Aradhana Khowala: The Journey of a Hospitality Maverick and Sustainability Advocate


In our She Tycoon feature series, SheSight takes a deep dive into the fascinating journey of Aradhana Khowala. Aradhana is not just a powerhouse in the world of hospitality, but she’s also a passionate advocate for regenerative tourism as a force for good. Let’s dive right in and discover her incredible story!

Aradhana’s been making some serious waves in the global hospitality scene! In 2022, the International Hospitality Institute recognized her as one of the top 100 most influential people in the industry, and she also made it to the list of the 25 most influential women in hospitality. As much as London is her base, her career has taken her all around the world. She’s the go-to advisor for governments and big corporations when it comes to all things regenerative tourism and hospitality. This lady’s had quite an impressive journey!

Early childhood and lessons in leadership:

Aradhana Khowala’s story begins in Delhi, India – a place where she didn’t quite fit the typical mold.

In India, every hundred kilometers you travel, you’re in a whole new world with different cultures, languages, foods, and traditions. Her parents had migrated to Delhi for work and she could see how she did not look like everyone else or how her parents spoke with an accent. This meant she was comfortable being different and at ease standing out from the crowd from the very beginning.

Growing up in this melting pot of diversity as an outsider also taught Aradhana a crucial lesson: how to blend in wherever life takes you. Aradhana quickly became a pro at adapting, and she says she is instantly home in most parts of the world and at ease with most people – that’s a skill that would come in handy on her journey.

This unique upbringing gave her a sense of belonging no matter where she landed, and that would become a superpower in her career. She also enjoys making unconventional career choices. At first, she ventured into the hospitality world, but as time went on, her resume started to read like an adventure novel. She added consulting, tourism, and strong advocacy for diversity and inclusion, especially when it came to gender and leadership roles. Aradhana’s story? It’s a fascinating journey of blending cultures, breaking boundaries, and making a mark in multiple fields.

A Journey of Change:

Aradhana Khowala’s career path has been quite an adventure, driven by her eagerness to lean into change and embrace new opportunities as they came her way. She kicked things off in the hospitality world, but soon found herself diving into consulting, all while pushing boundaries and advocating for inclusivity. It’s safe to say her journey wasn’t a straight line, but her unwavering determination and commitment to making a real difference kept her going strong.

One of her remarkable accomplishments is the founding of Aptamind, a strategy consulting firm that’s on a mission to ensure tourism becomes a force for good. With a footprint in 75 countries, Aptamind operates right at the crossroads of climate change, community development, and gender equality within the tourism industry. Aradhana often describes her work as a blend of crusading, activism, storytelling, and good old-fashioned doing. Her goal? Not just to talk about change, but to roll up her sleeves and show the world how tourism can truly leave a positive mark on communities and the environment.

The Evolution of Tourism:

Aradhana opened our eyes to how the tourism game has changed over the years. No doubt, tourism has exploded in the last couple of decades, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There’s this dark cloud of environmental issues, like greenhouse gas emissions and plastic pollution, hanging over it. Aradhana’s big idea? We need to shift gears from just being “sustainable” to a whole new deal: a regenerative model that doesn’t just maintain but fixes and rejuvenates the places it touches.

She’s not just about talking the talk, though. Aradhana’s all about redefining how we travel. She’s waving goodbye to that checklist-style tourism, you know, where you just tick off sights and move on. Instead, she’s all about getting travelers to form real connections with the places they go. Travel, in her book, should be this mind-blowing, soul-transforming journey that makes you truly understand and care about the world, not just some superficial consumer spectacle.

Promoting Responsible Tourism:

Aradhana hammers home the idea that responsible tourism isn’t a solo act. Nope, it’s all about teamwork. She’s all about this trio: the public sector, the private sector, and us regular travelers. According to her, real change needs leaders who aren’t afraid to color outside the lines and put their money where their mouth is when it comes to regeneration.

And hey, she has got a soft spot for India, too. She thinks it has got massive tourism potential, but there’s a catch. She’s saying, “Hey, India, let’s spruce up that infrastructure a bit!” That way, it can roll out the welcome mat to even more international visitors. You can feel her excitement about India’s culture and resources drawing folks in like a magnet in the years to come.

Empowering Women in Leadership:

Aradhana Khowala is all fired up about diversity and fairness, especially when it comes to tourism and sustainability. She’s looking around and saying, “Hold on a sec, we’ve got plenty of diversity in the trenches, but where are the women at the top?”

Yep, she’s waving the flag for more women in those high-powered leadership roles. And she’s got a message for all the ladies out there: “Don’t give up, don’t settle for less. Aim high, break some rules, and keep on pushing for those top spots.”

Breaking Barriers and Underestimations:

Aradhana’s journey hasn’t been a cakewalk. She’s had to deal with people underestimating her because of her gender and where she comes from. But you know what she did? She turned those challenges into stepping stones, showing everyone what she’s made of and opening doors for others.

She’s got this message for all the ladies out there: “Embrace those challenges, don’t back down, keep on reaching for your goals.”

And you know what’s interesting? Aradhana sees being underestimated as a sort of secret weapon. It’s like a fire under her feet, pushing her to go beyond what’s expected and prove all those doubters wrong.

Plus, she’s all about turning bystanders into champions for women’s rights. She’s saying, “Let’s get everyone on board, actively supporting women and making positive change happen.”

Feminism and Choice:

Aradhana brings a fresh take on feminism. She’s all about saying that feminism isn’t just about being angry or fired up. It’s more like building relationships, standing up for change, and making choices that match your values and dreams.

According to her, true feminism is about having the freedom to pick your path. Whether that’s a rocking career, a family, or a bit of both, it’s all good.

And here’s the kicker: she’s all for women going after those top spots in leadership. But at the same time, she’s waving the flag for women who choose family over career. Her take is that feminism should be this big, welcoming tent that supports all women’s choices.

She’s saying, “Listen up, feminism isn’t about one-size-fits-all. Women should have the freedom to pick
their path, whether it’s a career, family, or both.” She’s giving a big round of applause to stay-at-home moms, too. To her, feminism means freedom to make choices and supporting all the choices women make.

Advice for Aspiring Leaders:

If you’re aiming to be a leader, Aradhana has some golden nuggets of advice. She’s all about being bold, not letting anything hold you back, and giving the status quo a good shake. Plus, she’s big on keeping it real and staying true to yourself when you’re in those leadership shoes.

In a nutshell, Aradhana Khowala’s journey through the worlds of hospitality, tourism, and sustainability is like a roadmap for anyone looking to make a positive impact. She’s all about responsible tourism, equality, and diversity in leadership, and she’s a real inspiration for the next wave of leaders and change-makers.

Her story shows that you can break through barriers, challenge the norms, and achieve some seriously amazing stuff while keeping your values and principles intact. It’s a reminder that leadership can take many shapes, and true leaders are the ones who make the world better for all of us.

Staff Reporter

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