5 strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion in hospitality

diversity and inclusion in hospitality

Most people would agree that hospitality is behind other industries when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Here are 5 strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion in hospitality.

By Daniel Poulin, Former Director of Spa & Fitness, North & Central America, Accor and Accor’s NCA LGBTQ+ Pillar lead.

Diversity and inclusion are hot topics lately, but is your organization as diverse and inclusive as it could be? This is a question we should all be asking ourselves as we move into a more inclusive era.  

What are diversity and inclusion?

That’s a good question. Most people have an idea, but might not be able to explain these things if asked.

When we talk about “diversity and inclusion,” we tend to lump them together as one (also known as D&I), but they are not the same thing. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines diversity as “the collective mixture of differences and similarities that include, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviors.” Inclusion, meanwhile, is defined as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”

I’ve heard it said that “diversity” is a fact while “inclusion” is an act. It’s one thing to have people of different races, genders, and sexual orientations present in our workforces, for the sake of checking the “diversity box,” and another to ensure that these people feel truly included.

As Vernā Myers, VP, Inclusion Strategy at Netflix so eloquently puts it: “Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

What this inclusion looks like is something we are all trying to figure out as an industry. Here are 5 strategies for creating a more inclusive environment in your hospitality business.

Start with your own team

Hospitality is very behind other industries in this area. We are very white and very male, particularly our board rooms. We can begin by changing this is in our own workplaces. One cannot claim to be diverse and inclusive when this is not evident in your employment practises. Once you have the procedures that encourage D&I in place as a workplace, then you can put this before your guests.

 Have a realistic strategy

It’s not uncommon for companies to decide they’re going to hop on the D&I train and switch out their senior management teams to include, say, 30% BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) by next year or the year after. Wonderful! But how you are going to do that? If your boardroom is 99% white men and you don’t have a high level of turnover or a large budget to increase hiring, this is not a reasonable plan. Rather than making a commitment that you might later have to rescind, create a strategy that you can reasonably stick to

Take the time to assess where you stand today in regard to D&I and then set realistic yet challenging short-term and long-term goals.  And remember, “nothing about us without us” should be your guiding principle.  Don’t try to find solutions to racial inequalities or gender parity if you’re a white male. Always involve those who are members of that particular group as their lived experiences are key to a successful D&I strategy. 

Reconsider hiring for “fit”

Companies commonly hire for cultural “fit,” meaning people who will “fit” in with the existing team. Where this becomes problematic is when your team becomes a bunch of people who look and behave the same way. Your guests are diverse and so your workforce should be. It’s time to rethink hiring for “fit” and seek out people with new and different experiences who are not like you and the rest of your team.  

Explore ideas for how you can make people feel included

Beyond hiring and staffing, how can we create more inclusive environments? People are beginning to accept that not everyone identifies as male or female and not everyone is white and thin, and yet we still only offer male and female uniform options to our teams, and feature thin, white women in our marketing campaigns. We could have gender-neutral uniforms and marketing campaigns that show the whole spectrum of body shape and gender identity.

Understand that it’s not a quick fix

Another idea is including more options than “male” and female” when guests book an appointment online or fill out a form, like “other” and “I prefer not to say,” as well as a blank space to fill in saying something like “I identify as.” And similar options for therapists. But, if you do these things, you should have training for your team on what to do with this information. For example: what locker room will the guest be using? We may need to reconsider our locker room options to accommodate everyone. One model I have seen is a unisex locker room with one large, beautiful, gender neutral common space and individual showers and changing rooms. I don’t know how well this would go over in a luxury hotel, but these are things to consider.

Research has proven that diversity is a winning strategy. Companies with a diverse workforce have better financial results and guest satisfaction. And being relatable to people with an array of life experiences can only be good for your brand.

These changes will take time and we will need people who have lived experiences that are different from our own to advise us. But it’s the way the world is moving and, like so many other developments and innovations, those who don’t adapt will feel the repercussions later.


Montage’s Patrick Huey on the need for more diversity in spa & wellness


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com.

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