Published 24 February 2021
For LGBT+ history month, this week we chatted to the founders of Checking-IN Will Davies and Liam Rezende, who have created a community of LGBT+ hospitality professionals. They have also shared interviews with some of their community with CODE.
Checking-IN is a community of LGBT+ professionals and their allies working throughout the hospitality industry, including hotels and accommodation, restaurants, contract catering, events and travel. It was founded by Will Davies & Liam Rezende who both recognised the need to create greater awareness of the challenges LGBT+ professionals in the industry face, showcase the opportunities and resources that exist in the UK, profile the industry’s LGBT+ role models and create a safe and welcoming community for LGBT+ hospitality professionals and allies through networking events, panel discussions, educational workshops, fundraising initiatives and various online and social campaigns and activities.
Our aims are to:
-Promote and encourage networking opportunities for LGBT+ employees throughout the hospitality industry
-Create an open and inclusive forum to meet and discuss issues impacting LGBT+ employees in their day-to-day work.
-Enable the sharing of ideas and best practices between LGBT+ employee resource groups and networks.
-Champion LGBT+ inclusion and equality throughout the hospitality industry.
LGBT History Month is an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. It’s an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the positive contributions of LGBT+ people throughout history and champions visible LGBT+ role models, particularly to young people. LGBT+ History Month also raises awareness of, and combats prejudice against the LGBT community, while celebrating inclusion and diversity.
The hospitality industry is already highly diverse and welcoming to LGBT+ people however there’s still significant work to be done to improve company culture, creating and implementing inclusive HR policies that recognise and protect LGBT+ people, championing LGBT+ people in the workplace and through creating positive LGBT+ role models, especially at the senior level within hospitality, to give LGBT+ people leaders and trailblazers to aspire to.
To celebrate LGBT+ History Month, Checking-IN speaks to a series of LGBT+ professionals across the hospitality industry and asked them who their LGBT+ hero or role model is and how these historical figures might have influenced them in their work.
I think it does a good job, but could always do more. One thing I hear a lot is that because of the very shift-led nature of hospitality it can be very hard to embed E&D into the culture because training means taking people out of the business and at times that might not be convenient to them. But that to me sounds like an excuse – if a business absolutely lives and breathes equality and diversity and is run with a commitment to it at its heart, you don’t need to give staff sit-down training for it to become the culture.
My business turned five last October; I’d hoped to be able to have a big, glittering soirée to celebrate, which of course wasn’t possible, but it still felt like a massive milestone. Just keeping the business afloat throughout lockdown when the industry I supply has taken such a battering was a proud and poignant moment.
Most notable The Langham, London is the official accommodation partner for Pride in London. We are extremely fortunate that the parade starts from the front of the hotel and we use this as a platform for a series of events throughout the year and as an opportunity for colleagues to join in with the Pride in London celebrations on the day.
My wife, Emily, gave birth to our first daughter at the end of September last year and we have really missed being able to spend time with our families, celebrating her arrival, so I can’t wait to enjoy a big family get together when we are able to!
I was born and lived on the Caribbean Island of St Kitts & Nevis until aged 18. I remember as a young boy watching the huge cruise ships come in and was fascinated by these hotels floating from island to island. There were 2 major hotels on the Island itself, and tourism was the main industry on the island. Although so many people from so many different countries would come to visit for a holiday, for me it was just home, and I would wonder what life was like for these strange visitors. Whilst at college when aged 17 a talent scout approached me and asked if I would like to work for the five star luxury Marriott hotel, I could hardly say no and this is where my dream and journey begun.
Being a young gay black male gives me a unique perspective on this question. I can honestly say that I have never in the 4 countries that I have worked in experienced prejudice or in any way felt held back on the basis of my skin colour or sexuality. In fact, I would say that hospitality is one of the most inclusive, and accepting industries to work in. I suspect this may be due to the wide demographic of customers we serve.
I think role models and diverse representation is very important. The real value comes from sustainable culture change that truly means you can progress no matter what your sexual orientation, gender identity or racial background etc. Efforts should never be tokenistic or short sighted attempts to quickly “fix the problem”.
Yeah we do a lot at Soho House! In 2020 we launched Our Pledge which is our commitment to the inclusion of BIPOC communities. This is a public pledge and we have already made progress in many of the areas we outline. I’m really happy to say that but it hasn’t always been this way and there’s also much more work still to be done.
Yes and no. The industry is a very fragmented. The larger companies tend to have established and structured programmes, whilst smaller companies often rely on particular individuals to lead the way. I remember working in a small countryside pub in Kent as a teenager. We were a family, diverse and inclusive by nature, but did we actively do anything to promote it? Probably not.
There have been lots of amazing role models at different stages of my career but Sean Wheeler stands out. He has been a great mentor, role model and valued friend. He is incredibly active in the industry and has always looked to enable those around him to succeed.
That first glass of wine in a hotel bar or a pub with friends and being able to see the family, it’s been a long time!