The First IWTA Awards: A Thank You and a Celebration of Inspiring Women in Travel

June 26, 2023

On Saturday, 24 June 2023, Travel Daily’s Inspiring Women in Travel Asia (IWTA) held its very first award ceremony, an event designed with the intent to celebrate and honor the life-changing journeys, stories and accomplishments of women in the Asia travel industry. Travel Daily CEO, Gary Marshall, and our very own Discova Peopleworks Leader, Michaela Connor (second from right in the above featured image), founded this series and the phenomenal, heart-warming event. This blog is purely dedicated to Michaela’s beautiful opening speech during the award night. 

Michaela Connor:

“Wow, just wow, the energy in this room is electrifying. I feel quite emotional right now that we are here together tonight with one common purpose, to celebrate the amazing women in our industry and supporting diversity and equality in our industry.

Once upon a time, there was a virus (unsure you remember this) and during the time when the world stood still I kept hearing these amazing stories from fellow female colleagues across Asia. Stories like being the only girl in her village to graduate high school, to find the courage to say no to helping her parents sell vegetables because her dream was to further study, to go against the grind and find her passion…

The stories were endless and so inspiring. I kept thinking to myself there must be millions of these stories. Stories that can help someone else, that can inspire and empower others, that leads the way for the younger generation, that promotes our industry and all the endless opportunities in it.

So one day I thought, enough dreaming of what this could be and do something about it. I called the Managing Director of Discova, Suyin Lee, who is no stranger to my crazy ideas yet never meets them with judgement.

I ran it passed her and she asked ‘what do you need to make it happen?’ and I answered ‘a media outlet to provide a platform for these women and their stories’.

Without hesitation she said ‘Ok, I know of someone who I think will support this idea. Let me introduce you’ and within 1 min I had an email introducing me to Gary Marshall from Travel Daily and 1h later we were on the phone.

I will never forget this day. I was doubting myself thinking he’s probably going to think I am crazy to ask for support in this without any sort of payment. But he didn’t. I remember it clearly when he said ‘I’m in, let’s do this’.

From there a committee of volunteers was created who were just as committed as us to ensure we got this off the ground. Since then we have had numerous of wonderful women sharing their stories on the IWTA platform and we gained momentum from those early days and it developed from there with Joana one day saying ‘wouldn’t it be amazing to have an IWTA awards night to celebrate women in our industry’.

And here we are today. Almost 2 years later.

The story of IWTA could not have been possible without a lot of our volunteers, the committee members who shows up every week just as passionate about the purpose of IWTA, Joana Button, Sunny Yu, Gary Marshall and Chris Head. In the early days, people I’d like to thank that stepped in to help us as we were finding our feet as a committee who volunteered their time; Gary Bowerman and Carolyn Tapken and of late Sumi Soorian doing wonders with the interviews, Sigrid Stelling who directed us at the start of the awards planning, Glen Grosic the amazing videographer and editor of the interviews and let’s not forget Donna Campbell and M. L. Laksasubha Kridakon, who have been giving back to our industry as special advisors to help us steer the committee in the right direction. And last but certainly not least the fantastic TD Events team and the rest of the TD staff. It truly has been an amazing team effort

And IWTA would not be possible without every woman who has volunteered their time and shown courage and willingness to share their stories through the IWTA series, some of them here in this room today and nominated for an award. And to all of you, for supporting and championing equality, inclusion and diversity. Today is not the end of the IWTA, it’s only the start so please keep nominating amazing women for the IWTA series, who’s story you believe will help inspire others

Together we can empower change. Together we can be the change

On that note, I am honored to officially open the IWTA awards 2023.”

Inspiring Women in Travel Awards
Discova Managing Director, Suyin Lee (seated centre), presented the 'Tourism Innovator Award' during the evening's celebrations.


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