Tourism has ‘massive’ chance to help women, Lata Expo told

The tourism industry has a “massive opportunity” to support women in Latin America, according to Women in Travel CIC founder Alessandra Alonso.

Alonso, who took part in a panel session at Lata Expo 2024, said women represented 57% of the workforce in Latin America, but most of the roles were lower-level positions.

She highlighted the importance of women being part of businesses’ decision-making processes, adding that female entrepreneurs should be supported.

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Outlining the potential for women within the travel industry, Alonso said: “You don’t need to have incredible qualifications. You can start and then progress fast up the career ladder.”

Men have an important part to play in encouraging gender equality, according to Alonso.

“Allyship is one of the things we’ve been promoting for the past three years,” she said.

“In order to improve inclusion in the industry, we need all of us to play a role and senior male leaders have a fantastic opportunity to do this by being role models and supporting women in the industry.”

During the same panel session on women in travel, Zina Bencheikh, Intrepid Travel’s EMEA managing director, said women “hold the purse strings” when it comes to organising trips, adding: “Eighty percent of travel purchase decisions are made by women.”

But she highlighted that women are “massively underrepresented” in leadership positions in the travel industry.

“We’re in a world that is designed by men for men. There’s often no bad intention, but there’s a real unconscious bias,” she said.

Ivonne Zumarraga, managing director of Golden Galapagos Cruises, spoke of her own experiences of encountering a “macho culture”.

When she and her female business partner had attended B2B travel events in the past, they found that people were more likely to seek interactions with their male colleague.

“I felt a little bit ignored,” she said, adding: “We need to stop seeing each other as men and women. We need to start seeing each other as human beings and look to work as a team.”

That point was first made in the panel discussion by Journey Latin America managing director Sarah Bradley.

“I hope we’ll be able to move away from talking about men and women and start talking about diversity,” she said.

At present, though, she said the industry could make progress towards gender equality if businesses carefully considered the partners they worked with.

“We do have an opportunity throughout the supply chain to support the kind of businesses that promote gender equality,” she added.

Journey Latin America makes sure its travellers visit communities that are “more marginalised”, she said, while securing opportunities for meaningful interactions between the traveller and the host.

“These kinds of experiences can really help promote opportunities for women,” she said.

When women are employed, she said, they make a “huge difference” to their families and their community.

Alonso said female entrepreneurs must be empowered to grow their businesses, but pointed out that many had started their own enterprises because they lacked other options.

“Often women go into entrepreneurship as a default because they can’t access the opportunities for more traditional employment,” she added.

Outlining the importance of female education and employment, Alonso said: “When a woman earns, 10 people eat.”

She also pointed to research suggesting that ensuring females have access to education can help to address the climate crisis.

Pictured (from left): Zina Bencheikh, Alessandra Alonso, Sarah Bradley and Ivonne Zumarraga. Credit: SLB Photography Ltd

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