The words, “the future of men is women”, penned by French poet Louis Aragon, have never meant so much as they do today.

To coincide with this year’s International Women’s Day, on March 8, the organisers of the ITB Berlin Convention paid tribute to all women in the travel industry, by asking five female decision makers to talk about their careers in the sector.

Women are helping to shape the travel industry and, in times of crisis, they often show great resilience and empathy. “In times of crisis, female leadership has never been so important,” said Rika Jean Francois, ITB Commissioner CRS. “And it is good to hear female voices who have done a lot for tourism.”

Moldovan woman offers aid to Ukrainian refugees

Jean Francois praised Natalia Turcanu, executive director, National Inbound & Domestic Tourism Association of Moldova, who took the lead to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in the neighbouring country. “We take care of 10,000 Ukrainians who passed the border and I am proud to see our guest houses, hotels and wineries taking care of them,” said Turcanu. “More than 95% of our sector are female workers. They helped not only to accommodate and give food to refugees but also comfort Ukrainian families.” More information for refugees can be found here.

Rika Jean Francois and Natalia Turcanu, executive director, National Inbound & Domestic Tourism Association of Moldova (Photo: screenshot livestream)

Providing data on water precipitation in India

Another example of resilience and empathy was the work by Dr. Sreeja KG, director research, EQUINOCT Community Sourced Modelling Solution in India. In her role as a climatologist, Dr. Sreeja KG educates and provides tools to poor communities on how to prevent potential floods. “In 2018, poor communities were left in the dark when giant flooding occurred,” she explained. “In the past two years, we have created data stations and communities agencies providing information. They also provide training to local communities which can analyse data and take prevention measures.”

International expert of ecotourism and voluntourism

Another personality is Muna Haddad, a Jordanian lady running inbound tour operator Baraka in Jordan. She created ecotourism development strategies for six protected areas and special conservation areas in Jordan, evaluated international ecotourism experiences and prepared ecotourism marketing strategies, specifically for small communities. She is regularly invited to speak about ecotourism, voluntourism and community based tourism across the world, including at ITB Berlin.

(Photo : Screeshot livestream ITB Berlin Convention)

Bringing female rangers into the limelight

Another strong female leader invited to talk at ITB was Holly Budge, head of How Many Elephants and the World Female Ranger Week. “The event pays tribute to female rangers who are custodians of national parks around the Globe,” Budge explained. “Starting first in Africa, our World Female Ranger Week raises funds to support and help gender imbalance on conservation as only 11% of rangers are female. The event also raises global awareness and we now have female rangers from across the world, from Scotland to South America.”

Rethinking strategies in Covid times

Finally, Shana Fatina, the founder and commissioner of ORA DIVE in Labuan Bajo, Flores (East Indonesia) is an example of female emancipation in tourism. ORA DIVE was created in 2014 caring for tours of Komodo Island and diving excursions. “I am still the only female diving master. But it encourages more woman to try diving as well,” she said. Promoting conservation awareness and responsible tourism, Fatina used the isolation period of the Covid pandemic to develop new projects with villagers such as converting recycled plastic waste into souvenirs. “Covid helped to rethink our brand strategy and rebound,” added Fatina.

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