Industry news

Celebrating Five Gender Equality Wins in Tourism During 2023

We round-up positive stories of businesses and organisations advancing gender equality within tourism, from boardrooms to the Kilimanjaro mountainside.

A group of Exodus Travels' Mountain Lioness guides in Tanzania
Mountain Lioness guides in Tanzania. Credit Exodus Travels.

The start of the new year is always a great opportunity to reflect on last year’s progress. So, we wanted to spotlight positive stories from 2023 showing businesses and organisations advancing gender equality within tourism. We touch on headlines that take us from boardrooms, to the mountainside of Kilimanjaro, to ITB Berlin.

This isn’t only about celebrating success – it’s about inspiration for the year ahead too. Whether you’re just starting out in the industry or a seasoned professional, we hope these stories leave you fired up to push forward gender equality in 2024.

Marriott Continues Its Journey to Gender Parity

Marriott International is known for its commitment to equality, even achieving gender parity in executive roles two years ahead of its initial target. Looking ahead, they’re aiming for women and people of colour to own an impressive 3,000 of their properties, along with ensuring people of colour hold 25% of executive positions by the year 2025.

 Equality isn’t just a buzzword here – the hotel chain is staying true to its promise of ‘Putting People First’. In 2024, we hope to see more major industry names both showing enthusiasm for equality and taking the action to make it happen.

Travel Excellence Wins Gender Equality Champion of the Year 2023

Of course, we had to mention the Gender Equality Champion of the Year Award. We launched the Award in 2022 to inspire progress and celebrate the achievements of the tourism and hospitality sector.

On International Women’s Day 2023, Costa Rican travel operator Travel Excellence was named the first ever Gender Equality Champion, during a presentation at ITB Berlin. They recognised unconscious biases affecting gender equality evaluations within their business and took action with a thorough review of their policies. Engaging in inclusive discussions, they developed a comprehensive plan to address and eliminate gender gaps.

There’s still time to apply to be Gender Equality Champion 2024! Applications close on 24th January and we’ll be back at ITB Berlin to announce this year’s winner. Sign up to our newsletter at the end of this page for all the updates.

Travel Excellence collects Gender Equality Award at ITB, with judges and runner-up ETUR
2023 Gender Equality Champion Travel Excellence and runner-up ETUR collect awards at ITB Berlin

Tanzanian Tour Operators Launch New Association

With a group of 40 founding female members from different backgrounds, the Tanzania Association of Women Tour Operators (TAWTO) is boosting women’s empowerment and elevating young voices in the field. Led by Ms. Mwakajila, the chairperson of TAWTO, the organisation focuses on developing tourism businesses in ways that benefit local communities. 

Through its training programmes, TAWTO is creating exciting opportunities for Tanzanian women, giving them a chance to thrive and achieve economic independence through tourism. 

Exodus Travels’ Kilimanjaro Lionesses Lead the Way on Gender Equality

Elsewhere in Tanzania, Exodus Travels trained their 28th Kilimanjaro ‘Mountain Lioness’ tour guide. In partnership with Robertson Outdoor Bursary and the College of African Wildlife Management, the ethical tour operator’s scholarship scheme helps women overcome the social stigma and economic difficulties that stop women becoming guides. 

Two more women will be trained in 2024, while a follow-up programme will upskill the guides even further. Both the economic benefits and chance for self-development of this scholarship are life-changing. The impact reaches beyond these individuals too, paving the road for future young women to become guides. 

Exodus Travels Mountain Lioness guides laughing together
Mountain Lioness guides. Credit Exodus Travels.

Zimbabwean Hotel Manager Spearheads Sustainability Initiative

Many women in tourism are overcoming resistance from colleagues and the community to revolutionise sustainable tourism practices. Ropafadzaishe Mushoorwa, a 32-year-old hotel manager in Zimbabwe’s Great Zimbabwe monument area, is one of them. 

She transformed Glenlivet Resort into a beacon of sustainability through training programmes, climate change awareness initiatives, and clean-up campaigns in the Beza Mountain Range. However, putting these into practice wasn’t easy. Ropa’s policies were often ignored, her authority undermined, her efforts unrecognised – as is often the story for women trying to champion change. 

Staff from Glenlivet Resort take part in clean-up activity
Staff take part in a clean-up activity. Credit Glenlivet Resort.

This might not sound like a gender equality breakthrough. But Ropa’s determination and success in the face of resistance makes her an inspiring example to other women in the industry. She represents the women pioneering gender equality at an individual level. More importantly, it’s a reminder for decision-makers to recognise the transformative potential of women-led initiatives. 

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