March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day celebrated around the world in honor of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s roots began back in 1909 by women in New York City and gained popularity in Russia after women gained suffrage in 1917. March 8th was officially adopted as International Women’s Day by the United Nations in 1975 and has been celebrated around the world ever since.

Over the decades much progress has been made in regards to women’s rights however there still remains a lot of work to be done in achieving gender parity and improving the lives of women. One area that can certainly help improve women’s lives is sustainable employment and as the travel industry booms around the world, there is a great opportunity for women to increase their livelihoods through sustainable tourism.

As a member of Impact Travel Alliance, the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals, I am highlighting some of the amazing female-run travel businesses and tour operators supporting women’s programs around the world.

While I haven’t had the honor of traveling with all of these organizations, I was fortunate to have joined Lokal Travel on one of their early trips. In 2017, I went with Lokal Travel on a trip to the remote Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica where I met Xiñia, a former gold miner who has opened up her remote jungle cabin, “Descanso El Pizote” to rural tourism. Her story is one of heartbreak and hope as for years she had no choice but to continue the backbreaking work of gold-mining until she met the co-founders of Lokal Travel who changed her life. Today, her dream is to grow Descanso El Pizote into a full-time business sharing her beautiful rainforest property and her passion for the jungle with tourists. Then she can quit gold mining for good and it would be a win-win situation that promotes sustainable rural travel while conserving the environment.

Dos Brazos de Tigre Lokal Travel

Xiñia leads the way to her jungle cabin with her walking stick ready.

Xiñia’s story is similar to the hopes and dreams of many women around the world who are seeking to improve their lives through sustainable tourism. Not only does it improve these women’s lives, it also provides the traveler with a unique experience to do something different. For me personally, these kinds of trips have been the most rewarding travels of my life and I feel wonderful knowing that my travel dollars are making a difference on people’s lives.

In fact, I just returned from Belize with G Adventures and was thrilled to see that our trip included a visit to a Mayan women’s co-op to watch a live demonstration on making traditional pottery and corn tortillas. As part of G Adventure’s commitment to responsible travel and tourism, G Adventure trips always include a travel for good element to give back and support the local economy. In this case, it was to support the local Mayan women.

San Antonio Women's Coop Belize

At the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative in Belize watching a Mayan woman show us how to make corn tortillas.

Here are six amazing organizations that are working to help empower women through travel.

Six Companies Empowering Women Through Travel:

Community Homestay in Nepal provides local women the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and ready their homes to house guests.

Fernweh Fair Travel is a women-led nonprofit organization working to empower women, mostly young widows, and bring sustainable development to communities in India through responsible tourism.

Purposeful Nomad runs female, small-group adventures around the world designed to empower women through responsible community engagement. “Purposeful Nomad was created to inspire, challenge and bring together women from around the globe,” said Caitlin Murray, the tour operator’s co-founder. “Empowering women and offering a platform to connect and share is important because I know it won’t just end there. Women are the driving force in most communities and families around the world.”

Lokal Travel, a community tourism platform and travel operator, features a range of women-owned lodges, female-guided tours and more, like Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre, that highlight women and support their work around the world.

Andeana Hats, a female-owned organization, operates sustainable tours for travelers to support the Quechua weaving community in rural Peru.

Urban Adventures’ offers day tours hosted by local women and supports area organizations. “The Olive Tree of Istanbul” tour visits a community center that offers education and support to Syrian refugees, including a women’s social enterprise program.

“Thankfully it’s possible to find companies like the women’s global travel operator Purposeful Nomad or Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre in Laos that allow us as travelers to support female-run businesses that are also doing their best to support women globally. It’s important to take this day to shine a light on their work,” said Kelley Louise, Impact Travel Alliance founder and executive director. “We also wanted to celebrate female travelers. Our community is full of intrepid women dedicated to exploring and doing good as they travel. It’s not always easy to travel as a woman, but we persist.”

Want to learn more?

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.  For more information, visit www.internationalwomensday.com

Impact Travel Alliance is the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals. Through education and advocacy around sustainable tourism, the organization aims to transform the travel industry into a force for good, and to help improve the world through business and leisure travel. ITA is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit with a highly engaged and active global community with 30 local chapters in cities around the world. For more information, visit impacttravelalliance.org.

Calling all female travelers in New York City, Washington D.C., Hong Kong and Kathmandu, Nepal:

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Impact Travel Alliance celebrates the female traveler and the travel businesses that support women around the world with four global events.

Planned by four Impact Travel Chapters to bring together the men and women who are passionate about travel and lifting women up, the events will focus on helping women to unleash their inner explorer. Several extraordinary women-led travel businesses and operators with programs that empower women will be highlighted at events in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Hong Kong; and Kathmandu, Nepal.

Travelers in those cities can find details for those specific events here on the  ITA website.

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From empowering young widows in India to homestays in Nepal or a visit to see the Quechua weaving community in rural Peru, these trips empower women and make a huge difference in not only their lives but yours as a traveler.

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