Gen Z vs Board low res

Students puts Hotelplan UK leaders to the test

‘Can the experience of travel be justified against its environmental impacts?’ And ‘Do your staff here understand what DE&I is and why it’s so important?’


These were just two of the questions posed by three university students at a session pitched as ‘Gen Z vs the Board’, hosted by travel group Hotelplan UK, parent company of tour operators Inghams, Explore Worldwide, Inntravel and Santa’s Lapland.


As part of a sustainability-focused work experience placement, students Katharina, Beth and Elliott sat down with fellow ‘Gen Z’ members of the existing Hotelplan UK team to debate where the group is making great progress – and where there are still improvements to be made.


This was followed by an open forum at which the students posed questions to a panel comprised of Hotelplan UK CEO Joe Ponte, CFO Colin Parselle, IT director Craig Randell, HR director Nicky Lyle, sustainability director Prue Stone and Explore’s marketing director Jae Hopkins. Around 100 Hotelplan UK team members attended the session virtually and in person to see how the group’s People – Planet – Profit strategy would stand up to the scrutiny of its next generation of potential colleagues or customers.


Hotelplan UK sustainability director Prue Stone said: “Young people can bring inventive and inspiring solutions to the table, provided they’re given a seat there. We challenged our work experience students to unpick if we’re doing as much as we can to protect all our futures; and when given free reign to question our senior leadership, they were not afraid to raise tricky issues. This wasn’t a teaching exercise – it was an exchange of ideas; and it gave us valuable insight into the topics that matter most to them.”


Gen Z vs The Board was the culmination of a week-long work experience programme based at Hotelplan UK’s headquarters. The three students, from different universities studying different subjects connected to sustainability, spent time with the group’s sustainability leads as well as other functions within the group to gain broad perspectives into what it means to be a purpose-led business.


During the forum, one of the students remarked “Every single person we’ve spoken to is so interested in sustainability and [its connection to] people and places. Sometimes I’ve forgotten this is a travel company and not a sustainability consultancy”.


Another student fed back: “I could have never imagined it to be as good as it was and I learned so much about sustainability and generally how businesses operate. I've also found that I've never thought about my personal impact on the environment as much as I have this week.”


Hotelplan UK CEO Joe Ponte said: “These young people are passionate about building a better world. They completely grasp both the benefits and the destructive potential of tourism; and challenged us with great confidence on how we tip the balance towards positive impact. Listening to what they care about – making tourism more inclusive and accessible, for instance – is a reality check on the expectations of our future customer base; and they definitely gave me food for thought.”


Next month, some of Hotelplan UK’s Inntravel team in Yorkshire will participate in the Speakers for Schools initiative, giving local high school students insights into different careers with a sustainability theme.


To learn more about Hotelplan UK’s approach to sustainability, visit