Our Industry Ally column will feature LGBT allies in the hospitality industry who don’t just work to make a better travel experience but work every day to improve the lives of the LGBT community. This interview features Apoorva Gandhi, Vice President of Multicultural Affairs at Marriott International.
Charlie Rounds, Editor, GayTravel.com
GT: Please tell us what a day in the life is like as Marriott International's Vice President of Multicultural Affairs?
“Believe me, there is no typical day in my role and that keeps me highly motivated.
"Today, Marriott International is the world’s leading hospitality company with more than 6,500 properties across 127 countries and territories with one of the most diverse workforces in the world, serving the most diverse array of guests anywhere. In this work, my team consults with our management leaders to align our diversity and inclusion goals with our business strategies so that we never lose sight of all that makes us different and all that makes us alike.
"After nearly a century in business, we’ve learned our strength lies in our ability to embrace differences and create opportunities for our people, guests, owners and franchisees, and suppliers. Marriott’s core value has always been putting people first, which includes our many LGBTQ associates, guests, and their families.”
GT: What is the biggest challenge you face when trying to teach others to embrace diversity and inclusion?
“I don’t see myself as a teacher, though many of us work daily to instill our multicultural education into our workforce. We never lose sight of what makes us each human and what it means to accept differences.
"We find visibility helps bridge differences by ensuring that we see each person in all their identities and accept them as they are. We try to bridge by highlighting and celebrating individuals and narratives that include LGBTQ people, as well as people of all colors, nationalities, backgrounds, abilities, and faiths. All of these are intersections, of course, and they are embodied in our popular #LoveTravels message that first took root among our LGBTQ guests several years ago. #LoveTravels really speaks a universal language that goes beyond barriers.”
GT: How did you become such a strong supporter of the LGBT community?
“I feel these values [were] baked in me from an early age, when I grew up as a different kid. I was taunted daily because of the strange food I ate, my background, and the clothes I wore. Bullying was a daily fact of life, and I realized I was not really alone, and that other differences inspired bias and cruelty towards others including LGBTQ kids.
"I know my own journey is not the same as theirs, but the pain and the hunger for change still inspires me today. No LGBTQ child or adult should have to experience this passage – and more importantly, we need all the diverse talent we can find to succeed in anything we do. At Marriott, we have developed trusted partnerships with community leaders, including the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. We also partner closely with PFLAG, and I am especially proud that I recently served on their Board of Directors.”
GT: Moving forward, what is your vision for Marriott when it comes to supporting the LGBT community? Why is this a great company to work with if you are an LGBT traveler?
“I share Marriott’s vision when it comes to welcoming all and learned first-hand this is part of our company’s DNA as it began with our founders J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott. Their son and our chairman, Bill Marriott, often reminds us today that if we take care of our associates, they will take care of our guests and the guests will return again and again.
"As the first hotel company to extend health benefits to same-sex partners, Marriott has stayed the course to express that welcome in our workforce policies, our many community partnerships, our training, and our culture. We have earned a perfect 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index as a benchmark of our leadership. We never take any of our guests for granted, and we continue to work hard to live up to the highest standards.”