Travel industry chiefs and next-generation female professionals from 18 countries headed to Iceland and pledged to accelerate gender diversity, gender balance and inclusion within the travel industry at the first International Women In Travel & Tourism Forum in Reykjavik, Iceland, from 24th – 25th January.

Delegates at this pioneering event came from a wide range of public and private sector travel organisations as well as women’s empowerment brands and academic institutions. Representatives from airlines such as Icelandair and easyJet, and senior leaders from PEAK DMC and TUI attended alongside male and female travel entrepreneurs from Ecuador to Lebanon. Despite the apparent organisational, cultural and regional differences, all attendees shared a passion for learning about, challenging and furthering their understanding of diversity and inclusion issues across their businesses and countries of origin.

Across the two days of speaker and panel sessions, inspirational women in the industry shared their personal experiences, industry observances and career advice. For example, keynote speaker Eliza Reid, Iceland’s First Lady, shared how greater gender parity had benefitted the whole of Iceland. The country, which has government legislation to drive greater gender balance, is both economically prosperous and high up on the index of happiest nations.

Jo Phillips, Chief People Officer, Carnival UK, stressed in her Forum opening remarks that “… inclusion and equality is now a key business imperative – and no longer a ‘should do’, so needs to be integrated into how we all do business every day.” Zina Bencheikh from PEAK DMC also highlighted during a panel discussion focused on international perspectives on gender and the cultural equation, it was ‘important to have strong women in tourism leadership positions that act as role models and inspire the next generation.’ This set the scene for the remainder of the event, with panellists suggesting ways women can tackle difficult conversations with their peers, and next-generation leaders sharing their challenges and aspirations with senior delegates during the Forum’s reverse mentoring session.

PEAK DMC also provided delegates with the chance to explore Iceland during complimentary sightseeing day tours which included visits to women-owned businesses. Furthermore, Forum attendees had access to a delegate app that will continue to be a tool for sharing event take-aways, best practice and real-life experiences in the months following the event, vital to ensuring the targets and progressions delegates pledged are taken forward, and before the 2021 International Women in Travel Forum.

Alessandra Alonso, founder of Women in Travel adds; “This first International Women in Travel Forum was developed by Women in Travel CIC in partnership with Promote Iceland, Carnival UK and PEAK DMC and I really couldn’t have asked for better partners for this event. The passion, knowledge and inspiration these partners brought to this event cannot be underestimated and we all fully intend to continue to collaborate on and take forward key events ‘take-aways’, such as an International Women in Travel Mentoring Programme, and our next event in 2021. I was delighted to announce at the conference that Morocco will be hosting our pioneering Forum in February 2021.”

Those interested in getting involved with the 2021 International Women in Travel Forum can register their interest by emailing Further details about the 2021 event will also be shared on the event website


For further information about Women in Travel, visit

Image Captions (from top left to bottom right):
Image 1: International Perspectives on Gender and the Cultural Equation panel discussion with (left to right): Dr. Albert Kimbu, University of Surrey; Zina Bencheikh, PEAK DMC; and Jennifer Morris, TTG Media.
Image 2: Key note speaker Eliza Reid, First Lady of Iceland, takes centre stage with (left to right): Oddný Arnarsdóttir, Promote Iceland; Alessandra Alonso, Women in Travel; Jo Philips, Carnival UK; and Maria Reynisdottir, Department of Tourism, Iceland.
Image 3: Leading the Industry panel discussion with (left to right): Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, Red Sea Development Company; Darshika Jones, Intrepid Travel; Abi Izanami, DiamondAir; and Veronica Velazquez, Expedia Group.

About Women in Travel
Women in Travel (CIC) started life as a gender focussed platform at World Travel Market flagship event in London, in 2014. Growing successfully from then onwards, in 2017 it was incorporated as a social enterprise dedicated to empowering women through employability and entrepreneurship in Travel Tourism and Hospitality. Its vision is to become a catalyst for sustainability by placing women at the heart of an industry which is inherently attractive to females and growing at a fast pace. It is the brain-child of Alessandra Alonso, who has been recognised as a trail-blazer when it comes to gender diversity in the industry and who has supported women in maximising their opportunity in the travel, tourism and hospitality (TTH) industry for well over a decade, originally through Shine & the Shine Awards. Women in Travel partners with employers to provide the first Women Returners service through which the industry can access a pool of marginalised but often highly skilled women who are eager to get back to work. Women in Travel also runs entrepreneurship focussed events, mentoring and networking supporting start up and early stage female entrepreneurs and those wanting to start a business, particularly of BAME background.


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