Insights into the DEI Journey, with Sophia Hyder Hock

Episode 283

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Sophia Hyder Hock is the Chief Diversity Officer for Destinations International. In this role, Sophia provides thought leadership and strategic direction for designing and implementing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) resources, tools, and services for association members and the broader tourism industry.

Sophia has created sustainable social inclusion frameworks for over 20 years. Prior to joining Destinations International, she was the Founder and CEO of Papilia, an organization dedicated to developing tailored EDI strategies, training, and coaching services for the travel industry. She has extensive experience as an international development practitioner working around the world on economic development, gender empowerment, and workforce development projects.

Sophia is on the Board of the Center for Responsible Tourism (CREST). She is a yoga and meditation instructor and has written for numerous travel publications about diverse representation, family travel, and wellness. Her love for travel started at the age of 10 when she moved from California to Sri Lanka. Since then, Sophia has been to 40+ countries and plans to inspire her toddler to be a citizen of the world through mindful travel and learning about his Bengali-American heritage.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Sophia Hyder Hock, Chief Diversity Officer for Destinations International. Sophia shares how her work in international development led to her current role in the travel and tourism industry, and her insights make Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion approachable, doable, and human. We discuss how organizations can get started with EDI, including taking the key step of understanding your foundation, being curious, and creating spaces of welcoming and belonging within our destinations.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why Sophia is passionate about policy development, design, and creating connections
  • The concept of embedding departmental verticals, what Sophia has already started to do at Destinations International, and her tips for what listeners might do to embed DEI into the culture of their organizations
  • Key pieces of advice for listeners starting out on their diversity, equity, and inclusion journey
  • Why it’s so important to create spaces of welcoming and belonging in the travel industry
  • Addressing the challenges of balancing policy with successful delivery of DEI
  • Some things we can do to be sensitive to different cultures in the travel and tourism context
  • Destinations International’s new EDI assessment tool and how it can help travel and tourism professionals

Incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Sophia discusses her vision of coming at DEI as being a three-part series. She shares why it is critical first to assess internal systems to ensure that a business is strong internally from an EDI perspective. The second part of the series is embedding DEI into the departmental verticals, and the third piece is fostering engagement from membership and partners.

Holding one another accountable is an important aspect of DEI, which is why Sophia is currently working with Destinations International’s members on first understanding, then collecting best practices and case studies. This initial work will provide her with the information she needs in order to create the resources and services their members are looking for.

Building a Strong Foundation

Sophia describes how she embeds thought leadership into her professional mindset and why in building a strong foundation, we have to both reflect on our own behavior and the behavior of our organization. Your ethos then inspires your audience.

As organizations in the travel and tourism industry, we should be trying to get a broader understanding of who’s missing and defining how we can be more inclusive. Sophia also notes the importance of building trust and acting with intentionality to authentically collaborate and engage.

Keeping an Open Mind

Awareness and curiosity are the keys to embracing the many different cultural nuances that exist, not only in the United States but internationally. To incorporate the principles of DEI, we need to do some homework to understand the cultural history of a place. Part of our responsibility is to listen and seek ways to connect with other humans.


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