If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
TORONTO — Things got a little ‘uncomfortable’, but the first ever travel industry event addressing #MeToo issues left guests more knowledgeable about the problem and inspired about the possibility of everyone feeling safe, without fear of sexual harassment.
Led by a panel of travel professionals and public educators, ‘Let’s Get Uncomfortable’ centred on issues of workplace inequity, sexual harassment and the importance of bystander intervention. It was hosted by Young Travel Professionals (YTP) in partnership with Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, sponsored by G Adventures and Planeterra.
According to the event organizers, Britney Hope, Account Manager – Media Relations at Bannikin, Annie Ewing, Independent Travel Advisor, TTI Travel and Terrilyn Kunopaski, Editor-in-Chief, CT Magazine & Canadian Traveller, the travel industry can be an uncomfortable place for many people.
“’Does that mean I get to spank you?’ ‘Do I get to pull your f***ing hair right now?’ These are real quotes from women in this room said to them by their travel industry colleagues,” says Kunopaski, the panel moderator. “Unfortunately, as much as the #MeToo movement has accomplished over the past year, the travel industry still struggles to even acknowledge that gender-based discrimination and harassment are deeply embedded problems.”
The event’s expert educators included Julie Lalonde, a women’s rights advocate and public educator, and Farrah Khan, manager of Ryerson’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education.
Panel members included Amrita Bhalla, managing director, A.B Consulting and sessional lecturer at Ryerson University; Shalene Dudley, owner, Latitude Concierge Travels; Brad Ford, President of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold; and Rhea Simms, global coordinator for the Planeterra Foundation.
While the panel conversation touched on enough subject matter for a dozen more events, it is clear that some shifts in our personal attitudes could help spur company and industry wide positive change too.
Here are some of the main takeaways from the event:
This is the first of many initiatives to keep the #MeToo conversation moving forward, says the three organizers, adding that they hope industry leaders who can make a difference within their organization will begin to take these issues more seriously. This ‘uncomfortable’ event planted the seed of possibility that everyone can feel safe and enjoy the industry we love.