After months of planning, the inaugural International Women In Travel & Tourism Forum took place in Iceland in January, promoted by GEC PR and attended by travel industry chiefs and next-generation female professionals from 18 countries. The inaugural Forum came into being after Alessandra Alonso, founder of Women in Travel (CIC)chaired a World Travel Market 2018 panel debate celebrating the 100th anniversary of Women’s suffrage.

Sitting on the panel alongside Alessandra were the three additional innovators behind the Forum: Eliza Reid, the First Lady of Iceland; Zina Bencheikh, the Regional General Manager for Europe, Middle East and North Africa at PEAK DMC; and Jo Phillips, Chief People Officer at Carnival UK. A key issue discussed during the panel was the need to encourage those in the travel industry to better articulate their vision of a gender-inclusive industry. As a result, and with additional support from Promote Iceland, the first International Women in Travel & Tourism Forum was born.

Here are three key takeaways from the First Women in Travel & Tourism Forum:

  1. Gender equality makes economic sense: During the forum, delegates heard from the inspirational keynote speaker (and Iceland’s First Lady) Eliza Reid, who discussed how greater gender parity had benefitted the whole of Iceland. The country, whose government legislation drives greater gender balance, is both economically prosperous and high up on the index of happiest nations. Where government legislation does not yet exist, businesses can also step in to either lobby government or create greater gender equality within their teams as research shows that companies leading in gender equality perform better financially too.
  2. Sharing and mentoring are powerful career tools: At the Forum, next-generation leaders sharing their challenges and aspirations with senior delegates during the Forum’s reverse mentoring session. The insights this session revealed highlighted the importance of sharing experience and mentoring and so Women in Travel has launched an International Women in Travel Mentoring Programme to take this work forward. A delegate app for the event will also 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.
  3.  Flexibility in business practices can make huge differences to female employees: Since women globally are still predominantly the family members most likely to manage household chores, childcare and care of sick family members, initiatives such as affordable childcare, shared parental leave and flexible working hours can result in a huge difference for a woman’s work life balance. Flexibility in a female employee’s work schedule can assist with managing their work and home time, as rigidity in work schedules is often cited as a key reason for females to opt out of the workplace altogether.

The next International Women in Travel & Tourism Forum will take place in Morocco in early 2021. Those interested in getting involved can register their interest by emailing