The word from our CEO-Pauline

MICE industry (referred to as business events and incentives industry) is many wonderful things.  Professionals involved in this line of work get to travel a lot, invited by the biggest hotel brands, destinations and events agencies

I started in this industry at the tender age of 21 and since then I have travelled more than a hundred times. Counting the exact number of hotels, venues, airports and destinations visited would not really make any sense at this point. Every time I travelled, I travelled alone. I learnt a lot. 

In 2018 I have met an amazing lady called Kerstin Wünsch, who have also joined the facebook group I have set up, industry-first dedicated to women event planners- both from agencies but also hotels or destinations( Female Event Planners ).

Kerstin has been involved with a very important event during the IMEX, called “She means business” (this year taking place May 20th ). 

I was invited to host round table discussion around Female safety during business travel in our industry. I named it “I do not want to complain, I want to feel safe”.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to cancel my talk. However, together with my team we have carried out significant research and spoke to over 40 women in our industry.  I have prepared my speech and workshop and I hope I will get a chance to present it some other time, at another important industry event.  I would still like to get involved, help, support this great initiative in some way, so I am going to share some of my findings with all of you.

I am a nervous person and I take my safety pretty seriously. 

The whole notion of feeling "unsafe" first hit me when my family had raised concerns, over my international travels, due to various terrorist attacks that took place between 2016 and 2017. However, it was not until last year when memebrs of the industry circle have been complaining about poor safety measure during an official hosted buyer and supplier nightclub party, that I felt unease. I was there!  The event itself was great. However, the nightclub exclusive party on one of the evenings was a fiasco. It seemed like it was an exclusive closed industry event, but as we later learnt, this was not the case. Many professionals attending were simply robbed that night, with money being stolen even from the debit cards electronically. 

My marketing manager (also a young female) had her bag robbed at a hotel bar - during the day. We spoke about it, hosted Instagram live debates and posted online. 

In February 2019 my jacket was robbed during another official hosted buyer evening event and I was left in a freezing cold without the jacket for 2 more days. Yes, it was a good quality jacket and yes I did trust the provided locker room and the organisation. If it was my company organising this event and something like this happened to one of my buyers,  I would have moved heaven and earth. But nobody "gave a dam" about me. 

I started talking to more people on this trip and I learnt about many more safety incidents that happened to individual women. For example, one young female buyer was transferred from her airport to the wrong hotel at 2 am and left there without any assistance. She had to figure out a way to get to the right hotel by herself.

Finally, in March, I was taking a taxi in Berlin for ITB Berlin (I was a speaker) and I knew I was being chated by the taxi driver. Not only has he picked up other people along the way without asking for my opinion, but he drove around and later wanted me to pay FOR THE WHOLE THING, which was twice as much as it should have been. I tried to raise my concerns gently only to be shouted at. I usually book a transport via an app or uber, but this time around due to the fair, the city was so busy and he passed me by so I jumped in. So anyway,  he later locked the doors of his taxi from the inside and continued to scream at me, reaching with his hand for my bag. I think this was the scariest I had to date.

I am an entrepreneur. I pitch, I present in front of investors, I can handle the pressure, I can negotiate. I am used to standing up for myself but...

I really cannot escape a feeling that every time I tried to “complain” or simply raise my concerns I was being treated with dismissal. Do you know what kind of a look I mean?

And I do not want to feel like this. Why should I? I am a professional who has worked for years organising events and assuming responsibility for other people. SAFETY MUST BE A NUMBER ONE CONCERN for anybody organising fairs, trade shows, hosted buyer-supplier events etc... 

I asked other women in the industry for their opinions and what they felt and here are some of the answers: 

Woman 1: “I have been lucky with the companies I worked for, for the use of taxis and mostly pre-arranged. I think the safety of your team (male or female) should be of the utmost importance whether it's for employers, freelancers or hired hostesses”

Woman 2: “People often do not speak out in case it is seen as weakness or an inability to manage”

Woman 3: “I think women do not speak out because they do not want people to think that they cannot do a certain job. We do safety assessments for our delegates and we should be thinking about the safety of our own staff in the same way”

Woman 4: “We need to take into account that everyone has a different level of confidence, experience and a different ‘comfort zone’. There are a lot of younger people coming into the industry and I can see it can be rather daunting.”

Woman 5: “I’ve been in situations that I’ve felt are less than ideal and I think personal risk management is a vital skill. It’s a lot about situational awareness and taking steps to reduce and manage the risk.”

Woman 6: “I also travel a fair deal, often alone but on occasions meeting colleagues or industry colleagues ‘at the other end’. Personally, I am a confident person but we have to consider all personalities, along with each individuals taking responsibility for there safety, ie use taxis if late and isolated, the employer needs to ensure policies are in place for this (for all employees, not just women)”

Woman 7: “More consideration and support is needed for younger /less experienced members of the team that haven’t travelled alone or otherwise previously.”

Woman 8: “I’ve not had any issues when travelling with work and never felt ill at ease but then, as others have said, I’m a confident person and have the autonomy to make the decisions I need to in order to safeguard myself. If it’s late and I need to get a cab I call one knowing that I can rationalise the expense. This all comes with experience though so I concede that younger, less experienced staff (male and female) need time to be guided and given the funds and latitude to take care of themselves.”

Woman 9: “I have been travelling around the globe on business events. I think to be cognizant of your surroundings. Ask the hotel Front desk if there is any safety concern. Instead of taking a cab/ Uber/ Lyft late at night I prefer a chauffeured car arranged through my DMC. Also, be aware of customs in that part of the world and dress appropriately.”

Woman 10: “ I really want to start a campaign in regards to all hotels thinking about all lone travellers whether you are male or female. All hotel room numbers should never be read aloud for all to hear. It is unsafe and makes me feel very very vulnerable. Especially in our industry when you may be checking in later after a long build day for example. It’s a simple fix but all hotels should get behind it. It would make me feel so much safer in their environment.”

Food for thought especially the last comment. :)

If you are attending IMEX Frankfurt this year check out SHE MEANS BUSINESS- May 20th