The way the travel industry speaks to women is about to change. Pink-tinted products make it obvious that a company is targeting women, but these tokens don’t significantly improve the travel experience. Female leadership in travel companies is the next, deeper level of serving female travelers.
Earlier this month we released our annual travel industry trends forecast, Skift Megatrends 2017. You can read about each of the trends on Skift, or download a copy of our magazine here.
In terms of speaking to women, many brands now realize that leaving orchids and chocolates in a perfumed hotel room won’t cut it anymore.
The fact that women travel, solo or otherwise, is old news. The bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love — about Elizabeth Gilbert’s post-divorce, round-the-world romp to find herself — was published a decade ago. Travel blogs that run on generic girl power are a dime a dozen, especially if they’re written by white women. It’s standard practice for tour companies to have a women-only option and plenty of hotels have rooms designed specially for women.
Marketers know well that women influence 85 percent of all purchasing decisions and account for 58 percent of online sales, as cited in Skift’s Trends Report: The Rise of Female Business Travelers. According to a study by Mandala Research, on average women take as many leisure trips as men and a comparable number of business trips.
So in this marketplace that feels saturated with token female products designed by male executives, which brands can speak authentically to women?
Perhaps those with a female CEO.
Harvard Business Review studied how a company’s diversity drives innovation and frequently leads to financial rewards, suggesting that more female leadership in male-dominated fields like travel could bring such benefits. Now that the U.S. has elected a president who’s famous for misogynist comments and allegations of sexual assault, female representation may be an increasingly frequent topic of conversation.
Niki Leondakis, CEO of Hotels & Resorts at Two Roads Hospitality, sits on the board of Dress for Success and speaks openly about the need for C-suite diversity. EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall rejuvenated the low-cost airline, launched it into the FTSE 100, and was the first woman to be voted Britain’s Most Admired Leader. Cheryl Rosner — Founder and CEO of Stayful and former president of Hotels.com and Expedia Corporate Travel — leads a majority female staff at Stayful and believes in mentoring other professional women.
Women of color are spearheading new movements as well; The Black Travel Movement is rich in female founders. Among the most prominent are Zim Ugochukwu of Travel Noire and Evita Robinson of Nomadness Travel Tribe, whose membership is at 80 percent female. The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, which recently made an unprecedented push for inbound tourism to Indian Country, has a female director and an all-female staff.
These women engage in gender-inclusive thinking that many male CEOs struggle to replicate. The question now is: Which companies will reap the benefits of adhering to the proven principle that diversity breeds innovation?
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