For Simon Altham, diversity and inclusion is personal. When he joined the company more than 10 years ago, he was the first openly gay employee at Hoseasons by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, a vacation company that is part of Wyndham Worldwide (No. 24 on the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list).
This experience shaped his views on diversity, and he has made inclusion a priority throughout the next steps of his career. Now serving as Wyndham Vacation Rentals’ managing director of revenue, he has built a culture of diversity inside the company, and most recently has begun portraying that image to external customers.
Once a company that catered to a classic, white, family demographic in the U.K., Hoseasons by Wyndham Vacation Rentals set out on a mission to reach new customers. Led by Altham, the brand’s marketing materials now feature people of all ethnicities and LGBT couples. And there’s been a measurable, positive impact on the company’s bottom line.
Q: From a business perspective, what convinced you that adding diverse representation in your marketing materials was a good move?
A: I’m not doing this just because of my personal background. I’m doing this because it makes perfect business sense. In today’s society, we are all different and consumers have many purchasing choices. We want to ensure that Hoseasons is relevant and attractive to everyone and not just one customer segment. Opening our eyes to who our customers are has led us to review how we speak to them, attract them and retain them.
Q: What sort of success has Hoseasons seen as a result of the change in its marketing approach?
A: It’s been hugely impactful and meaningful and we have seen a real fundamental shift in our customer base. While we still send many families on holidays, we’ve earned a slew of new customers. And now, couples and groups of friends make up 55 percent of Hoseasons’ business in the U.K., which is the first time in the company’s history that the majority hasn’t been families. And, we’ve had seven consecutive record business years — four of those while promoting a strong diversity agenda.
Q: How does a strong D&I program impact your office culture?
A: At Hoseasons, this only helped solidify our internal culture. Acceptance should begin from the inside of the organization, and that’s where we started. This has proven to boost morale and productivity, and is a strong tool for employee retention and recruitment. Now the diverse look and feel of modern day Britain can be found internally with our employees as well as externally with our marketing, which is good for business all around.
Q: Do you see many other organizations heading in this direction?
A: I think the business case for diversity is continuing to gain legitimacy and momentum. Many companies are starting on the inside by building a culture of inclusion within their own offices, which is a great place to start.
But with the images portrayed to external customers, the travel businesses that do seem to be doing this are those that have a diverse senior leadership team and have D&I embedded within their organization objectives and business vision. In a way, that’s a testament to what a diverse leadership panel can do for an organization, but I’m hoping more and more business leaders will recognize the commercial opportunities this presents whether they have experience with it in their personal lives or not.