Celebrating Diversity & Inclusivity in the Hotel Industry – InnFocus Fall 2020

The following article was originally published in InnFocus magazine, Fall 2020 Edition. See it online at:

by Amy Saini

BC has long held a reputation of a highly desirable destination for tourism and adventure. The province has much to offer with rugged and awe-inspiring nature, vibrant cities, and a strong multicultural and diverse society. It is no surprise that tourism numbers continue to soar year after year in beautiful British Columbia.

Tourism has been a driving force in the globalization that shapes BC. Consequently, the hotel industry is always in the forefront as the world changes around us, pushing the industry to continuously evaluate its practices, stay competitive, and meet the needs of its guests and workforce. Successful hotels are acutely aware that providing a high calibre of guest experience happens alongside building and retaining a diverse and inclusive workplace. Thus, the industry focuses on employing individuals with varying backgrounds to form diverse teams that directly impact the quality of the guest experience.

Local hotels have taken creative approaches to accommodate staff with disabilities.

The Black Lives Matter movement’s recent global events continue to push the hotel sector to look closely at existing diversity and inclusion strategies. There is so much more to learn, more conversations to be had and more changes that need to be made to move forward on this spectrum. To meaningfully engage in this work, it is essential to understand this spectrum and how diversity differs from inclusion.

What is Diversity?

The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) defines diversity as the variety of unique dimensions, qualities, and characteristics we all possess. Diversity is not limited to cultural background. Diversity includes the unique perspectives that each of us brings to our organizations and work communities. Some examples of this are diversity in work experience, diversity of thought, and personal experiences. Other elements include but are not limited to:

  • Religion, culture or socio-economic status;
  • Gender identity, physical abilities, or sexual orientation; and
  • Age, education, and life experience.

Diversity as a core value is fundamental to success in the hotel industry. Hotels are well positioned to strive for diversity best practices as they are serving people from a wide range of cultural values and backgrounds. Hotel staff work with all kinds of accommodations and differences; this requires flexibility, and it is just one way that a high diversity competency shapes the day-to-day work in this sector.

What is Inclusion?

Inclusion differs from diversity in that inclusion is about the collective. CCDI defines inclusion as creating a culture that strives for equity and embraces, respects, accepts, and values differences. As our workplaces move towards greater inclusiveness, it’s important to stop and celebrate these hard-earned wins. Let’s take the opportunity to celebrate the strides hotels have made to embrace a more inclusive culture.

Celebrating Diversity

In this spirit of forward-thinking and inclusivity, local hotels have taken creative approaches to accommodate staff with disabilities. For example, one luxury hotel downtown places notes in their rooms to alert guests that a cleaner is deaf, then directs them to the front desk if they need help communicating.

Another example of this ingenuity is seen in the interior of our province. In 2018, The Prestige Lakeside Resort in Nelson, BC, received an award recognizing their diversity and inclusion practices in supporting staff with disabilities. Hotels are exploring how they can make environments more inclusive for their patrons and staff.

Find ways to extend beyond traditional cultural awareness training.

Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices

In examining best practices through the sector, it is clear that hotels that are thriving as ambassadors of diversity and inclusion have three essential practices embedded in their culture. These practices lay the groundwork for building cultural competence, engagement, and communication in their teams.

First, best practice hotels recognize the importance of a formal diversity program. They have a strategy that is reflected in all human resource functions. This strategy impacts recruitment, training and development, and employee engagement programming. Many of BC’s hotels may already have a program in place or are developing one.

Second, hotels build strong relationships with community organizations to build diversity and employment equity in their workforce. Hotels collaborate with immigrant service agencies, Indigenous employment programs, and international programs at postsecondary institutions. Partnering with local agencies increases access to prospective employees who may be underrepresented groups from an employment equity standpoint.

Third, hotels are looking beyond diversity and focussing on inclusivity. They find ways to extend beyond traditional cultural awareness training for their teams and look at creative ways to ensure their culture is welcoming and inclusive. Thus, we see more and more hotels focussing specifically on comprehensive onboarding, ongoing employee education and development, and increased social activities such as potlucks and multicultural celebrations.

This work is ongoing and ever-changing. It requires consistent evaluation of the extent to which current day practices are culturally sensitive, inclusive, and equitable. It requires a desire for growth through ongoing audits of existing policies, procedures, and processes. It requires listening to our people and hearing their suggestions, experiences, and input. The BC hotel industry has continued to demonstrate its agility and solutions focussed outlook. There are lots of wins to celebrate with many goals achieved and milestones that have been reached. There is more to learn as the industry commits to continual growth and transformation.

Amy Saini

Amy Saini is an HR Consultant with HR West (hrwest.ca). HR West provides human resources consulting support to organizations across varying sectors in BC.