April 18, 2024

All together now

Two buyers and a supplier share their insights on diversity, equity and inclusion

Nicholas Nelson, EY Global Lodgings and EMEIA Developed Markets Travel M&E Leader

Fuelled by increased demand from clients, there are plans to grow headcount across EY and to do that we know we must make ourselves the employer of choice and DE&I is a major part of that. We fully recognise that it is critical for the organisation to live and breathe the values that its people live and breathe in their own lives.

From a supply chain perspective, it’s important to make sure we are bringing the industry’s best into our programme, including a range of diverse suppliers, whether that’s businesses which are women-owned, LGBTQ+ owned, or veteran-owned, as examples. It’s about making sure we see and welcome the best innovations.

One of the priorities for supply chain services is to make sure we are accessible to these diverse suppliers and to make it as easy and smooth for them to engage with us and be considered for our travel and M&E programs. We have been working with our Environmental Social Governance Services team to develop an intake process that makes it as easy as possible for a diverse supplier to find their way to us.

We hold pitch forums where we invite potential suppliers to showcase their products and services, which work well. It’s a great way to discuss ideas and to see what’s out there in the marketplace, but we are always careful to make sure the suppliers understand that it might not turn into an opportunity.

Some of these businesses might be small in comparison to our larger suppliers, so we recognise we need to find an effective way of plugging them into our programme. It’s imperative to make sure they get an equitable voice and don’t get swamped.

Carol Fergus, Director Global Travel, Meetings and Ground Transportation Fidelity International

DE&I is something very close to my heart and earlier this year, at the GBTA Conference, I set out a challenge to the industry. I would like to see everyone – whether that’s corporate buyers, suppliers, TMCs or anyone else in the business travel eco-system – to hire at least one person from an underrepresented group to diversify their workforce. That might be someone from an ethnic minority, or from the LGBTQ+ community, someone with a disability, or a Mum returning to work.

My dream is to see 100 companies adopt the apprenticeship scheme I developed internally for Fidelity International and implemented in collaboration with my TMC and other third party providers.

The scheme provides education, training and learning – both on the job and in a classroom or virtually – and supports the apprentice by meeting their career aspirations, providing visibility and helping to identify future career opportunities.

The scheme also supports the apprentice via sponsorship, mentoring and networking to help build their confidence and improve their people skills.

I’ve called it the 100 Challenge and it’s already grabbed the attention of a number of companies. It’s a simple process but I believe it will make a big difference to the industry and its future.

Thomas Maynard, Head of SALES UK and Europe Virgin Atlantic

At Virgin Atlantic we live by our purpose, which is that everyone can take on the world. We’re focused on creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging, an environment which values and respects people’s unique identities and fosters pride in being part of Virgin Atlantic, where our people, our customers, our partners and our communities are united, and minority groups are represented.

Our new campaign ‘See the world differently’ champions the individuality of our people and customers and draws on our heritage of challenging the status quo – as well as recognising that the travel industry is entering an exciting new era after the pandemic disruption.

We believe that no matter who you are or who you love, you should be able to travel anywhere. We have long supported LGBTQ+ rights both within our business and the numerous destinations we fly to. It’s something our founder Sir Richard Branson has championed since our inception 38 years ago.

Over the past two years we have been working with Open for Business to study the benefits of LGBTQ+ inclusion in 12 countries in CARICOM. Through this work, we’ve demonstrated that inclusion delivers huge benefit to both business and society, highlighting that anti-LGBTQ+ laws restrict tourism and economic growth, costing some Caribbean countries up to £4.2 billion a year, and that’s not to mention the social impacts.

As the world opens up post-Covid, and many of our customers look forward reconnecting with colleagues and clients, or take a well-earned holiday, it’s more important than ever that we continue our work in ensuring the destinations we fly to are open for all. To support the economic recovery of the Caribbean, as well as the travel industry, we’re on a mission to support economic and social prosperity in the region though the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity to help attract the widest possible demographic of travellers, including those who identify as LGBTQ+ and their allies