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Travel agency SmartFlyer has upped the industry’s diversity and inclusion benchmark with the recent launch of EQTR (Equity in Travel), a yearlong mentorship program for college-age BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) travel leaders, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs.
The new initiative aims to break down barriers BIPOC students face when attempting to enter the travel industry by connecting college students with influential leaders and travel industry experts, “creating new pathways and fostering meaningful relationships,” according to a press release from SmartFlyer.
The introduction of the program comes at a time when companies have become increasingly vocal about the lack of diversity and representation in the travel industry, and as many have voiced their commitment to greater equity and inclusion.
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Mentees will undergo a 12-month program that includes exposure, training and understanding of various careers within the travel industry in a “crossover between education and hands-on experience.” Students will be matched one-on-one with mentors who highlight different routes to success outside of traditional travel jobs (such as in-house hotel positions or travel agency roles).
A six-person advisory board has also helped curate the program.
We want to challenge students’ thinking, create new possibilities for them, and offer comprehensive and tangible support as they embark on the journey to become the next generation of leaders.
“When people think of working in the travel industry, they often only think of hotel jobs, but the reality is that there are so many different career pathways,” said Erina Pindar, managing director of SmartFlyer. “This program was thoughtfully designed to support BIPOC students by opening new doors and showcasing the different avenues within the travel space. We want to challenge students’ thinking, create new possibilities for them and offer comprehensive and tangible support as they embark on the journey to become the next generation of leaders.”
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Mentors will be experts in hospitality, journalism, communications and the travel agency sector; they will have the opportunity to pick their mentee and foster a relationship with them. Mentees will also have access to a variety of workshops, panels, speaker sessions, trade events and more. At the end of the year, students will present to the EQTR community at an Innovation Summit, which will take place in May 2022. Additionally, seven paid internships will be made available to graduates upon completion of the program.
Those interested in learning more and getting involved are encouraged to join EQTR's free virtual summit on March 25, where keynote speaker Dr. Derrick Gay will speak on “Reframing Diversity to Drive Inclusion and Belonging” and give corporations tips on how to better understand diversity and inclusion and integrate it into their own company strategies and culture.
I fundamentally believe that representation matters, and that I have a responsibility to open doors for others who look like me — that with each open door, those opportunities create a ripple effect that leave lasting impressions in our community.
Confirmed mentors of the program include Aba Kwawu, president of TAA Public Relations; Albert Herrera, chief commercial officer at Global Travel Collection – Internova Travel Group; Annie Fitzsimmons, luxury travel editor at AFAR Magazine; and Davis Solis, region director of sales and marketing for the Americas at One&Only Hotels & Resorts.
“Having spent over 25 years in the hospitality industry we are now in a space where the value and importance of equality is widely recognized as not being available to many people of color,” said Yvette Thomas-Henry, regional vice president and general manager of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Nevis. “As an African American woman who has had a successful career, it is imperative to give back to those who would be our next generation of leaders. I fundamentally believe that representation matters, and that I have a responsibility to open doors for others who look like me — that with each open door, those opportunities create a ripple effect that leave lasting impressions in our community.”
Both Pindar and Thomas-Henry serve on the program’s advisory board, along with Brandon Nelson, general counsel and corporate secretary of JetBlue Airways Corporation; Michael Holtz, owner and CEO of SmartFlyer; Parool Shah, vice president of global brand public relations at Marriott International; and Simon Mayle, events director at ILTM Events.
To apply to be a mentor or mentee through EQTR, email [email protected]