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#IWTTF2024: Top Takeaways You Need to Know

So many hot 🔥 topics discussed at the fifth annual Women in Travel CIC International Women in Travel and Tourism Forum (IWTTF) held in London last week, we needed to do two articles!! Be sure to read article #1, a recap of the amazing keynote by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox about how longevity and generational balance is impacting our lives, our business and society


Alessandra Alonso, Founder and Managing Director of Women in Travel CIC and IWTTF, and Zina Bencheikh, Managing Director EMEA, Intrepid Travel, created a super engaging and interesting agenda, guided by entertaining MC Jo Rzymowska. Let's jump into the top takeaways!!


IWTTF2024 IWTTF
“I don’t like the term ‘Inclusive Leadership,’ it’s just leadership.” –– Intrepid Travel Co-Founder and Chair Darrell Wade

In a frank conversation with Darrell Wade, Intrepid Travel Founder and Chair shared his career journey, creating and leading the highly regarded travel company. Inspired by his mother and crediting three female allies at Intrepid who helped him lead, he noted that “allyship is not hierarchical.” In terms of leadership, he doesn’t like the term inclusive leadership, noting that you always have to include all your stakeholders and any company is a function of its culture. Transparency is key to inclusivity. 


Darrell Wade, Intrepid Travel Founder and Chair  IWTTF
Darrell Wade, Intrepid Travel Founder and Chair and Alessandra Alonso, IWTTF

Take action on DEI, get involved! 


With the recent DEI backlash top of mind –as well as a discussion point in the conversation with Darrell Wade—the “Allyship Revisited” panel was  moderated by Dan Pearce, CEO, TTG Media and reinforced what we know to be true.  We need our allies!


Shayna Zand, Director of Partnerships & Enterprise Sales, WeTravel; David Atkin, MD, Atkin Jones Limited, Clara Lojo, Travel Designer & Founder, Clara Lojo, Jackie Clark, Diamond Air
Daniel Pierce, CEO, TTG; Shayna Zand, Director of Partnerships & Enterprise Sales, WeTravel; Uwern Jong, OutThere; Jackie Clark, Diamond Air; Clara Lojo, Travel Designer & Founder, Clara Lojo, David Atkin, MD, Atkin Jones Limited

Panelists included Shayna Zand, Director of Partnerships & Enterprise Sales, WeTravel; David Atkin, MD, Atkin Jones Limited, Clara Lojo, Travel Designer & Founder, Clara Lojo, Jackie Clark, Diamond Air who reminded  us that “You can do anything you want as long as you are curious enough to ask.” and Uwern Jong, Founder + Chief Expierientalist, OutThere who emphasized,  “Everyone loves to talk about DEI and feel they have done their bit. But really what is needed when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, is for people to catch the ball, don’t pass it along, and take action.”


“Everyone loves to talk about DEI and feel they have done their bit. But really what is needed when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, is for people to catch the ball, don’t pass it along, and take action.” –– Uwern Jong

Allyship is a two-way street. 


Women In Travel’s Male Allyship programme has been in place for 3 years and has grown from a core of 12 to over 40 members. (Side note: I’m one of them! My fabulous ally, Shaon Talukder, CEO of Geotourist, has been an amazing advisor and resource.) During the course of the conference, many of the men noted that allyship is a two-way street, the allies shared they get as much out of the mentoring program as the women.  Participant Clara Lojo shared that with the help of her ally, she grew revenues 60% at her eponymous travel company. More information on the Women in Travel CIC Male Allyship Network


The disabled traveler market represents billions in untapped revenue, embrace it! 


According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people—about 15% of the world's population—live with a disability. A recent study by the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) projects that by 2030, Europe's accessible tourism market could soar to €88.6 billion annually. Embracing and catering to this traveler segment isn't just the right thing to do; it's also a smart business opportunity.


Natalie Clarke disabled travel
Alessandra Alonso interviews Natalie Clarke

One of the most incredible sessions was a conversation with Nadia Clarke, who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound. She is also deaf and can communicate only via sign language and an electronic voice aid. Despite these challenges, she's a dedicated adventure traveler who has been skiing in Austria, backpacked around Australia where she was the first person to use the disabled lift at the Sydney opera house, and toured around Dubai and the UAE, which she shared is an incredibly welcoming destination for disabled travelers. She has made it her mission to tick experience after experience off her travel list because travel is good for her mental health. She is going camping in Spain this summer! Nadia travels with her wheelchair and an aid. 


