The travel and leisure industry is rich with female talent, yet research shows that when it comes to leadership positions, they are still the minority; but this is set to change. According to a Middle East report by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Ministry of Tourism of the KSA, great strides are being made to further advance gender equality in the sector.
This progress is being led by the public sector, where ministerial positions in the region are held by 21 per cent women compared to the global average of 23 per cent, and the roll-out of integrated policies and partnerships with public sector entities. What’s more, and consistent with the findings of the Global Tourism Report II, women’s under-representation is tied to few role models within the sector. Therefore, networking and mentors are also essential for promoting women’s leadership and empowerment and supporting more deliberate career guidance and career planning. With a rich and diverse make-up of female spearheads at Abu Dhabi’s premier leisure and entertainment hub, formidable leaders from Yas Island spanning leisure, hospitality and business share their advice on how to succeed as a female leader in the travel and leisure industry as part of women’s month.
Melanie Leitgeb, Welcome Desk Manager, W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island
Women’s month highlights what women had to go through in the past and celebrates empowerment. I am proud to be able to see a lot of women nowadays in management positions, although we still have a long way to go, we are on the right track. I couldn’t be happier to be in this position which gives me the opportunity to inspire other women. I would say to young women to go pursue your passions despite the challenges and what others may say – it will pay off if you remain focused on why you started in the first place.
Nancy Daccache, Cluster Commercial Director, Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island
We should celebrate women’s achievements and give a nod to all women who are embracing opportunities. I am fortunate enough to work with leaders who inspire us on a daily basis. The pandemic has taught me to become more agile and swift to change – I had to accept, adapt and acknowledge that the traditional ways are no longer effective. These key learnings can also be used as a basis for women who want to be successful in any industry. It is also important for women to surround themselves with people who would uplift, challenge and support them.
Imane Akechchar, Front Office Manager, Rotana Yas Island & Centro Yas Island
All women should have the power to embrace who they are, define their future and believe that they can change the world and make a difference. My greatest inspiration is my mother, who has worked and sacrificed all her time and money to make sure she raised three women who are proud of themselves. This has developed a lot of confidence in me during difficult times. As a woman, it is important to believe in yourself and have the confidence to take risks even if it means that you might fail along the way – ultimately you will learn from those experiences.
Hozaimah Hosain, Area Director – Revenue Management, Yas Plaza Hotels
Women’s month is all about forging gender equality in workplaces where women’s careers can thrive and leaders drive positive change. My source of inspiration is my maternal grandmother who was given up for adoption and not formally educated because of her gender. Despite this, she asked the neighbour’s kids to teach her to read and do basic maths to start her food stall, selling food door to door. She believes education is the key to freedom and taught me never to feel sorry for myself. As women, we can do anything if we put our minds to it and we need to be resilient to recover quickly from adversity.
Shayne Monasterio, PR and Marketing Manager, Yas Plaza Hotels
We should honour the women who have paved the way before us and be grateful to the rights we enjoy today. My late parents and grandmother have inspired me throughout my journey in achieving my goals. One of my aspirations is to travel the whole world with my daughter and watch her grow to be an independent, empowered, well-educated, and most importantly, a kind woman. Women should embrace what they love to do and take every opportunity to educate and equip themselves in order to achieve their goals unapologetically.
Samah El Houffy, HR Manager, Etihad Arena
During women’s month we celebrate and acknowledge all the wonderful women in our lives, from our family to friends, as well as the remarkable women in the UAE who are shaping the future. We have more opportunities than ever before with more support and encouragement – it’s a great time to be a woman. I would say to young women who are starting their careers to listen and learn. You can never have too much knowledge – it opens so many doors. Listening is probably the most important tool and by actively listening to people, we learn so much about them, which is very important in any job. I love listening to my team and understanding what motivates them, how I can help them be the best they can be and support them on their journey to success.
Tracey Boux, Head – Marketing & Communications, Etihad Arena
During women’s month, we shine a light on women globally, their achievements and their aspirations to inspire the women of tomorrow. I’ve been lucky enough to have been helped in life and my career by some amazing women and I truly believe that when women work together they can achieve anything. I believe it is important for young women to dream big. There is a wealth of support for women in the region, from government initiatives to private networks to mentoring programmes. The UAE is constantly innovating, always improving and never-ending in its quest for excellence – as a woman, it’s a great place to be in and probably the only place in the world where you really can make your dreams come true if you work hard enough. We’re very lucky to be here with the opportunities we have, so grasp them with both hands and run towards the future.
Christine Nicholas, Marketing Director, Yas Marina
We should appreciate how much has been achieved by many incredible women both past and present. As part of women’s month, we should keep supporting other women and continue paving the way positively for young women wherever they are in the world. It is really important that the lens through which we view our collective achievements is as wide as possible, success is personal and shouldn’t be viewed from one perspective. As a woman, it is important to believe in yourself, focus on your goals and keep working towards them, whilst also being mindful of the other women around you and supporting them too. We are stronger when we are united.