CEO of the National Centre for Diversity, Solat Chaudhry sat down and interviewed Simon Altham, Managing Director of Revenue at Hoseasons’ Parent company Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK, to talk about how and why he continues to press forward as a Diversity Champion in the travel industry.
Simon, who has been working with the company for 12 years, opened up to Solat about how and why he took up the mantle of Diversity Champion, after being approached by another member of the travel industry 4 years ago.
It was only then that he first started to think about himself as being an advocate for LGBT people in the industry, having never previously fully considered the benefit that having such a spokesperson could bring not only to the travel industry, but the wider community also.
It is no secret to organisations that the most successful people at work are those who feel like they are able to be themselves – whatever their backgrounds.
Simon works to inspire people, having always been openly gay in the workplace from the very beginning of his working career. He described how lucky he was to have had the backing of a very understanding and supporting boss in the early 1990’s, at a time when support was severely lacking and for the most part is very different to today’s working environment.
Continuing his journey as a Diversity Champion has seen Simon become recognised as a LGBT speaker, taking to the stage at conferences, schools and colleges, where he shares his story and inspires people to go out there and make a change to their organisation.
But it seems that the fear-factor is still largely getting in the way of organisations who are considering their own diversity agendas. Simon told Solat “One of the most common questions I get asked when speaking is ‘Are you afraid of alienating your existing customers?’”. When pressed for an answer he replied, “I used to sit and sweat and wonder if I should be worried, then I woke up one day and thought, no I won’t worry about it, because I don’t want racist or homophobic customers.”
The commitment Simon and his staff have made to improving and showcasing diversity has definitely paid off for the business, they have had 7 consecutive record years, 4 of those have been whilst pushing a strong diversity agenda. Simon goes on to mention that attitudes towards their brand have improved in the wake of their taking a stand and highlighting diversity any way they can.
When asked about his experience of being openly gay in the workplace Simon told Solat, “Being LGBT has never been a barrier to my career, but you have to be brave. It is easier today than it was 20 years ago, however the travel industry is still very much white, straight, and male-dominated at the top level, despite there being a lot of LGBT associates in the wider community within the sector.”
Simon also openly spoke about the need for his organisation to be reflective of their messages about equality, diversity and inclusivity both inside and outside, as well an ensuring they remain representative of Modern Britain.
Simon’s story of how the lack diverse representation in Hoseasons’ marketing materials was brought to his attention, by a chance meeting with a black family who were on a train on route to one of Hoseasons’ holiday destinations has been widely commented on. The family’s open admittance to Simon about selecting the holiday based on the inclusion of a black family being featured in the brochure, thus giving them the knowledge they would be welcome and safe at a Hoseasons resort is not only a very common tactic used when selecting which products and brands people associate themselves with, but it is also massive clue as to how organisations can attract and retain the best talent for their organisation.
Diversity and Inclusion experts around the world continue to push forward the knowledge that employees who feel engaged and supported perform better in the workplace, than those who do not feel supported and are not engaged.
The promise that Simon and his colleagues made to themselves, to ensure that all of Hoseasons’ future marketing materials would be diverse and inclusive regarding the customer types featured in their images, is a true testament to their commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion for all. Without that promise, the incredible changes that Hoseasons has made over the last few years may not have been on the agenda for many more years to come.
Hoseasons and their parent company Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK continue to push the diversity agenda in the travel sector, and for the last 2 years they have proudly supported Norwich Pride.
Simon is frank and candid as he confidently admits that his focus on diversity has been key in boosting and improving the public’s perception of Hoseasons, “I am LGBT, I am a diversity role model, I am also a business leader. It makes commercial sense, if it didn’t I wouldn’t be doing it. First and foremost, I am a business leader.”
Altham also continued to show his support for inclusivity in the workplace, stating “it’s not just about LGBT, it’s everything across the business, it’s good business practice.”
Simon also sits on the Global Diversity Council of Wyndham Worldwide, representing Europe; “It’s good to see that what we’re doing in the UK is positively impacting the organisation globally.” Wyndham Worldwide ranks in the Top 25 of organisations in the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, and in 2017 they were also ranked one of the top organisations for LGBT employees.
Simon knows that equality, diversity and inclusion is more than just about PR and he clearly recognises that his organisation still has a long way to travel on the journey, but he is proud (and should be) that they have taken the first steps.
To find out more about Hoseasons visit www.hoseasons.co.uk.