While she noted that society is becoming more welcoming to disabled people, the travel industry needs to improve. Some of her suggestions: wheelchair accessible planes, deaf awareness training and interpreters for deaf people, accessible hotel rooms with adjoining rooms for carers.


From neurodiversity to physical disabilities, the key message from the panel discussion on the topic is that we need to be more aware and inclusive. The industry also needs to advocate for government assistance. The general chorus for the session: “Stop being frightened. Disability is cool! Embrace it. Love it!”  


“Accessibility is created by architects. Inclusivity is created by customer service.” –– Richard Thompson, CEO, IncluCare & IncluPrive Travel

Shift your lens: local perspectives enrich travel experiences and local economies. 


Driven by her own experience as a child bride, Hellen Nkuraiya founded Tepesua Community-Based Organization in Kenya's Maasai community to provide girls with an education, aiming to end the practice of marrying them off in exchange for cows and the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM). Hellen shared her journey of establishing the school, which now serves 107 girls. When her school faced funding challenges during COVID-19, Intrepid Travel came to the rescue by incorporating a visit to her campus into one of their women-only tours of Kenya.  Allowing travelers to see Kenya from the local perspective makes for a more meaningful experience for the visitors and benefits the local economy. 


Hellen Nkuraiya founded Tepesua Community-Based Organization in Kenya's Maasai community
Hellen Nkuraiya, shared her story of founding the Tepesua Community-Based Organization in Kenya's Maasai community

This segued nicely into a conversation about how to diversify travel product through different perspectives moderated by Shayna Kudler, Social Media Manager, Eurailwith Klaudija Janzelj, Head of City Experiences, TUI; Pegi Amarteifio, VP, Global PR and Communication, Small Luxury Hotels of the World Management Ltd; Patricia Bergler, Head of Marketing Solutions, TourRadar; and Vaishali Patel, TourGuide & Writer.


“There has been a shift in the definition of luxury. Used to be about material things, now it is about hyper local, immersive experiences that reveal who you are as a person.” –– Pegi Amarteifio, VP, Global PR and Communication 

Older women are hot, especially when it comes to travel, yet few companies are paying attention. 


The perfect bookend to the conference, which started with the keynote on aging and generational balance, was the final panel session “AGEnts of Change: Celebrating Midlife through Work and Leisure.” All the data tells us that consumers are living longer and that the fastest growing segment in the travel market, with most of the disposable income, is women over 50. Yet, embracing aging travelers (and employees) remains a trend that travel companies have yet to jump on. The marketing is “stale and pale” or full of “smug silvers,” just not relatable to the market they need to reach. 


Carolyn Ray, CEO, Journey Woman Nicky Lyle, Group HR Director, Hotelplan Alice Morrison, Explorer, BBC Presenter Meera Dattani, Freelance Travel Journalist & Senior Editor, Adventure.com Moderated by Debbie Marshall, Managing Director, Silver Marketing Association
AGEnts of Change panelists: Carolyn Ray, CEO, Journey Woman Nicky Lyle, Group HR Director, Hotelplan Alice Morrison, Explorer, BBC Presenter Meera Dattani, Freelance Travel Journalist & Senior Editor, Adventure.com Moderated by Debbie Marshall, Managing Director, Silver Marketing Association

Carolyn Ray, CEO of Journey Woman, has staked her bet on appealing to the aging female traveler, and is reaping the rewards.  Smart brands are following suit to attract the growing 50+ market, and as employers the clever companies are also sorting out menopause, flexible working and the gender pay gap (which is exacerbated in retirement).


A Safe Space to Learn About Hot Topics Around DEI


In chatting with attendees during the breaks and meals, women and men came to learn and network with industry colleagues. Charlotta Trimby, Beth Denyer, and Sabine Bullmore recently joined Expedia from the construction, tech and video game industries, which are all male dominated. They shared that attending IWTTF was a chance for them to understand opportunities for women within the travel landscape to be leaders and mentors.


Charlotta Trimby, Beth Denyer, and Sabine Bullmore from Expedia
Charlotta Trimby, Beth Denyer, and Sabine Bullmore from Expedia

These highlights are just the top-line of the many powerful insights shared at IWTTF.  Highly recommend putting this important conference on your calendar for next year.


What else you need to know: check out Women in Travel’s programming––ElevateHER, a six month master class program and a new LeadHER, leadership program.  


And…mark your calendars, Women in Travel CIC will be hosting another IWTTF in Dubai in November for the first time ever!


Hope to see you there!


IWTTF 2024
Key Takeaways shared at the end of the IWTTF.

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