wmnsWORK is a new accelerator program focused on women and
non-binary entrepreneurs creating tourism-focused startups.
The program is the brainchild of Iris Serbanescu, who spent
the past decade working in travel – most recently as director of partnerships
at TourRadar and also as manager of trade development at Bannikin.
Serbanescu says the idea developed during the pandemic as
she thought about her experience in the industry, working primarily with and
for men, and also as she read research such as the World
Tourism Organization’s Global Report on Women in Tourism.
“There were alarming stats - like 55% of the industry is made
up of women but less than 8% hold board positions... so most of the money and
power in the industry lies with men,” she says.
“I wanted to bring together a solution that empowered
businesses run by women... to come to a
place that had not just education but to create a container women that were
learning but also supporting each other and creating a sense of community among
ownership and leadership in the industry.”
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Serbanescu is currently running a beta cohort with eight
participants, six from North America, one from Scotland and one from India, who
are helping her refine the program. Applications are now being accepted for the
first official cohort that will begin in mid-May at a cost of $2,500 per person,
with a second one slated to start in September.
The program is structured as a 12-week experience with
weekly instruction provided by industry leaders and entrepreneurs on topics
such as funding, marketing, legal issues and “entrepreneurial mindset.” Participants
are also matched with a mentor that meets with them six times during the program,
and they have the opportunity to hear from additional speakers in a “fireside
While the program is open to all applicants, Serbanescu says
the target audience is women and non-binary entrepreneurs creating
tourism-focused startups, such as tour operators and hotels. To minimize barriers
for applicants, Sherpa and Exodus Travels have signed on as sponsors of
wmnsWORK to develop scholarships for racialized, disabled and LGBTQIA2S+ entrepreneurs.
Another effort focused on improving diversity, inclusion and
sustainability in the travel industry also launched recently through a
partnership between The Conscious Travel Foundation, a United Kingdom-based non-profit,
and Lightning Travel Recruitment.
The “Ambassadors Program” will select ten “conscious travel
advocates” who will receive membership to the foundation and have the opportunity
to use the platform to raise awareness of issues such as sustainability, representation
of Black, ethnic and minority people, women in leadership, and more.
“From students and campaigners to global
disruptors with a vested interest in inclusive, positive impact travel, we are
excited to welcome 10 new and dynamic voices into the foundation. We are
passionate about changing the travel sector for the better in a way that will
not only benefit those in the industry but have a positive impact on the planet
for future generations,” says Olivia Cryer, creative director at The Conscious