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Riding the Wave in the Tourism Industry

The #MeToo movement has brought national attention to the topic of appropriate workplace behavior. Is the tourism community vulnerable to the kinds of high-profile abuses we have seen in other industries? What are your members doing to protect themselves and their teams on this front?

Inman: No matter what industry you’re in, it’s never perfect. Every industry is going to be hit by these things. But it’s good that there’s a dialogue about it now.

As a professional woman in this industry for a long time, I’ve always been aware of the vulnerability not just of women, but anybody, at any time. It can be in an office, at a convention — wherever. So one of the first things I did at NTA was harassment training for employees — not just sexual harassment, but anything that makes you uncomfortable.

At Travel Exchange, we have open forums for members, and it’s interesting when our tour-operator owners discuss things openly.

Assante: This has always been on our radar in student travel. We’ve always had protocols in place to protect and keep kids safe while they’re traveling. But now we’re even more aware of the use of social media and the opportunity for students to connect with people who aren’t on the trip. We have to be more vigilant in making sure that students aren’t meeting up with others outside the group. Also, there’s more of a focus on who is chaperoning school trips. Some schools are requiring more vigilance and background checks.

When it comes to something like the SYTA community and our annual conferences, we’re carefully watching the alcohol that’s served at our events. We’re moving toward offering drink tickets and monitoring our events to ensure we’re providing a safe environment for everyone to network. That’s something the whole meetings and convention business is focused on.

Dale: It would be naive to think that any industry segment isn’t vulnerable, because we are all vulnerable. What I have heard from our members is that it’s an opportunity for them to redouble their efforts for education within their company culture and to re-examine their company polices. The norms have changed. Have our policies and procedures kept up with the changing norms?

I think it’s a healthy exercise for any organization to re-examine if they’re doing the right thing and giving people the right channels to express concerns. Are we taking appropriate actions? For us, it’s redoubling our efforts.

Pantuso: Every industry and every group is subject to inappropriate behavior as well as wonderful behavior. Unfortunately, it probably does happen in tourism sometimes. This is the reason we came out very strongly in January with a board-approved statement saying that it will not be tolerated at our Marketplace or at the association. It got a very positive reaction. Some people shared stories about things that happened in their lives.