Travel agency SmartFlyer has launched a brand-new BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) mentorship program, EQTR, with the goal of connecting key travel industry leaders with college students.
Committed to achieving equity in the luxury travel sector, SmartFlyer says it decided to create EQTR to foster meaningful and educational relationships between industry experts and young travel enthusiasts/entrepreneurs. The 12-month long mentorship initiative is designed to cultivate future BIPOC leaders and entrepreneurs by providing exposure, training and understanding of a variety of industries that contribute to the $3 trillion global travel industry—ensuring the next generation of leaders are both diverse and highly knowledgeable.
Centered around breaking down barriers that BIPOC and minority communities face, the initiative is a crossover between education and the hands-on experience learned when being employed in the travel industry. The one-on-one program will highlight the different industry pathways and career opportunities for students, outside of traditional travel work, including in- house hotel and travel agency.
“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 in a press statement. “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.”
Smartflyer adds that, now, more than ever, commitment to, and advocacy for, diversity and equal representation within different travel sectors is imperative. EQTR’s six-person expert advisory board, four of whom are part of the BIPOC community, curated the program to focus on precisely this.
“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 impression in our community.”
Industry mentors—with experience spanning hotels, journalism, communications and the travel agency space—will select their mentee and, together, they will embark on an educational journey inclusive of ongoing guidance, support and thoughtful inspiration. Mentees will have the opportunity to address a variety of relevant industry themes through a series of workshops, panels, speaker sessions, trade events and more.
At the end of the program, mentees will present their final project work to the EQTR community at the EQTR Innovation Summit set to be held in May 2022. Seven paid internships are available at the end of the program, and EQTR hopes to expand this number in the coming months.
To kick off the program, SmartFlyer and EQTR extend an open invitation to all, to join a virtual summit on March 25, “Reframing Diversity to Drive Inclusion and Belonging,” where keynote speaker, Dr. Derrick Gay will share insights on how organizations can better understand Diversity and Inclusion and integrate it into their business practices and strategies. The summit is free to attend; however, donations in support of the EQTR initiative are welcome, according to SmartFlyer.
To learn more or apply to be a mentor or mentee, visit www.eqtr.org.