It’s no secret that women play numerous roles in the travel and trade industry. From providing support and services at a grassroot level, being employers and agents of change, running agencies, businesses and firms that provide a variety of services and products – women do it all. In fact, the majority of the workforce in tourism is made up of women. Data from World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) say that it represents 54% of the total number of employers in that sector.
In the Irish travel and trade industry, stories of trail blazing women entrepreneurs are well-known. Be it Mary Fitzgerald who apart from being the founder of Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel & Spa, was also the first woman president of the Irish Hotels Federation, to Tanya Airey of Sunway Holidays and more such phenomenal women.
On International Women’s Day 2023, it’s time to hear from some of the women themselves – those that play an important and inspiring role in the Irish travel and trade industry.
Jenny Rafter, Head of Global Leisure Sales at Aer Lingus says that the International Women’s Day gives “the women in the travel sector the opportunity to celebrate each others’ roles across our industry. It is vitally important we continue to create a culture of open communication and unlocking the potential for all through learning and networking. Personally I have encountered challenges in navigating my career as a female and working mother, acknowledging experiences women may face in the workplace and calling out those mentors who help along the way means we are stronger together.”
A good point indeed and very relevant to the theme for International Women’s Day 2023 – ‘Embrace Equity‘. It’s about imaging a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
In fact, in March 2022, a new set of guidelines were published by the UNWTO. These were developed with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and UN Women.
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili had said at the publication of these guidelines: “The restart of tourism must include everyone and the benefits must be enjoyed by all. Tourism has proven itself a true champion of gender equality and these new guidelines will help both governments and businesses harness the sector’s power as a driver of women’s empowerment as the world opens up again”.
Coming back to Ireland and the women in the Irish travel trade, we have Lorraine Quinn, Managing Director, The Travel Suite who is of the opinion that, “Working in the travel industry is extremely rewarding. Travel is fast moving, dynamic and ever evolving, I continue to learn each day and am continually inspired by such amazing colleagues and leaders in our industry. Our community in travel is so supportive and encouraging, we want to attract more young people to join this great industry. International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate and challenge ourselves for a better future for all in this industry.“
Deirdre Sweeny, General Manager – Cruise, Worldwide, USA & Niche, Sunway Holidays seems to agree. She says, “I have worked in the travel industry all my adult life. It’s exciting empowering and full of challenges and surprises. As a woman in the industry, I work alongside some amazing people who have encouraged, taught and encouraged me throughout. I love the industry and enjoy encouraging new recruit.”
Maura Fahy, Managing Director, Fahy Travel, Galway gives us an interesting insight. She says, “The founder of Fahy Travel was a female, Kate A Fahy. She was widowed at a young age and from helping others looking for a better life abroad grew a shipping agency that has moved and changed with the times.
The travel industry lends itself to female entrepreneurs, good at looking after people, listening and problem solving, all the traits needed in any business. The industry is changing fast and with increased technology there is more opportunity for women trying to juggle home and work life.“
Sharon Jordan, Owner and Managing Director, ITTN recognises the opportunities that the travel industry has offered her: “Working in travel has afforded me experiences and opportunities that I may not have had working in other industries. I’ve visited portions of the world for work and worked hard to better myself over the years. If I had any advise for future female colleagues it would be to network, network, network and always follow up.“
On that note, wishing everyone a very happy Women’s Day. Here’s hoping that we continue to implement tangible changes day in and day out, when it comes to making a real difference and creating a gender equal world – at workplaces, homes, and across different sectors and segments.