This year at ITB Berlin, we announced the winner of our first award, the Gender Equality Champion of the Year. The ceremony on the 8th March celebrated two Highly Commended runner ups – AdventureWomen from the United States, and ETUR from Ecuador. But it was Costa Rican travel operator Travel Excellence that took home the winning trophy after the award received over 40 applications from organisations across the globe.

Mareike Wielens from Travel Excellence collected the award from Dr. Stroma Cole and award sponsor Sustainable Hospitality Alliance’s Chair Wolfgang M Neumann.

The judging panel for the award were impressed at Travel Excellence’s commitment to gender equality. 60% of employees are women, with 58% of management titles also held by women. This comes as a stark contrast to the sector’s overall representation of women in senior positions. A recent review of publicly listed companies in the leisure industry found that 42% in mid-level management and 33% in senior management were women. 

The organisation publicly recognised that unconscious bias meant they could not make an objective evaluation of the gender inequality within their business. They began to rigorously review their policies and built a plan and legislation that came from the ground up through discussion groups to close gender gaps.

They also formed a Sexual and Work Harassment Committee, and provided training centred around topics such as work/life balance and co-responsibility at home. Travel Excellence ensured masculinity workshops were held that re-visited ways to deal with conflict and how to be a protagonist in the creation of a gender equal society. 

Travel Excellence spoke about their work on the panel during the latter part of the award ceremony, stating that they learnt a lot about their company in the process of applying. Wielens felt that the criteria and questions in the application form encouraged them to review existing working practices, and improve the working environment. For future applicants, Wielens advised that future organisations need to “be motivated, feel it, and you’ll have the results”. 

The panel was hosted by Dr. Stroma Cole, our Director, and joining Travel Excellence were guests Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, Maud Masiyiwa, Associate of Equality in Tourism, and Domenica Barahona, General Manager of runner up ETUR. The discussion focused on the importance of the award, where organisations are falling behind, and what the sector can do to embrace gender equality. 

With sponsorship from the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and ITB, the award will continue to celebrate innovative businesses for their gender equality work for the years to come. 
Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, comments, “It’s an honour to sponsor such a prestigious award for Equality in Tourism. Celebrating organisations who are addressing the need for gender equality within the sector, is a priority and this year’s winner is very much deserved. The award aligns with our Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality, addressing fairness in the industry when it comes to people. I’m certain that as the awards mature, we’ll be acknowledging more winners, like Travel Excellence who we’re awarding today.”

For media enquiries about the Alliance, please contact:
–        Emily McLeish, Head of Communications, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance,

About the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance
The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance brings together hospitality industry leaders and strategic partners to address critical challenges affecting the planet, its people, local destinations, and communities. They develop practical free resources and programmes to create a prosperous and responsible hospitality sector that gives more back than it takes.
The Alliance currently has over 30 members with a reach of 7 million rooms. It includes world-leading hotel companies, including Choice Hotels, Marriott International, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt and Radisson Hotel Group, regional brands, and other stakeholders in the hospitality value chain.
Their network also includes other parts of the hospitality value chain, including owners, investors and suppliers, to drive further joined-up action on sustainability and accelerate the industry on the path to net positive hospitality. For more information, please visit

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