Happy International Women’s Day!
To celebrate, I’m honoring some of the most inspiring women in travel. These female leaders have helped to pave the way for all of us and continue to break the glass ceiling.
From trailblazers to those who are making space for more women to get into leadership roles in travel – here are the women you need to know about!
Senora Dolores López Lira – Founder of Lomas Travel and El Dorado Resorts
Senora Dolores Lopez Lira is a force to be reckoned with in the tourism industry. After facing gender discrimination, she started her own travel business called Lomas in Mexico with the support of her husband, José Martínez Alday.
Today, Lomas operates over 240 vehicles, and the El Dorado Spa Resorts and Hotels brand has grown to three all-inclusive adults-only getaways. El Dorado Seaside Suites, El Dorado Maroma, El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Casitas Royale have over 1100 rooms, and Karisma markets the hotels.
Besides the tremendous success she has achieved with her business, Dolores makes sure she supports her staff and other women in travel. In 2019 at the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave, she was awarded the Luminary Award for her work supporting female travel agents and tour operators over the last four decades.
When hurricanes Gilbert and Wilma hit Cancun and Swine Flu, Dolores and her husband decided not to let anyone go and kept their staff on full pay despite the financial risk.
Her commitment to her staff over the decades is one of the key reasons why Lomas is so successful.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo – President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo is a trailblazer in the cruise industry. In 2014, she became the first women to head up a publicly-traded cruise line, and her achievements haven’t stopped there.
Since taking the helm, she has created several initiatives to recruit more women into shipboard leadership roles. When she first came on board with Celebrity, only 3% of mariners were women. Today there are 25%.
Lisa has continued her tradition of industry firsts by creating a partnership with Ghana’s Regional Maritime University. The partnership helps female maritime professionals from Africa land jobs in the industry. In 2017, Nicholine Tifuh Azirh from Cameroon became the first West African women to work on the bridge of a cruise ship due to the program.
Jane Sun – CEO of Trip.com
Trip.com is the largest online travel agency in the world and the world’s second-biggest by market value.
Jane Sun took over the CEO position after working for the company for 11 years and wasted no time leaving her mark. She grew the company to a whopping $24 billion, launched a car rental service in 6,000 cities around the work and acquired flight comparison search engine Skyscanner.
But her impressive achievements don’t end there. Jane is one of the few women to head up a major corporation in China and has used her power to uplift women in the workplace and break down some of the barriers she’s faced in her career.
If you work for Trip.com, you can expect benefits like a free taxi service to and from work when pregnant, a gift of 800 yuan once you give birth, and 3,000 yuan towards your child’s education fund. Not sure when you want to have kids? Trip.com offers free egg freezing to all female employees.
Gillian Tans – CEO of Booking.com
No list featuring the most inspiring women in the travel industry would be complete without mentioning Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com.
Gillian started with the company back in 2002 and has seen the business grow from 500 listings to over 28 million listings worldwide.
When she took on the CEO role in 2016, Gillian became one of the highest-paid CEOs of a public online travel company and has continued to push Booking.com’s culture of diversity.
In the same year, she launched the company’s Women in Tech scholarship initiative. It supports women studying computer science and other STEM subjects at Oxford and the Delft University of Technology.
Gillian continues to make space for women in tech with its Web Summit partnership. The company hosted the “Women in Tech” Lounge at the event and featured high-profile female entrepreneurs and tech professionals.
Stephanie Linnartz – President of Marriott International
Marriott is the largest hotel company in the world. It has a presence in over 133 countries and owns more than 7,600 properties.
Stephanie Linnartz over the President role in February 2021, after working at Marriot for 24 years. She started as a financial analyst in 1997 and worked her way up the corporate ladder.
Throughout the last two decades, she’s also been recognised for her leadership within the travel industry.
In 2017, she was named one of the most influential women in hospitality by Hotel Management, and in 2018, Brand Innovators honoured her as one of the top women in brand marketing.
Sheila Johnson, Founder & CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts
Sheila Johnson is one of those extraordinary humans who is the very definition of a ‘trailblazer’.
When you look back on her life, you’ll find that she’s usually one of the first to be doing something.
In school, she became the first African-American violinist to win a statewide competition. Later on, she went on to co-found BET (the first black television network in the U.S.) and became the first black woman to own a pro sports team.
Fast forward to 2021, and Sheila holds the title of the first African-American woman to amass a net worth of one billion dollars and is the CEO of one of the most beloved luxury hotel brands in the United States, Salamander Hospitality.
While she is the only African-American woman to own a Forbes Five-Star resort, Sheila is committed to using her platform to change that through her philanthropy work.
Frances and Ariela Kiradjian – Founders of BLLA
Founded in 2009, the Boutique and Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) has taken the boutique hotel world by storm. Over the last decade, it’s grown to a network of 10,000 hotels worldwide and works closely with 200 hotels as part of the BLLA-intensive program.
The women behind it all? Mother and daughter duo Frances and Ariela Kiradjian.
Frances has over 25-years of hospitality experience and started BLLA to help boutique hotels get access to the same resources as larger hotel chains.
In 2020, Frances and Ariela launched the #BoutiqueStrong campaign to help hotels through the pandemic. They created tools and resources like a re-opening guide and offered financial resources.
Christa Marrillia – Vice President and CMO of Keeneland
Christa Marrillia is the CMO of Keeneland, an internationally renowned racecourse and an industry leader in thoroughbred horse auctions.
Since joining the company in 2003, Christa has helped elevate the Keeneland brand through various digital channels and strategic partnerships.
Her knack for partnerships came to a head in 2020 when the pandemic led to the racecourse closing down. Christa reached out to Blue Grass Farms Charities and formed Nourish the Backstretch.
The initiative gives out weekly meals and groceries to the hundreds of workers at Keeneland. Proceeds from Keenland Select (the online betting platform) went to Nourish the Backkstretch to support employees further.
Which women in travel and hospitality inspire you?