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Travel Companies Commit to Improving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

by Sheryl Nance-Nash

Aug 17, 2023


Lifestyle / Diversity

The travel industry continues to make inroads in diversity. Here we introduce some of the leaders.


Kathy Christianson is vice president, Human Resources and DEI lead at Internova Travel Group, a large travel service company with more than 100,000 travel advisors worldwide. In 2020 the company conducted a DEI assessment measuring diversity, equity and inclusion perceptions of the company’s U.S.-based employees. It assessed its international team in 2022.

As a result of the assessment, each operating division formed a DEI committee and created action plans in areas that needed improvement. The company rolled out DEI training for all employees. To address equity, Internova hired compensation professionals to help ensure the company annually reviews talent and addresses pay gaps.

The company is earning kudos. Said Christianson, “Our Women of Internova employee resource group earned a Silver Magellan Award from Travel Weekly, [and] our Everyone Belongs newsletter earned a Gold Award.”

After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, a diversity and inclusion program took shape at citizenM Hotels. The newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee created a space in which employees can share their thoughts and experiences. The committee also identifies challenges, develops action plans to address them, and provides interactive education and training to help employees embrace inclusivity. Initiatives include gender-neutral uniforms and enhanced diversity recruitment. Despite progress, Manu Newkirk, chairman, Diversity Committee, said, “There is more to be done.”


At Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, recruitment is a priority. “We’ve increased our targeted recruitment partnerships with organizations that impact underrepresented community initiatives,” said Shirnett Fleet, chief marketing officer who also heads up DEI. In 2019 Uniworld launched Employee Research Groups that include BIPOC, Pride, Disability, Parent and Women’s circles. “The groups yielded rewards in employee engagement and retention and fuel their passion for creating excellent guest experiences.”

When Bonnie Whitfield, the human resources director overseeing DEI at travel agency Family Destinations Guide, took on the role in 2019, she said DEI was an “afterthought.” That changed. In 2020 the company adopted the nonprofit Travel Unity’s DEI standards that focus on management and workforce, visitorship and community impact. Now a remote company, it hires offshore employees from various countries. Said Whitfield, “We’re transforming into a more inclusive culture that better understands and caters to our diverse clientele.


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