March is Women’s History Month in the USA and indeed in many other countries. International Women’s Day is March 8th. It marks the contribution made to history and contemporary society by women. So what has the effect been on the tourism industry?
Having been in the travel, tourism and hospitality business for a long time I can testify that the contributions of my female colleagues, bosses and mentors has been staggering. Certainly during my time there have been few, if any, barriers to women achieving their career roles. That extends across travel agencies, tour operators, airlines, shipping companies, travel technology…the list is almost endless.
The reason for this is simple. Not only are my female coworkers so good at the business of tourism, but our customers are often driven by the decisions of the women in the family.
As a young travel agent, one of my customers was the travel club of a large U.S. airbase in Great Britain. I had to visit the base and arrange the family travel of the airmen and airwomen stationed there. The families would come in and inevitably, regardless of the rank or sex of the serving member, it was the woman who made the decisions of when, where and how the whole family traveled. The same applied in civilian life. The decision makers, when it came to booking family vacations were inevitable the mothers.
That hasn’t changed over the years. Indeed recent research by some of our local Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus and tourist boards have recognized that the most influential customers are the ‘ Millennial Moms’. It is their decisions that drive the purchases and trends in our industry.
In writing this month’s article I have been trying to think of particular women in senior positions to illustrate the contribution of women to the business. In some industries it’s easy to find examples of female leadership, only because their are few. My problem in applying this to tourism and hospitality is that women occupy so many positions at every level that it’s very difficult to identify individuals. I know as many female heads of tourist boards as I do males. In our local area the head of Visit Florida is a woman, the head of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is a woman, the head of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Tourist Development Department is a woman, and the same applies to a number of other CVBs along the coast. I know many hotel GMs and CEOs who are female. The hospitality industry has a very high number of woman leaders, be that running hotels, hotel chains and restaurants.
Airlines have women in every sector and at every level. Yes, back sixty or seventy years ago airlines were male dominated but I don’t believe they are now. Wholly female aircrews are not unusual, although wholly male crews are! Women’s influence and guidance extends across the airline industry.
As I mentioned above, when making policy regarding to whom tourism marketing should be directed, the industry looks to women – the decision makers in most families.
I’ve worked with many wonderful people – both women and men – in my career and all have brought different skills and sensitivities to their roles. All are vital to achieve the right ‘balance’. In choosing who is best for the job, we must look at everything a person brings to a job.
Strangely enough it’s true to say that, in tourism and hospitality, the best man for the job is most often, a woman.