Allyship, an intentional and impactful means of advocating for underrepresented groups, stands as a cornerstone for transformative change within industries. This year on hertelier, we have put the spotlight on the men who are making a difference in hospitality with our "Ally of the Month" interviews, be sure to make it to the end of this article for those links! In this moment of reflection, we wanted to dive deeper into the importance of allyship in travel, tourism, and hospitality, so we've turned to the experts at Women in Travel CIC, who have spearheaded an amazing allyship initative that is catalyzing a wave of inclusivity and empowerment. We chat with Alessandra Alonso, founder of Women in Travel CIC, and Simona Listvanaite, who manages the allyship program, to shed light on the significance of allyship and the profound impact it can have.
Hi ladies, tell us, why is allyship so important?
(Alessandra) We are prime believers that Allyship is an intentional way of supporting and advocating for individuals and groups whose voices are underrepresented. In the tourism and hospitality industries, Allyship is particularly important because women and non-binary individuals, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ+ community or indeed those who sit at the intersection of two or more of these are often underrepresented in leadership positions and/or face significant barriers to advancement. Allies can use their positional power as well as privileges such as their skin colour to influence, challenge and dismantle systemic oppression and promote equity and inclusion.
By creating an organisational culture of safety, support and respect for all employees, clients and stakeholders, regardless of their gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other identity factors, allies can foster innovation, creativity, and better customer experiences. This is why we provide opportunities to engage in allyship not only on individual but also on corporate levels. It’s important not to forget that we live in a world of constantly evolving values and changing expectations on the part of travellers who seek socially responsible and inclusive players in the industry.
Tell us a bit about the Women in Travel CIC allyship program?
(Alessandra) Our Male Allyship Network was set up in 2021 with the backing of senior industry leaders. It is an international network, with allies and mentees located around the world! Our senior male leaders and our allies want to see themselves as part of the solution, not the problem. They engage, support and commit to champion and mentor women and non-binary individuals in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, who in turn see mentoring, and male allyship as a way to grow personally and professionally.
Mentoring is core to all we do here at WIT CIC and is part of our values. Now we are in Cohort 3 of the programme, having close to 40 Allies and 40 Mentees and what is clearly emerging is that Allies actually benefit from Reverse Mentoring as much if not more than their mentees! . M.A.N is not only about 1-on-1 mentoring but also about the community, we run a bunch of peer-to-peer networking events online, programme review and learning sessions with industry experts and occasional in-person meet-ups.
(Simona) The commitment is 1-2 hours a month, and we try to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules by recording the sessions and sharing resources. DEI and Allyship Training is also part of the programme, so there are a lot of opportunities to learn and raise awareness. We are proud to say that we have Allies who have been with us since the day we launched, already mentoring their third mentee and supporting us as Ambassadors and Advocates. As for mentees, it’s a professional and personal development journey for them. They are strong, committed individuals who not only see this as an opportunity to receive advice but also share their unique female perspective, support the community and inspire others, especially allies through reverse mentoring.
"At WeTravel, we understand the importance of initiatives that foster inclusivity within the travel industry, which is why we're proud to be a Corporate Allyship Member of Women in Travel. Our team is incredibly excited to support emerging travel professionals who identify as women by providing them with the resources and support they need for success." ––Shayna Zand, Director of Partnerships and Enterprise Sales at WeTravel
After seeing the impact of allyship on individual levels, companies in the industry started asking us how they get involved and make a bigger impact, so this year we launched our Corporate Allyship Member, and proud to say, that WeTravel became our first Corporate Ally, opening the programme not only for their employees but also partners. We received such great feedback from them and would love to see more Corporate Allies joining, elevating and receiving all the benefits.
How have women been impacted by the program?
(Simona) Women in our programme always refer to Male Allyship as an empowering experience - having built greater confidence in themselves, their ideas and their businesses. They grow personally and professionally, develop new knowledge and make friends along the way. Having a friendly, open and non-judgmental environment where they can be truly honest about their challenges but also celebrate their successes with pride and joy is special. We highly root for and support everyone and invest in relationships beyond just a one-year programme. Mentees have an opportunity to stay in touch with the group through our Alumni programme and events. The biggest reward for us is seeing how much more resilient, empowered and connected Mentees finish the programme.
Louella Fisher, Director Flight Partner Services EMEA at Booking Holdings
I am very pleased to have joined the programme and I am grateful to have met my mentor. I feel lucky that we were matched as we are very aligned in our thinking and outlook, and having a male ally and mentor has really helped me to think differently and to approach certain situations with a fresh perspective.
Samantha Sellers, Founder & Director, Take Me to Africa
Having a mentor in the industry has been so fantastic and has really helped me grow in confidence, which has in turn meant I have been able to grow the business beyond all expectations in such a short time. I was so well matched with my mentor that I now also have a friend for life!
What is the feedback from the men involved in the program?
We have cases when men came to us saying that they learned more from their mentee than their Mentee did - how positive is that?
(Simona) Brilliant! We have cases when men came to us saying that they learned more from their mentee than their Mentee did - how positive is that?
Everyone has their own different takeaways but allies agree that taking part provided them with a better understanding of the female perspective, and the challenges women and non-binary individuals face and encouraged them to be a force for good in the travel industry. Allies highly appreciate the opportunity to give back in meaningful ways. We provide allyship training, and peer mentoring sessions so they not only spend time with their mentee but also with each other, to learn about different approaches to mentoring. Frankly, the knowledge they gain is a crucial step toward becoming better leaders in their own organizations.
I must highlight the following feedback that they shared with us:
Clive Wratten, CEO, The BTA (Business Travel Association)
It's been a great experience and it's so rewarding to have hopefully helped my mentee in her career, alongside making a new acquaintance and developing my own skills.
Shaon Talukder, CEO, Geotourist
The programme has helped me recognise how to identify ways to support others and offer a safe space for them to share their real challenges. Active listening is a key skill which will ensure that you can really make progress.
A call to action for male leaders, mentees and organisations who want to get involved…
(Simona) We want to encourage everyone interested to join us! Now we not only have Individual Membership but also Corporate Allyship Membership, which provides a possibility for making an even bigger impact. You have the power and influence to make a difference in our beloved Travel, Tourism and Hospitality industries. We believe and appreciate your strong expertise and experience and through collaboration with Mentees, you can be heard and seen as thought and action leaders. Please reach out to me at email@example.com and I will be happy to guide you forward. Why not make this a positive action and commitment for 2024?
Thank you, Alessandra and Simona. I can vouch for the Allyship Program, because I am a member with my amazing ally Shaon Talukder, CEO, Geotourist, who in just a few calls has already helped me so much!
For more amazing advice from male allies we love, please check out our interviews: