Spotlight On Women In Travel

Christine James, Vice President of TL Network Canada was a featured speaker during Internova Travel Group’s special virtual celebration held last week to spotlight women in travel.

The event was produced in honour of Women’s History Month to explore the history of women in travel, hear executives discuss their path to leadership and learn from travel advisors who run their own businesses.

James participated in a panel discussion to share her stories and valuable insights on becoming a leader. Oksana Mashchak from Centre Holidays, a TL Network Canada Affiliate, also contributed to the discussion.

“It’s truly an honour to work with so many women in leadership and women entrepreneurs across all the business divisions and functions at our company,” said J.D. O’Hara, Chief Executive Officer, Internova Travel Group, one of the industry’s largest travel services companies representing more than 65,000 travel advisors worldwide.

O’Hara continued: “As we celebrate women in travel, it’s important to continue to lift up and empower those around us. I congratulate these women on their success, and I pledge to join them in striving to do better in forging a more gender-balanced workplace.”

Kathy Christianson, Vice President of Human Resources, Global Travel Collection, kicked off the event, which started with a slide show highlighting female travellers and explorers who made history. The session was presented by Becky Powell, Chief Strategy Officer, Global Travel Collection, Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion Travel Group, Annie Scrivanich, Senior Vice President of Cruise Specialists and Cindy Schlansky, Chief Development Officer, Global Travel Collection.

The first panel featured executives who described their paths to leadership and offered advice to other women to take action and advocate for themselves in their careers and they included:

  • Christine James, Vice President, TL Network Canada: “We all need to do a better job at a supporting each other. We also need to do a far better job at supporting our sisters. As women advance in their careers, we are hesitant to ask for what we believe we deserve. Women should take the lead on that — always make sure you’re heard and that you’re asking. Don’t wait to be chosen.”
  • Angie Licea, President, Global Travel Collection: “Bringing diversity into our organization and helping people and women of color grow should not be an ‘initiative.’ It should be our culture. This can’t have an end.”
  • Linda Oliver-Eckhardt, Senior Vice President, Client Strategies, Travel Leaders Corporate: “Those who want a path to leadership need to better seek out mentors and ask them what they think that path looks like. They need to put in the work to enhance their professional development. As senior leaders, we need mentees to teach different facets of the business.
  • Catharina Suryaatmadja, Controller, Travel Leaders Group: “Women are the backbone of financial services. We are the make-it-happen team. The key is to never question whether you can do a job or not because you’re a woman. Your work is valued based on your ability and your knowledge.”
  • Lisa Wheeler, Senior Vice President, Operations, East Coast, ALTOUR: “We need to educate our employees and lead by promoting an environment that is safe and inclusive. We can have diversity among all genders and people of color and educate others along the way and show there’s no room for disrespect. There’s zero tolerance.”

The second panel highlighted travel advisors who discussed the trials and tribulations of running their own businesses and shared insights on how we can best support each other in the travel industry, and included:

  • Oksana Mashchak, Centre Holidays, Travel Advisor at TL Network Canada Affiliate: “As you start out as a travel advisor, I recommend finding a mentor to help you as you grow and advise you on the initial setup of your business. Don’t try to sell everything to everyone. Do what you love most. Get out there and meet people to create new business by getting out of your comfort zone.”
  • Maya George, Founder of Our Black Passports, Travel Advisor at Tzell Travel Group, Global Travel Collection: “Being person of color and a woman of color, you might get imposter syndrome. However, what’s great about being your own business owner is that you’re able to do what you want to do and find your purpose.”
  • Kelli Carpenter, Co-Founder of R Family Vacations, Travel Advisor at Tzell Travel Group, Global Travel Collection: “We saw an area in the LGTBQ+ marketplace, but there was nothing that incorporated children and extended families. We knew the market was open to us. I learned to look and ask for mentors, as they can help direct you in what you do well. Find your specialty.”
  • Jacquelyn D. Alton, President of Almeda Travel, a Travel Leaders Network Associate: “My road to starting was very difficult as I ran into many challenges. But I persisted. I endured. As you’re starting out, you have to market yourself and you need to be visible. I recommend networking and working to get your certifications–that really helps.”
  • Debbie Brumby, Protravel International, Travel Advisor at Global Travel Collection UK: “I’ve been in the industry just over 30 years and loved travel from an early age. I was a director of a small independent agency, managed a corporate division for five years and then when COVID hit, I took my skillset and went out on my own. I’m extremely positive about the future of travel.”
  • Savannah Hill, The Savvy Travel Agency, a member of Nexion Travel Group: “When I was learning about how to market myself and the business side, I sought out mentorship from other travel advisors, business owners, and I listened to podcasts and webinars to grow into becoming a better businesswoman.”

“Many people, especially women, are looking to move ahead in their careers as we all continue to advocate for gender equality,” said Kathy Christianson. “We created this event for everyone at Internova Travel Group to find inspiration and learn from one another. But the biggest inspiration to me was what happened after the event – colleagues began reaching out to one another; new friendships, networks, and informal mentorships are being formed. Clearly, there is a strong desire among strong women to lift each other up, and I am grateful to be part of this special community.”

More than 300 people attended the virtual celebration to spotlight women in travel.