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#IWTTF2024: Aging is Not Linear + If You Don’t Have A Longevity Strategy, You Don’t Have A Growth Strategy

Still buzzing from the fifth annual, sold-out Women in Travel CIC International Women in Travel and Tourism Forum (IWTTF) held in London this week.  Filled with insights, inspiration and celebration, the event was spread across two days with an IWTTF awards ceremony recognizing both companies and individuals hosted by Expedia, followed by a full day at Google’s London HQ of presentations, panels, and important conversations, with lots of time for networking in between. 


Alessandra Alonso, Founder and Managing Director of Women in Travel CIC and IWTTF, and Zina Bencheikh, Managing Director EMEA, Intrepid Travel, created an engaging and interesting agenda, guided by entertaining MC Jo Rzymowska. Though tackling tough topics from age discrimination and the gender pay gap to FGM and the need for more resources for disabled travelers, the mood was upbeat and the energy of the crowd was electric. Speaking of the crowd, this is my third time attending IWTTF, and without fail every year the conference draws a fantastic mix of entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, travel media, with some of the women just starting their career journeys and others with decades of experience. I was thrilled to see even more men this year, thanks to Women in Travel CIC’s ever-growing male allyship program.


Lots of insights to share from the day, so this is the first in a two-part series.


Avivah Wittenberg Cox

Life Isn’t Linear!


The keynote by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox about how longevity and generational balance is impacting our lives, our business and society was mind-blowing. If you are not familiar with her work, Aviva is a CEO, author, speaker, coach, consultant and global expert on 21st-century leadership, gender and generational balance, longevity and the future of work and careers. A regular contributor to Forbes and Harvard Business Review, her books range from ‘Why Women Mean Business’, to ‘Thriving to 100 – Through Life’s 4 Quarters,’ the basis of her talk at IWTTF.  


For the first time in history, societal demographics have moved from pyramids to squares. We are generally balanced, which means we need to prepare for an older population in terms of workforce, customers and how we shape our own lives and careers.  She shared lots of eye-opening facts like 50% of children born today will live past 100. Science has given people another 30 years of quality living. 


What does all this mean? The old linear idea of “learn, work, retire” is outdated. As careers stretch from 30-year sprints to 50-year marathons, the reality is more circular, you may learn and work with breaks for everything from parenting and further education to side-hustles; these transitions will become more common and more acceptable. Already, 40% of the US workforce is over 50.  


You Need to View Your Life In Quarters


She suggests reframing life into quarters each lasting 25 years, “Q1: GROW, Q2: ACHIEVE, Q3: BECOMING and Q4: HARVESTING.” She explained that people need to become much more skilled at transitioning through life, which will require a mid-life “MOT” where we skill up for the second half of life.  The linear idea of life was never designed for women, because in Q2 (aged late 20s to 50) with careers and family there are too many demands. For women, Q3 is where we can have the most impact. Also, in every career and life there are moments of plateau.  While society is working on gender balance, she predicts the next phase is generational balance. Skilling up leaders to be longevity ready is going to be a core challenge, noting that we are ageist against ourselves.


Are You Ready to Deal With An Aging Workforce and Customer?


Not only does this impact your own life, but it should reframe how you look at how you operate your business and appeal to customers.  Agism is still rampant in marketing, consumer facing companies are missing out as half of the purchasing power resides with people 50+.  Very little attention is being paid to the “Longevity Economy,” older people with time and money, especially in the travel industry.  Ads and commercials for this market are depressing and don’t represent the lives of people 50+. She concluded with, “if you don’t have a longevity strategy, you don’t have a growth strategy.”

“If you don’t have a longevity strategy, you don’t have a growth strategy.”

More to come from #IWTTF2024 !


Stay tuned for highlights from the rest of the sessions on a range of topics from inclusive leadership to accessible travel, traveling in midlife and travel as a driver of positive change. Speakers and panellists included Darrell Wade (Intrepid Travel), Richard Thompson (Inclu Travel) and Angus Drummond (Limitless Travel), Nicky Lyle (Hotelplan), Klaudija Janzelj (TUI), Pegi Amarteifio (Small Luxury Hotels of the World), Shayna Zand (We Travel), Uwern Jong (OutThere), Nicola Degnan (Hays Travel) and Feria Kazemi (Google).

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