Like many other industries, the travel and hospitality industry has been traditionally male-dominated. But social and professional dynamics are changing, and despite continued challenges in the workplace, more and more women are breaking the glass ceiling by seizing key leadership roles. 

The 2022 Castell Report paints a picture of a trend towards more diversity going forward but says that progress remains slow. Women are gaining in hotel company leadership (CEO, president, founder, etc.). Although still skewed, women now hold one leadership spot for every 10.3 men, an improvement from one to 11.2 in 2019. 

The report also notes:

Women hold 22 percent of the hospitality investment conference podium, up from 16 percent in 2017. This is important because women’s visibility on the podium accelerates careers and inspires other women.

To celebrate the vital role of women in our industry today, we’ll take a look at some of the trailblazers who have paved the way towards empowering women leadership at all levels, and also hear from some of the inspiring women we work with here at Nestor and through our partner companies. 

Petra Hedorfer, CEO @ German National Tourist Board

As a testament to Petra’s incredible work as CEO of the German National Tourist Board, in 2019 (the last pre-pandemic year) Germany registered more than 39 million tourists to the country, a new record for the tenth year in a row.

Petra started at the tourist board as an international marketing manager all the way back in 1998, before working her way up to Chief Marketing Officer, and eventually CEO. It’s evidence of how dedication, hard work, and learning the industry inside-out has helped Petra shatter the glass ceiling of women in leadership roles in the industry. 

She has also been leading the charge as Germany takes on a new role as a champion of sustainability in tourism. Part in thanks to Petra’s leadership on the issue, around one-third of all of Germany’s land is now protected. Since she took the reins as CEO in 2003, she has made sustainability central to the brand of the German tourist board. 

Every year, she ensures that it is integrated as a common thread in all the organisation’s marketing campaigns, highlighting nature, regionality and culture. Under her leadership, Germany now offers certified sustainable accommodations, regions and activities in the country, which feature prominently in the board’s “Feel Good” campaigns.

Amanda Wills, Former CEO @ Virgin Holidays

Born in Liverpool, Amanda is a former Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Holidays Travel Group from 2001 to 2014. She’s now an award-winning and highly respected travel industry executive who’s helping to pave the way for future generations of women leaders in travel & tourism.

During her tenure as CEO of Virgin Holidays, she was showered with industry accolades as the company enjoyed incredible growth and success. Profits and revenues soared to all-time highs, and the company became the world leader in long-haul holidays. She was widely acclaimed for being a shrewd operator, creating industry-first products and services and leading acquisitions that opened new markets for Virgin in both the UK and America. 

She’s now an independent director at eDreams ODIGEO as well as a non-executive member of the board at Air Partner PLC, the company she helped found. 

In 2015, Amanda was awarded a CBE for services to the British travel industry and to charity, with her main focus in this area being the children’s charity KidsOut, where she helps provide exciting memories to cherish forever for disadvantaged children across the UK. True leadership.

Kathleen Taylor, Former CEO @ Four Seasons

It’s not every day that someone transitions from a lifetime career in travel and tourism to running Canada’s largest bank. But former CEO of Four Seasons Katheleen Taylor did just that and is now chair of the board at the Royal Bank of Canada. 

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Kathleen joined Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts in1989. Over her 24 year stint in the company, she held a number of important leadership roles, including president and chief operating officer, before finally being hand-picked as CEO by legendary founder Isadore Sharp. 

Her abilities in business leadership have won Kathleen a flurry of awards, including the Hotels Magazine Hotelier of The World Award in 2011, and the Cornell Hospitality Innovator Award in 2012. In 2009, she was inducted into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends.

Like many of the trailblazers in her field, Kathleen also places a strong emphasis on community and doing good in the world. She volunteers frequently at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. 

Nicole Smith, Owner @ Flytographer

Nicole founded and runs a unique company, Flytographer, that connects travellers with professional photographers, who snapshots of journeys and adventures for holiday-makers in more than 300 destinations.

The company aims to let families and friends appear in all their pictures together, while also enjoying every moment without worrying about capturing it. 

Nicole has said that her aim is to help people experience the joy and wonder of travel. She’s obsessively focused on creating an excellent customer experience, and the growth of her company shows how just successfully she’s managed to achieve this. Part of her daily routine includes reading customer feedback for at least 15 minutes at the end of every day, without exception. 

She’s proud of having created a “secret door to the world”, by building relationships with photographers in more than 300 cities. 

She also encourages growth and learning for her partner photographers, and hosts a Global Flytographer meetup every year, where photographers gather for five days of seminars, workshops, community building and dinners.

She has been outspoken on the need for entrepreneurs in travel and tourism to really love what they do while ensuring their startups solve an industry problem.

Needless to say, Nicole is one well-travelled leader! She lists her favourite places in the world as Lisbon, Tokyo, Maui and New York.

Voices of Women In Travel

As we mark the occasion of Women’s Day 2022, we also spoke to empowered women who continue to break boundaries and challenge biases, women who we know and work with at Nestor and through our partner companies, who inspire us every day. 

Alena Mineva, Property Manager @ Nestor

“I find it extremely inspiring to observe and experience the development of women’s roles in hospitality. Starting from the fact that we are able to do and complete most tasks that have been gender specified in the past such as fixing the boiler, changing the lightbulbs, etc. I even remember the first time I changed a lightbulb for a group of foreign male guests, they were very surprised that I did that myself.

“However, nothing beats our freedom to travel and explore different cultures! This is my favourite part of our progress in general. I even hope that generations ahead we inspire others with peace, kindness, the desire to advance and the curiosity to explore the globe.”

Dalia Hilmi @ Team Nestor 

“Today, I’m taking time to think about women travellers, like Amelia Earhart, the astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, and the mountaineer Junko Tabei, all of whom showed incredible resolve, travelled beyond borders and boundaries, to leave their unmistakable mark on the world. Their resolve, determination, and sheer will took them to new heights, literally and figuratively, and their accomplishments continue to inspire me, and countless other women, men and children around the world till this day.”

We’d also like to extend our gratitude and wishes to our talented, female partners…

Cole & Co – Our local supplier of sustainable toiletries
Locally sourced products, made with love

Cole & Co mini soap collection

Cole & Co. create sensorial, luxury toiletries that give you a fresh, mindful experience. The products have been selected for their high quality, safety and sustainability.

Who Gives A Crap – Our local supplier of eco-friendly lavatory paper
Earth-friendly, feel-good products

Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper

One of the world’s greenest companies tackling human waste. Their products have been ethically produced, made from materials such as bamboo, recycled paper, and forest-friendly tissue.

Since our founding, we at Nestor have joined the fight for workplace equality in travel, and we’ll continue this year to shine a light on the women in travel who make our industry proud, not only today, but throughout 2022 and beyond.

We invite you to treat yourself this women’s history month and book a stay at some of our West London accommodations, which offer a unique, modern design along with the highest quality comfort, in locations perfect for exploring the capital. 

There are plenty of events going on in London where you can meet like-minded women and celebrate the occasion together. Head over to our latest article to learn more!

Here at Nestor, we celebrate gender diversity and equality every day – we’re wishing all the ladies out there a very happy International Women’s Day!