Hospitality, Travel & Leisure CEOs, CPOs and D&I Leaders Convene to Discuss How to Further Drive Forward Inclusive Leadership

Hospitality, Travel & Leisure CEOs, CPOs and D&I Leaders Convene to Discuss How to Further Drive Forward Inclusive LeadershipLondon, UK – Produced by WiHTL, the inaugural Festival of Inclusion in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure (HTL) saw over 1200 attendees and 75 speakers convene for 2 days of panel discussions, case studies and debate on how to create inclusive workplaces in the HTL industry.

Last week’s WiHTL’s inaugural Festival of Inclusion in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure (HTL) saw over 1200 people attend a truly electrifying virtual event.

The Festival drew upon the unique power of the WiHTL Collaboration Community to bring together CEOs, CPOs, Global D&I leaders from across the sector along with world renowned D&I thought leaders to celebrate diversity across the industry, showcase great examples of tangible initiatives that have a positive impact, raise awareness of the benefits of inclusive cultures and inspire people whatever their background or circumstances to join and progress within the Hospitality, Travel and Leisure industry.

Tea Colaianni, Founder and Chair of WiHTL, said “As we reopen our industry and welcome customers through the doors of our restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, airplanes, attractions and venues, it’s been absolutely fantastic to see so many leaders join the event and actively demonstrate their commitment and passion to drive forward further progress in diversity, inclusion and belonging and celebrate how diverse, inclusive and fun our industry is.”
We believe that no single company can make a difference on their own and that together we can foster collaboration, sharing, learning and the co-creation of tangible solutions

“Despite the industry’s current challenges in what are unprecedented times, leaders from across the hospitality, travel and leisure industry gathered to stand together in support of inclusion with all of the nearly 3 million employees we positively impact with the work that we do collaboratively with so many companies across the industry. We believe that no single company can make a difference on their own and that together we can foster collaboration, sharing, learning and the co-creation of tangible solutions. And that industry wide collaboration is exactly what shone through at the Festival.”

To open the Festival, Tea Colaianni Founder & Chair WiHTL introduced Paul Pomroy, CEO, McDonald’s UK & Ireland along with June Sarpong, TV Presenter, Diversity Expert & Award-winning Author for an insightful discussion on the impact of the pandemic on inclusive leadership.

When it comes to creating a culture of inclusive leadership, Pomroy shared “As a leader, what has worked really well is encouraging conversations on diversity, asking leaders what steps they are taking to create inclusive cultures in their teams. Through celebrating those leaders who are embracing and shifting their cultures, the rest of the leadership team now understands what is expected and what ‘makes’ McDonald’s in this current time.”
“I’m a big believer that inclusion is really the starting point for diversity, and enables innovation.”

Later that day Debbie Hewitt MBE Chair The Restaurant Group echoed that point by sharing “It’s those leaders [at the top] that in my experience [are the ones], who really set the tone, who really, truly embrace inclusion. And it’s leaders who implicitly understand what it means to have talented teams, who will actually make the change, and those leaders exist in hospitality in the same way as they do in other sectors.”

Key themes at the Festival ranged from gender to race and ethnicity, from LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace to social mobility, and from age to disability.

Nichole Viviani CPO Xplor, headline partner of the Festival shared “I’m a big believer that inclusion is really the starting point for diversity, and enables innovation. If you can make inclusion a core principle in your decision making, then diversity will follow as well business success. One of the quotes that we found really helpful at Xplor to remind ourselves of this fact is ‘if we’re not intentionally including, it’s likely that we’re unintentionally excluding.’”

In session featuring Global D&I Officers working in hospitality and travel in the US, Renae Murphy Director Employee Experience Xplor shared, “moving the dial for me on diversity means creating environments, where our differences don’t divide, or derail us, but rather, our differences are valued and actually leveraged for deeper insights, for better ideation, and ultimately, to ignite innovation, which can be a differentiator for companies and can lead to a competitive advantage.”

On the topic ‘Diversifying the Board, when and why diversity improves your board’s performance,’ Moni Manning’s Independent NED easyjet also highlighted the importance of diversity to innovation sharing that “having a diverse set of perspectives in any team, including a Board’s, means you will have the best opportunities to design innovative solutions, ensure your customer offerings reflect the breadth of different customer needs, as well as inspire people to want to be part of your business.”
“I really believe that the way to really step change, inclusion and diversity is through inspiration and education…”

Dominic Blakemore CEO Compass Group shared “C-Suite executives are uniquely positioned to effect real change. We lead by example and it is so important that we set the tone from the top, with clarity and commitment and to underpin this at Compass we are participating in inclusive leadership training, which is also planned for our PLC Board and our People teams globally. It is critical that D&I is not just a sentiment but something that is lived and breathed as part of our culture and becomes truly embedded throughout the business.”

At the end of day one Keith Barr CEO IHG reflected on the content shared during the first day of the event and said “Chief executives and executive teams need to lead the inclusion agenda and lead it authentically – it’s not about governance. It’s not about a tick the box exercise or compliance. It’s about fundamentally leading and driving the cultural shift needed.”

Barr continued “this industry is set up to support and develop the best talent but it’s about collectively rebuilding it to be better, in a more diverse and inclusive way, and I’m quite confident we can do it. We’ve got momentum, but we just have to make sure it doesn’t get lost with all the other priorities that can be out there going forward.”

Paul Flaum CEO Bourne Leisure said: “I really believe that the way to really step change, inclusion and diversity is through inspiration and education. If we can all provide an environment where we inspire each other, we educate each other, on who we are, why we’re unique, why we’re all special and we create an environment where it feels easy to talk to each other, then this will enable us all to bring our true selves to work. If we do this then we can create an industry which will allow everyone to truly flourish.” Paul introduced a highly emotional presentation by Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich MBE who shared a poignant reminder of what prejudice and discrimination can lead to and the dangers of saying nothing. Her advice to us all was: “when faced with intolerance and inequality, do not be afraid to fight prejudice, to be vigilant and don’t be a bystander.”

At the end of the Festival, several CEOs and WiHTL Advisory Board members featured in a one of its kind call to action – a video where they shared their commitment to stand together in support of inclusion across HTL and highlight what inclusion means to them.

If you missed the Festival of Inclusion and would like to gain access to the event content, please email gina@wihtl.com