the British skills council People 1st I only found four women belonging to the so called ‘ bame’ ( Black and Asian Minority Ethnic)  group, one in transport and three in the restaurant/hospitality subsector. Yet – even without looking at the readily available  official stats – we all know instinctively that this situation is not representative of the diversity existing in our communities, not even as far as our clients and customers are concerned. I know of one lady who has recently launched a niche travel business for ethnic minority groups and she explained to me that there is a gap in the market for this type of services but she feels she is alone in trying to fill it. I doubt ‘bame’ male colleagues fare all that much better….naturally there are senior representatives at tourist board level, both men and women, but the point remains valid in my opinion.

At a time when talent appears to be scarce and the need to gain a competitive edge is critical to the success of the industry,  we lack role models, aspirational figures and mentors for a new generation of ‘bame’ travel superstars! If you happen to be one of them I suggest you shout it from the roof top as your solitary voice may need to travel quite far to be heard.

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Alessandra is founder of social enterprise Women in Travel CIC which she launched in January 2017 to provide communities in key regions (for example UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry. Alessandra is also Chief Mentor & Consultant at Everyday Mentor, where she provides mentoring, coaching and consulting services to a range of clients in the commercial and public sector. Alessandra also collaborates with a number of Universities, including Hertfordshire, Normandy and Surrey. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject over the last 12 years, including at the United Nations World Tourism Day. She is well known as co-founder of Shine People and Places – a boutique outfit dedicate to supporting women in the workplace - and The Shine Awards for Women Achievements in Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events, which she ran between 2004 and 2010 before Sector Skills Council People 1st took them over. Prior to Shine Alessandra worked at KPMG, where she built the Travel & Tourism division, and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Alessandra has an executive MBA from the University of Ediburgh/Grande Ecole Pons combined; she is a qualified coach/mentor for performance in the workplace and she is a member of several industry bodies including AWTE and the UK Tourism Society.

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