Prince Harry’s sustainable tourism initiative Travalyst suffers a blow as its executive director Heather Wong quits – while pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry
- Heather Wong was executive director of Travalyst but parted ways last month
- Previously worked as Harry’s assistant private secretary at Kensington Palace
- Was one of few aides Sussexes kept on when they stepped down as senior royals
Prince Harry has lost a key member of staff from his sustainable tourism initiative Travalyst after the travel industry was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Heather Wong, who worked as the Duke of Sussex’s assistant private secretary at Kensington Palace for three years before he and Meghan Markle, 39, quit the Royal Family, has left her role as executive director of the venture.
Ms Wong joined the royal household after working with Prince Charles’ former spin doctor Paddy Harverson at his PR firm Milltown Partners, which is so exclusive it doesn’t reveal the names of clients.
Heather, who also previously worked in the Obama administration as deputy assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, was one of the few aides the Sussexes kept on when they stepped down as senior royals.
Prince Harry has lost a key member of staff from his sustainable tourism initiative Travalyst after the travel industry was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic
Heather Wong, who worked as the Duke of Sussex’s assistant private secretary at Kensington Palace for three years before he and Meghan Markle quit the Royal Family, has left her role as executive director of the venture
Heather took up her full time role at Travalyst in September 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile, where she states that she worked as a senior advisor to the Duke of Sussex, 36.
However a filing at the UK registry Companies House stated that the ‘termination of a company appointment’ of Heather Wong took place on February 28, reports Newsweek.
Her LinkedIn states she is now chief of staff at London-based private equity firm Atomico. The publication understands Ms Wong will continue to work as an external advisor to Travalyst.
Heather attended Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding and was by the Duchess’ side during her first official engagement in Nottingham in December 2017. She showed her the ropes and even carried her bag while managing the crowds eager for a glimpse.
To keep Meghan’s hands free for shaking, Heather also took hold of the bouquets, presents and cards passed to her by well-wishers.
Heather attended Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding and was by the Duchess’ side during her first official engagement in Nottingham in December 2017
Her departure will no doubt come as a blow to the ecotourism venture, which aims to encourage the tourism industry to become more sustainable and make eco-choices simpler for travellers.
It brought together some of the biggest operators in the travel industry – including Visa, Booking.com and Skyscanner – to help tourists pick low carbon options more easily and chose destinations that will have more benefit to local communities.
The name is a mixture of the words ‘travel’ and ‘catalyst’, with Harry explaining when he launched it in September 2019 that it came from ‘viewing our role in sustainable travel as catalysts to accelerate positive changes in travel’.
Last year it emerged Travalyst altered the wording of it’s website to reflect the step back that Prince Harry took from royal life, replacing that Travalyst is ‘led by HRH The Duke of Sussex’ on its homepage with simply ‘led by The Duke of Sussex’.
Its work has taken a hit after the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic halted the majority of international leisure travel, causing what Harry dubbed a crisis of ‘no tourists and therefore no income’.
At a global summit in July, the Duke said: ‘None of us here could have predicted the global shock and impact that Covid-19 is having on the world, especially on travel and the local communities who depend on tourism.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence on April 23, 2018 in London. Ms Wong is pictured in the background
‘Many of you joining us today rely on visitors for your livelihoods. Businesses are hurting significantly, and I’ve heard from some of you who are currently struggling to put food on your family’s tables and make ends meet because there are no tourists and therefore no income. We need to build back, but we need to build back better.’
Ms Wong’s former role within the royal household means she is among those eligible to participate in Buckingham Palace’s investigation into claims Meghan Markle bullied staff – though there is nothing to suggest she is behind or involved in any of the allegations.
Last month two senior members of the royal staff claimed they were bullied by the former actress, with a third saying they had been personally ‘humiliated’ and claimed two members of staff had been bullied. Meghan has denied the accusations.
In an escalation of the standoff between the two parties, the Duchess has written to the Palace demanding to see documents, emails or text messages relating to the bullying complaint against her, The Mail on Sunday revealed at the weekend.
But in an unprecedented move that will no doubt increase tensions further, royal staff have decided a third party should take the reins of the investigation, rather than the in-house inquiry first announced, according to The Sunday Times.
Last year it emerged Travalyst altered the wording of it’s website to reflect the step back that Prince Harry took from royal life
Ms Wong’s former role within the royal household means she is among those eligible to participate in Buckingham Palace’s investigation into claims Meghan Markle (pictured with Harry in March 2020) bullied staff – though there is nothing to suggest she is behind or involved in any of the allegations
A senior Palace aide had accused Meghan of ‘unacceptable behaviour’ towards two personal assistants and undermining the confidence of a third, leading to the investigation which will be given to a legal firm.
Former and current royal aides who were blocked from giving evidence in court during Meghan’s recent legal privacy battle are expected to speak to the inquiry.
But in a clear indication that the Duchess is preparing to fight back against what she has termed ‘a smear campaign’, a senior Palace source confirmed that her office had ‘written to request the evidence’.
In response, the Queen has passed the request to the Prince of Wales, whose closest aides are now conducting a search of files.
Meanwhile, it emerged on Saturday night that William and Harry had ‘been in contact’ for the first time since last Sunday’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Sunday Times reported. The interview saw the Sussexes make shockwaves with accusations of racism against ‘The Firm’.
The Sussexes are not expected to be invited to take part in the investigation despite having written to Buckingham Palace about it, a decision that could widen the rift between the Royal Family and couple further.
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