One of my favorite days of the year is International Women’s Day which is held on March 8th. 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 and improving the lives of women around the world. For years, I have written about the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done to help lift women out of poverty and improve their health, their lives and their livelihoods.
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 travelers, we can use our travel choices and purchasing power to help enhance gender equity around the world and provide more women with sustainable employment through the travel industry. Travelers can support women’s jobs in the global hospitality industry by choosing women-led travel outfitters, employing female guides, supporting women-owned businesses and local non-profits in the places they visit.
Last year, on International Women’s Day I collaborated with the Impact Travel Alliance, the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals, to highlight six amazing female-run travel businesses and tour operators supporting women’s programs around the world. This year, as a member of Impact Travel Alliance, we are sharing four tips you can help empower women through your travel choices.
Four Tips on how your travel purchases can empower women:
It is no surprise that the global travel industry is booming. Per the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC): “In 2018, the Travel and Tourism sector experienced 3.9% growth, outpacing that of the global economy (3.2%) for the eighth consecutive year. Over the past five years, one in five jobs were created by the sector, making Travel and Tourism the best partner for governments to generate employment“. In 2018, the global tourism industry contributed a record $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy.
Therefore, the opportunity for women to find employment in the travel industry is huge. However, only if we ensure that women are being hired. Of course, there are a lot of obstacles in the way such as gender biases, lack of education and patriarchal countries that make it difficult for some women to work, especially in the travel and hospitality industry. But women are persevering like Becky, East Africa’s first female overland driver. We too as travelers can make a big difference in supporting and empowering women by the choices we make when we travel. Check out these four tips on what you can do to make a difference and support women’s livelihoods when you travel:
Seek out female tour guides
It comes as no surprise that finding a female tour guide is a rarity. In fact, over all of my years of travel I probably only had a dozen or so female tour guides and not a single female tour guide on any of the multi-day treks that I’ve done. I remember when I was traveling in Belize last year with G Adventures, that we had one of the only female tour guides in Guatemala for our tour of Tikal. She was quite proud of her role and attributed it to her rare opportunity to go to a bilingual school where she was able to learn English. She was the only girl in her family that had this opportunity and it allowed her to lift herself and her family out of poverty.
Xiña leads the way to her jungle cabin with her walking stick ready. Lokal Travel in the Osa Peninsula.
I was fortunate to have traveled to the remote Osa Penisula of Costa Rica where I met Xiña, whose chance encounter with one of Lokal Travel’s founders, changed her life and launched her tiny business in the tourism industry offering traveler’s a chance to spend a night in her cabin up in the jungle. Spending the night at her cabin in the Costa Rican jungle was one of the highlights of my trip and it also helped Xiña earn a much-needed income.
However, finding female tour guides can be a daunting task. Sustainable travel outfitter, Responsible Travel, does the work for you. Check out Responsible Travel’s amazing, curated list of women-led vacations ranging from Mongolia to Cuba. Adventures in Good Company also employs female-guides for their female trips.
Chose travel agencies and tour companies run by women
The great news is there are tons of fantastic travel agencies and tour companies run by women. While most are based in North America, Europe or Australia or New Zealand, they still help empower and employ women around the world. I’ve highlighted some of these companies before in prior posts and added a few new ones to the ever-growing list. I’ve learned about all of these companies thanks to the Impact Travel Alliance and readers’ recommendations. So if you know any more to add to this list, please let me know in the comments.
Founded by Marian Marbury, Adventures in Good Company is an active travel company for women with adventurous spirits. Adventures in Good Company offers small group adventures that encourage women of all ages to (re)connect with their adventurous selves, physical abilities, other women, different cultures, and the natural world. From hiking to sea kayaking, backpacking to multisport adventures, their vacations are for women who love being active, whether they’re first time travelers or lifelong outdoorswomen. Destinations: Worldwide.
Adventures in Good Company hiking trip
Andeana Hats is a female-owned company that operates sustainable tours for travelers to support Quechua weaving community in rural Peru. Through their partnership with the non-profit organization, Awamaki, Andeana Hats provides sustainable tours that not only are fun and educational, and provide a positive impact in the Quechua communities. Destination(s): Peru
Andeana Hats (Photo credit Laura Grier)
Community Homestay in Nepal provides local women the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and ready their homes to house guests. Select a homestay online and meet with the local women and communities in Nepal. Community Homestay also offers such cultural experiences as cooking classes, jungle walks, wildlife viewing and more. Every tour helps local women and their families. Destination(s): Nepal
Picture of Village in Patlekhet Homestay. Courtesy of Community Homestay
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. Fernweh Fair Travel offers authentic travel experiences along with mountain adventure sports in the majestic Indian Himalayas. Their goal is to empower and support communities through travel that makes a positive impact on the local economy, culture, and environment. Destination(s): India
Homestay Team. Photo Credit: Fernweh Fair Travel – Uplifting Communities
Girls Trip is a transformative travel experience focused on female empowerment. Girls Trip Tours hosts trips to various African destinations with the goal of empowering future female leaders through mentorship while taking in the sites and dining around town with high profile businesswomen and local industry leaders. Destination: Africa
This mentorship day photo was taken at the giraffe center in Nairobi and is credited to Samantha Kendi.
