In January of this year, 127 women were inducted into Congress—a record-breaking number—but politics isn’t the only place where women are breaking barriers. The travel industry has many women in leadership roles—from hotel organizations to cruise lines, destinations, and tour companies. Here, we put the spotlight on four women who bring their own brand of girl power to the industry.
Women’s Role in the Industry
Lucille Sive, CEO of The Travel Corporation’s Africa Division, says “in an industry that is overwhelmingly male, having a female perspective is especially important when women make 80 percent of all travel decisions and nearly two-thirds of today’s travelers are women. Women are the main buyers for luxury experiences, so having more women in the travel industry can only help us create experiences relevant to this market.”
Helen Montijano, v.p. of sales and marketing, USA & Canada for Bahia Principe, notes that a woman’s unique perspective plays a vital role in the industry. “I think we have a different vision and commitment. We do not see the industry only as a job, but more of a core lifestyle and enjoy all the elements it entails: The challenges, traveling, meetings and understanding people and their requirements and knowing that the end result is enabling our customers to experience happiness.”
“This industry requires people to be creative and empathetic and women can contribute so much with that in mind,” says Heesun Kim, executive director of Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), LA office. Women bring a unique perspective to the industry, she adds, noting that “the difference may come from different leadership styles that cater to the younger generations. My generation was accustomed to taking orders but the younger generation requires more mentoring instead. I think women can be good listeners and mentors with our caring nature.”
Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, notes that, “The cruise industry has been quicker than most other sectors to embrace female leadership. Diversity of any form or flavor helps teams see new opportunities and seek more creative solutions.”
Privately owned Bahia Principe is headed by Dona Isabel Pinero and her three daughters, “who,” says Montijano, “are inspiring leaders of all areas of our company. Many key positions are in the hands of women, so in reality, the empowering is already a strong factor.”
At KTO, women are also making an impact with 44 percent of its workforce being of this gender and, in fact, it’s been recognized as a “Great Place to Work” due to their commitment to being female-employee friendly.
“Through our organizations, we give a hand up, rather than just a hand out,” says Sive. “One of my favorite projects is with Uthando because they help disadvantaged women in the Khayelitsha township gain skills and earn income. The company also partners with game reserves where more women are holding positions that were previously dominated by men.”
And Princess “recently honored 2nd Officer Ms. Kerry Ann Wright as the madrina of Sky Princess, Princess Cruises’ newest ship joining the fleet in October 2019,” says Swartz. “She joined our fleet as a spa therapist and decided she wanted to drive the ship instead. She switched careers, got more training and is now on her way to captain.”