The Association of Women Travel Executives (AWTE) released its ‘Women in Travel Empowerment Index’ at an event held in London last week, which revealed that the UK travel sector has seen an increase in the influence of women in senior management roles in the last decade.

The cruise sector, which had 15% of its board of directors as female in 2005, has seen that figure rise to 29% in 2015, while tour operators also report an increase in female directors - from 10% in 2005 to 20% in 2015.

The index, which is a first of its kind in the industry, aims to monitor and highlight the role of women in senior and middle management positions in the sector. It was commissioned by the AWTE and compiled by the University of East London’s Business and Law School. The index saw statistics gathered from 12 major tour operators and cruise lines operating in the UK. A further seven in-depth interviews with senior female directors was also instigated as part of the study.

Other findings in the report reveal that while senior women agree that there are not enough females in senior roles within the travel industry, they are universally against quotas, whereby companies are forced to include a quantity of a gender on its board. The female respondents were all in agreement that people should only be selected for board level roles on merit and not gender.

Going forward, the report will be undertaken annually at the end of each year and will be available for download to members on the AWTE website, or by emailing for more information. It will be expanded in future with additional travel sectors added to the survey.

Commenting on the report Debbee Dale, AWTE chair said: “There has not been any definitive study on the role of women in travel and so any debate has been based on anecdotes or gut feel. Our Empowerment Index will put some actual statistics against a more meaningful debate and the interviews will add real insight too. The travel industry has a majority of female staff right across the sector, so while there has been a positive improvement of women in senior positions in the past decade we clearly have some way to go before we see a more gender equal industry.”

Dr Petra Glover from the University of East London, said: “Overall the report has achieved what it set out to achieve. Things have improved over the last ten years and clearly there are travel companies that are at the forefront of providing opportunities for women. It is hoped that in the future this will become the norm rather than the exception.”

The association also plans on issuing a desktop survey in the next three months to receive feedback from women across different levels, and is encouraging the industry to get behind the initiative and offer their input.

To download a copy of the report visit

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