Global Family Travels’ was founded by Jennifer Spatz with the mission to “Learn, Serve and Immerse.” In partnership with community-based partners, schools and non-profit organizations, Global Family Travels creates and offers service-learning tours for families which include a unique mix of cultural and educational activities, homestays and participation in local service projects aimed at improving the lives of people in the communities they visit. Destinations: Worldwide
Reading to new friends. Photo credit: Global Family Travels
GOOD Travel’s mission is to make it easier for travelers to have a positive social, economic and environmental impact on the places they visit. They do this through tours as well as advocacy, research and events focused on influencing tourist behavior for GOOD. GOOD Travel’s tours are carefully researched and designed to create unique, impactful and transformative experiences for travelers to have a positive impact on the destination being visited. For each trip, all accommodations and tour companies are carefully selected due to their focus on sustainability and community, and $100 per person is donated to a local project. Destinations: Bali, Iceland, Thailand, New Zealand, Zanzibar, and Peru (a mother-daughter trip).
The girls enjoying the view at Machu Picchu
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. Trips can include meeting leaders in sustainable tourism, helping with community projects, living like a local and helping your host family harvest, feed animals or cook, engaging with women working to restore native alpaca customs and more. Destinations: India, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ecuador, Orcas Islands, Guatemala, Morocco, Iceland, and Tanzania.
Cloud forest Ecuador. Working at Mashpi farm sorting cocoa seeds from the pods. Photo credit: Purposeful Nomad
Wild Women Expeditions is a global leader in women’s adventure travel offering adventurous trips all over the world ranging from canoeing, cycling, and paddleboarding to kayaking, yoga, and hiking. Their trips are founded on a love of the outdoors, a sense of adventure, and the joy of sharing a new experience with other spirited women. Wild Women Expeditions is passionate about environmental conservation and also seeks out opportunities to support programs that foster female empowerment, by partnering with social justice and women’s rights organizations in an effort to make a difference both locally and globally. Destinations: Worldwide.
Photo courtesy of Wild Women.
Book with travel companies that support nonprofits empowering women in the communities they visit.
Another fabulous tip is to book your trip with a travel company that supports nonprofits empowering women in the communities that they visit. Thankfully this is a growing trend in the travel industry and one that I love to see. Two stand-out travel outfitters that I have personally used include G Adventures and Intrepid Travel who both make it part of their mission and trips to support local nonprofits in the destinations that they travel to.
G Adventures is a social enterprise that provides responsible, sustainable small-group tours around the world. G Adventures spreads good around the world by working with local businesses and guides, promoting animal and child welfare, responsible travel with indigenous cultures, and other projects. G Adventures offers tours for families, solo travelers, age groups, classic tours, active tours, adventure tours, local living tours, National Geographic tours, and more. As a key funder for the nonprofit, Planeterra, in 2018 alone, G Adventures contributed $500,000 CAD to its nonprofit partner Planeterra to support community development in 42 countries, reaching 64,250 people and directly supporting 2,043 women, 491 youth and 2,758 community members around the world. In 2018, over 98,000 travelers visited one of Planeterra’s projects around the world and G Adventures has integrated the project visits into most of their tours. In my opinion, it is an excellent way to travel and do good. (To read about my visit to one of G Adventures G for Good projects in Belize click here). Destinations: Worldwide
At the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative in Belize watching a Mayan woman show us how to make corn tortillas.
Intrepid Travel -one of the world’s largest adventure travel companies – is changing the way we see and impact the world. With over 1,000 tours in 120 countries, Intrepid has done wonders to promote responsible tourism and help make a positive impact on where they travel. Intrepid is committed not just to treading lightly, but to making a real difference – by investing in local communities, human rights initiatives, wildlife conservation projects, and the environment. Intrepid is all about operating in a responsible manner and incorporating principles of sustainable tourism and development into the way they provide our travelers with real-life experiences.
Intrepid is committed to promoting gender equality, both within our business and without, which is why Intrepid is striving to double its number of female leaders by 2020. From Zina in Morocco,to Channa in Cambodia, Nadia in Iran, and Sana in India, Intrepid is paving the way to empower women tour leaders. I traveled with Intrepid to Jordan this past October and felt good knowing many travel dollars were supporting these causes.
Me in Jerash, Jordan.
Intrepid also has a wide variety of Women’s Expeditions where you can break down the cultural barriers of traditional tourism” with their amazing range of all-female adventures ranging from such fascinating trips as Israel and the Palestine territories to Pakistan and India and more.
Break down the cultural barriers of traditional tourism with our range of all-female adventures.
Join and support female travel communities online
Another great way to support women in travel is to join female travel communities online. Thankfully there are tons out there and most provide a global community of women who love to travel and share their tips. We are Travel Girls is a community created to inspire, connect, educate and empower female travelers. They also launched Travel Girls Giving to raise money and highlight charitable organizations around the world and they host impact trips as well for women to see different inspiring projects in the field. The Travel Women is another online resource for women who love to travel and share their tips, stories and more online. Unearth Women is an online media outlet where feminism meets travel. Check out their list of over 40 Feminist Guides that give tips on how you can support women in cities around the world.
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