Alessandra Alonso is the founder of the Women in Travel meet-up initiative. She is one person we have been eager to meet for a while. Ahead of her trip to the 2017 Arabian Travel Market (ATM), we met up with her to discuss her ongoing projects for empowering women working in travel and tourism industry.


Connecting with Alessandra Alonso

We entered the fascinating world of travel and food blogging in 2015. That move and the subsequent journey has rewarded us with some quality relationships both online and offline. Though some connections have been quick to move from the virtual to the physical world, others have taken longer. However, in cases such as this one, the wait has been worth it.

Empowering Women in Travel: Alessandra Alonso

In 2015, we published the first in our Women in Travel articles titled: The Pale Face of Sri Lankan Beauty. Our objective was to introduce our readers to women who we met on our travels, who worked in the travel industry and had insightful stories to tell about their career journeys.

As we promoted that story on social media, our virtual paths crossed with Alessandra Alonso, a trail blazer and industry influencer working with women in the tourism industry. We connected on Twitter and hoped to meet her in person someday. After a few missed opportunities at other industry events, we finally caught up with her at the Women in Travel event hosted at the London-based Travel Tech Lab. We quickly scheduled a private appointment.


Women in Travel: From meet-ups to social enterprise

In between meetings with her advisory board, we squeezed in a lunch date for a more intimate conversation with Alessandra. We learned about her impressive career journey within the travel industry and her exciting new direction.

Empowering Women in Travel: Alessandra Alonso

The Women in Travel initiative began in 2014 as a series of networking events and meet-ups that brought together entrepreneurs, executives and advocates to discuss the unique challenges facing women working in the tourism industry.

Since inception, Alessandra has organised successful meet-ups at major tourism industry B2B events including the World Travel Market (WTM London) and the Arabian Travel Market (ATM Dubai).

Following corporate stints at KPMG and the European Commission, Alessandra followed her entrepreneurial passion and went on to establish and lead other businesses and projects (in between being a hands-on sports mum to her rugby playing sons). Through her company Everyday Mentor, she works with individuals and businesses as a qualified career coach, consultant and mentor.

Alessandra has been an advocate for greater opportunities for women in tourism for almost two decades . More recently however, the Women in Travel initiative announced a new direction as a social enterprise.

Through this incarnation, the Women in Travel CIC will operate as a limited company, reinvesting its profits in social causes including empowering women in tourist destinations to become economically independent through entrepreneurship.


Why empower women in travel?

“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.” ~ ‘ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.” ― Clare Boothe Luce

Empowering Women in Travel: Alessandra Alonso

The 2015 African Development Bank (ADB) Gender Equality Index report notes that African labour markets are heavily gender-segregated, with women working primarily in low-paying occupations.

The report goes on to sugest that: “If these businesses [operated by women] could be developed into more productive enterprises, they could be a driver of inclusive growth.”

We confirmed this when in 2016, we visited Zanzibar and met Aiysha Mohammed, a young Muslim woman. Being one of only a handful of certified female tour guides on the island, she was up against a male dominated industry. Like many women in Africa, Aiysha has dependants who benefit directly from her work as a tour guide. It is crucial for female tourism entrepreneurs like her to succeed.

Aiysha holds Seaweed Center product | @dipyourtoesin

Alessandra believes in societal change through female empowerment. “I strongly believe that in many disadvantaged parts of the world, when you empower a woman, you empower an entire community”, she remarked as we exchanged travel stories over lunch.

Commenting on the lack of Arab female talent ahead of 2016’s ATM Dubai, Alessandra observed, “When it comes to travel and tourism, it appears that not enough women are being attracted to the sector across the region [Middle East], even though as an economic sector, travel and tourism is by all standards a local success story.”

Abu Dhabi engineer Leila Hoteit shares three lessons for how women can thrive in business

[clickToTweet tweet=”14 million jobs are at risk due to global travel and tourism talent shortage – World Travel and Tourism Council, Jan 2015″ quote=”14 million jobs are at risk due to global travel and tourism talent shortage – World Travel and Tourism Council, Jan 2015″]

With tourism being a vital source of revenue for many destinations and communities across the world, empowering female entrepreneurs in the industry to be more productive through access to funding, mentoring and clear career paths should be embedded in any development agenda.


What happens next?

Connecting with Alessandra has been one of the high points of our efforts to grow our travel industry network. We identify with her vision and share her passion for empowering women.

Although Women in Travel CIC is still in its early days, we hope to keep following Alessandra’s journey and find opportunities to foster connections between hers and similar social enterprises.

Burj Al Arab from Seawings Seaplane

Are you a female entrepreneur or professional working in the tourism industry? Could you benefit from networking with other entrepreneurs and professionals? Then connect with us via email or on social media to be kept informed of any London based networking events.

Do you run a social enterprise or non-profit focused on empowering women in travel? We would also love to connect with you on social media.

Did you miss meeting Alessandra at the Women in Travel meet-up at the Arabian Travel Market 2017? Follow her on Twitter 


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Alessandra Alonso

Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).