THE CARIBBEAN URGED TO EMBRACE GREATER DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

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  • Virgin Holidays announces two ground-breaking initiatives to promote greater equality across the Caribbean
  • The new programmes have been launched to demonstrate and enhance the benefits of diversity andinclusion to the tourism industry
  • Public policy in some Caribbean jurisdictions reduces travel demand to these destinations.  For example, almost half (43 percent) of British holiday-makers say they’re less likely to consider Barbados as a holiday destination due to its restrictive LGBTQ legislation

London, September 18th:   Virgin Holidays has launched two new ground-breaking initiatives to make the Caribbean region more welcoming to British travellers.

The first is a three-year partnership with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF), offering guest care and diversity training to hotel employees and tourism students so they can better understand and meet the needs of the rapidly changing demographics of the UK traveller.

CHTAEF will launch four training development days for accommodation providers in Barbados.  More than 100 individuals will benefit from this training during a trial in October 2018, with a wider roll-out planned for next year.

The second initiative is a high-level round-table conducted last week in conjunction with local gay rights group B-GLAD (Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination), The Royal Commonwealth Society, senior representatives from the hotel sector, the wider tourism industry and local advocacy group.

Virgin Holidays Managing Director Joe Thompson – along with civil society partners – attended the summit at which the tour operator outlined the economic argument for LGBTQ inclusion and offered assistance to partners looking to improve diversity and inclusion.

At the launch of these initiatives, Minister of Tourism and International Transport for Barbados, Kerrie Symmonds, commented:  “This country cannot easily sit by and watch a lack of diversity or discrimination take place in any form, or in any fashion. I think it is very important Barbados stands up and says to the rest of the world that all are welcomed and none will be discriminated against, because the whole world has a right to enjoy tourism, hassle-free.”

The latest announcement comes after new statistics reveal a dramatic shift in the perceptions and expectations of British holidaymakers.

According to a research survey of 2,000 adults in the UK – 1,000 of whom self-identified as straight and the other 1,000 as gay – fears of discrimination in the Caribbean are a deterrent to visiting. Two thirds of LGBTQ travellers are unlikely to visit Barbados because of a discriminatory law, which also applied for one in five (19 percent) straight tourists– an average of 43 percent across both demographics.

A quarter (24 percent) of LGBTQ people had heard negative stories about discriminatory laws in the region from British press, social media or friends and family.

Fifty percent of overall respondents believe it would be unsafe for an LGBTQ person to travel to Barbados, and this increased to 57 percent of people believing it is unsafe for gay couples with children to visit. This supports research conducted in 2017 which suggested one in three LGBTQ travellers has experienced some form of discrimination abroad.

Karolin Troubetzkoy, CHTAEF’s Chairperson, stated:  “The Foundation’s partnership with Virgin Holidays over the next three years on this new training initiative will benefit a wide range of hospitality workers in the region.”  She added that the training will highlight the changing demographics of today’s traveller and will help tourism stakeholders provide superior customer service regardless of the age, race, sexual orientation, religion or ability of visitors to the Caribbean.

Patricia Affonso-Dass, CHTA’s President and Group General Manager of Ocean Hotels in Barbados, added:  “Tolerance, understanding and acceptance are critical to excellence in hospitality and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association is happy to support the efforts to educate and to move to a more open and progressive regional discussion on the subject.”

Joe Thompson, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, commented:  “We understand that diversity, particularly around gender and sexuality is a sensitive topic.  It is not our intention, and certainly not our role, to impose our values on foreign communities or dictate how things should be done. However, what we can do is start a conversation on the business and tourism case for greater inclusion and work alongside our partners to help build a more prosperous Barbados.”

Virgin Holidays has been promoting its Brilliant Barbados holiday program since the 1980s. Nine Virgin Atlantic flights currently land at Grantley Adams International Airport each week, and the airline transports tens of thousands of Virgin Holidays customers to the island each year.

The association between Virgin Holidays and the Caribbean transcends the promotion of hotels and beaches – with three decades of initiatives such as sponsoring youth sports teams, offering university and training scholarships, and the establishment of the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in Jamaica.

In 2016, Virgin Holidays announced a three-year plan to become one of the most tolerant and welcoming brands in travel with a three-tiered programme of work aimed at delivering staff engagement, improving customer knowledge and developing a culture of understanding among its partners

For more information please contact press.office@fly.virgin.com  or call 01293 747363

About Virgin Holidays:

Virgin Holidays is the UK’s favourite worldwide holiday company. Founded in 1985 on the Virgin principles of excellent customer service, value, reliability, responsibility and a sense of fun, it has used its entrepreneurial heritage and passion for innovation to benefit customers and communities around the world.  The brand is particularly known for the ‘magic touches’ it has brought to market.  From the world’s first dedicated airport leisure lounges to the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean, Virgin Holidays puts its customers and the communities it works with at the heart of its commitment to do things differently.  In 2015, it was voted Best Large Holiday Company to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean for the fourth consecutive year at the prestigious, consumer-voted, British Travel Awards.

About CHTA Education Foundation

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF) was established 30 years ago as a stand-alone 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, through which scholarships and special assistance are available for the education of Caribbean hotel industry personnel and students pursuing careers in hospitality and tourism. The Education Foundation has awarded more than US$2 million in scholarships and grants to applicants who demonstrate a strong commitment to the hotel and tourism industry. For more information, visit http://www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com/about-the-foundation/

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