On March 8th we will be celebrating International Women’s Day and never has there been a more close-knit global community of women than there is today. We have, in every country faced one of the biggest challenges that the world has ever collectively been confronted with and therefore, for me, this International Women’s Day will be of more significance than ever before.
In essence, this event has always been about bringing Women together from all over the world to join in the fight against gender inequality and to honour the women who have made meaningful contributions to this.
This initiative is no less of a challenge this year and will not be any less significant against the backdrop of the pandemic we are all fighting. If anything, the fact that in this country more than two-thirds of the people who lost their jobs were women makes this issue of gender equality more of a sore point than ever.
Choose to challenge takes on a broader meaning in 2021
I do believe, however, that the theme of this year’s event ‘’Choose to challenge’’ does have a broader meaning and especially for the travel industry after the dreadful battering it has taken from the pandemic, it is those who ‘’choose to challenge’ that will hold our industry together.
The conference will be explaining that the purpose of the theme is derived from the belief that “a challenged world is an alert world” and so as individuals we must be held accountable and alert to what is happening, but subsequently choose to challenge it. What could be a more fitting approach for the travel industry to adopt than that – given our current circumstances?
Getting back in the water
The big issue facing the travel industry now is that we need to get our population motivated to get back in the water after suffering the kind of storms that we have just endured. With Easter not too far off it’s the perfect time to persuade people to take a chance and dip their toes again into at least local waters.
A great story that illustrates this principle and the extraordinary courage of one woman is that of the professional surfer Bethany Hamilton who survived a 2003 shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off, but who ultimately returned to professional surfing despite this enormous setback.
It was not just Bethanie’s courage though that is so remarkable but the fact that she gained this courage through helping others. She went on a trip to assist survivors of the dreadful Tsunami that killed so many people in Thailand in 2004 and whilst she was there noticed a small boy reticent to go anywhere near the sea after what he had experienced.
By showing this one boy that it was okay to return to the ocean and dispelling his fear she encouraged the whole village to overcome their fears and begin to return to normality.
Not just from the viewpoint of a woman, but from the objective perspective as a leader in this travel and hospitality industry, I see our women as the very backbone of a body of people which, like Bethanie’s, had to endure quite a beating. I also believe it is these same women who will get our people back into the water.
Strong women won’t be defeated
From travel agents to corporate TMCs, to hoteliers and car hire companies – From tour operators and the Entrepreneurs struggling to maintain their small businesses to flight attendants and cleaners – we are all significant and we all matter. Women are everywhere in this business and they always will be.
I know that it is the sheer resilience of women with their strong survival instincts and determination to prove their equality that will ensure that they will never just lie down, but get up again and again, going back in the water regardless of what’s out there – and choose to continuously challenge the status quo.
Stay safe – and whether you are male or female, ‘choose to challenge’ – for women everywhere.LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER