Creating a more diverse and inclusive tourism industry – A conversation with Vivian Lyngdoh

As with most industries, the tourism industry and its neighbouring hospitality and event industries still have a long way to go in ensuring diversity and inclusion for its employees. As Vivian Lyngdoh, the Business Development Manager at Rydges Hotel in Melbourne, explains to us: “There’s this occupational segregation across various industries that happens where there’s a lot of ethnic people of colour, there’s a lot of women at the lower end of the roles.” 

For Vivian, the future of tourism, hospitality and event industries needs to include diversity and inclusivity initiatives. We sat down with them to chat about the initiatives they’ve implemented, why they are important and how people in positions of power can better centre diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

Tell us a bit about the projects you’ve undertaken throughout your career to bring about better diversity and inclusion in various sectors and industry?

My first role within this particular space would be as the Co-chair of Wellington Pride Festival. Within this role, we co-designed and implemented a foundational document called Te Whāriki which acknowledged the harm that the entity of Pride has contributed towards marginalised communities and what can be implemented to address these inequities so that we can have a Pride that is fully formed and visualised with all communities celebrated as part of Pride.  

I also worked for the Ministry for Ethnic Communities in New Zealand as a Project Advisor to implement the very first Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme. This was an initiative that came out of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Attacks, particularly focusing on communities from Middle Eastern, Latin American, Continental, European, Asian and African backgrounds to address the low representation of mentioned communities in the Public Service. It is now on its 3rd year of running and I am incredibly proud of being part of the initial implementation team. 

Following the above, I worked as a Senior Advisor for Employee Led Networks within Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission, where one of my more prominent responsibilities among many was to support the setting up of the Cross Agency Neurodiversity Network across the Public Service. 

Within Te Kawa Mataaho, I also sat on a working group within the Public Service called Te Whakapiri which was a group of representatives who helped to ensure that the voices and views of women, Māori, Pacific Peoples, and people from ethnic groups, from Rainbow communities, and with disabilities, were at the centre of this work.   

Why is it important for the tourism, events and hospitality industries to increase diversity throughout its workforce?

Embracing diversity and inclusivity not just as a “good to have” initiative but as core principles is crucial, particularly to uplift communities historically sidelined across industries. When we actively support and empower those from underrepresented backgrounds in our workplaces, we push for a transformative wave of diversity throughout the industry. 

Our industry is filled with people from various backgrounds with diverse identities. How can we, as an industry, embrace this diversity? How do we collaborate to celebrate our collective richness? And how do we revolutionise our recruitment and support mechanisms to be inclusive of everyone at all levels of employment?

The above introspective questioning allows for creative ways of fostering diverse and inclusive representation. This approach enables young people to see themselves in leadership positions. This commitment to diversity is not just mere correctness; it embodies a vision of hope and potential, assuring every aspiring individual that there is a place for them. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to people in positions of power to bring about better diversity and inclusion in their workplace. 

For those in positions of leadership, my recommendation is to cultivate an environment that has unwavering support and understanding throughout the organisational structure. Ensuring that each employee, particularly newcomers navigating their first job, feels genuinely welcomed and valued is paramount. This involves implementing systems like mentorship programs, providing access to employee-led diversity networks, respecting cultural differences, and providing avenues for safe, honest feedback. Transitioning into any role can be overwhelming; thus, a comprehensive and thoughtful onboarding process is not just beneficial – it’s crucial.

Additionally, it’s vital for organisations to recognise their limitations in knowledge and experience concerning diversity and inclusion. There’s merit in reaching out to and collaborating with other organisations that have a deeper understanding and more experience in these areas. Embrace a cycle of listening, engaging, acting on advice, and then reviewing the impact to enhance your strategies continually. 

From my perspective, true leadership in diversity and inclusion goes beyond internal policies – it’s about fostering a culture where every voice finds resonance, every tradition is respected, and every individual sees a pathway to success. 

It presents a unique chance for leaders to shape an environment that doesn’t just talk about diversity and inclusion but actively embodies these principles, laying the groundwork for a more inclusive and fairer future.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone from a diverse background entering tourism, hospitality and events industries for the first time?

If you’re stepping into the world of tourism, hospitality, and events, my main piece of advice is to build a strong support system of allies and mentors within your workplace. Engage with your colleagues, show interest in different areas, and don’t shy away from joining or setting up a network for employees. These industries are home to some of the most passionate, supportive, and knowledgeable professionals you’ll ever meet. Make the effort to reach out, absorb as much as you can, expand your understanding, and most importantly, enjoy the process!

This industry offers incredible opportunities to connect with a wide array of people, all connected by a love for creating unforgettable experiences. Seize every chance to learn from others’ experiences and wisdom. It will not only help you grow professionally but personally too. Your unique background is a gift to the industry, bringing fresh perspectives and ideas that contribute to a richer, more diverse environment. 

To hear more from Vivian about their career, come along to our Tourism Change Makers panel on Tuesday 23 April.