MAKE TRAVEL MATTER
Our adventures can empower the growing number of women who work in tourism around the world
It’s International Women’s Day, a day when we celebrate the achievements of women, and consider all that remains to be done to empower women and create gender equality around the world. Women are still considered unequal in many societies which can limit their economic opportunities. But an increasing number of women are finding opportunities in tourism. And as travelers, we can support women’s economic empowerment as we explore the world.
Women in Tourism & International Women's Day
For more than 100 years, since 1914, women around the world have marked March 8 as a day to celebrate women’s achievements and call for change where it is needed. Women come together at rallies and special events, in person and online, to draw attention to the most pressing issues related to gender equality. It is also an important day of fundraising for organizations working toward women’s rights.
How Travelers Empower Women in Tourism
As travelers, we too have a role to play. If thoughtfully planned, our adventures can support the growing number of women working in tourism around the world. And as I have learned on my own travels, meeting local women has allowed me to learn so much more about their cultures as well as their dreams and challenges.
Here are some ways we can support women in tourism.
Choose Women Tour Guides
In Cairo Egypt, Laila Hassaballa and Mariam Nezar turned their love of food into a tour guiding business that they call Bellies en-Route. Women around the world are increasingly taking jobs as tour guides, or launching their own businesses as Laila and Mariam did. Journey Woman, a website for women travelers has a list of female tour guides from around the world, and a search function which allows you to search by country: Journey Woman – Local Woman Guides. I am currently planning a special trip to Africa and was able to use their database to find woman tour guides in Zambia and South Africa.
Choose Hotels that Employ Women & Support the Community
I stayed at the Shinta Mani Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia in 2019, where the Shinta Mani Foundation employs many women and supports the local communities in which their hotels operate. People with limited opportunities due to poverty, are enrolled in a free training program to prepare them for jobs with their group of hotels. And Shinta Mani also supports the education of the community’s children. The gift shop at the Shinta Mani Angkor, where I stayed, sold beautiful handicrafts made by local women. The lovely women employed at the shop helped me to decide which of the many gorgeous necklaces to buy. I chose green.
Choose Accommodation Run by Women
In Tanzania, The Dunia Camp is the only camp in Africa run entirely by women, a tremendous achievement in a male-dominated industry. Dunia opened in 2016 and after closures during the pandemic is welcoming guests once more. This luxury safari camp has 8 charming tens, complete with luxe bathrooms and stunning views from private verandahs. The women who work here are away from family for months at a time but say they love what they do and they are breaking down barriers to women. Dunia sounds truly special and is definitely on my bucket list for a trip to East Africa.
Shop at Women's Collectives that Pay Fair Wages
In a pretty courtyard in Rajasthan India, a group of women work on traditional handicrafts at a women’s collective called Sunder Rang (beautiful colours in Hindi). The collective was started on International Women’s Day in 2007 as a way to support the community. A school is located next door, where children from the village spend time learning computer skills. Shopping at well-run cooperatives and paying fair prices for our souvenirs is one way we can empower women when we travel. This collective is located next to the Chandelao Hotel which helps to run and support both the school and cooperative.
Book with Tour Operators That Employ Local Women
If you are choosing an organized group tour, or a tour company to design a trip for you, explore their website or ask questions to find out if they employ local women and in what capacities. For example, Eternal Landscapes Mongolia makes a point to employ women to act as assistants on every trip. Creating positive social change and promoting gender equality is a fundamental part of their trip design.
Supporting Women Taxi Drivers in India
The Women on Wheels program in India employs at-risk women aged 18-35 to work as drivers in Delhi. When I arrived for a two-week tour of India with the tour company, G Adventures, I was met at the airport by a young woman named Savita. She insisted on pulling my suitcase to her little car, parked next to a sign indicating the spot was “Reserved for Ladies”.
Savita expertly navigated the Delhi traffic, and answered my many questions, punctuating her thoughts with the charming declaration: “This is my way of thinking.” We certainly got curious stares from men, as we drove past. When I asked her about it she shrugged and smiled: “They are not so used to seeing women taxi drivers.”
Ways to Empower Women in Africa
I’m highlighting Africa specifically because it is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, yet women do not benefit to the same extent as men. There are many barriers, including lack of access to education, training and funding restraints. Equality has stagnated in Africa and research shows women in Africa lag behind women in other parts of the developing world. Yet women are creating businesses and seeking opportunity – tourism is a powerful economic opportunity for women in Africa, according to the World Tourism Organization. Let’s support their talent and ambition by hiring women when possible, on our Africa travels. Here are a some fun and inspiring examples of women in tourism in Africa.
In Kampala, Uganda, a group of women run a tourism business called Adventures With Locals, and offer female-led guided tours, eco safaris and cultural experiences.
Women Safari Guides in Botswana
In Botswana, the Chobe Game Lodge, has the first and only all-female guiding team in the country. It is difficult work, the women work long hours and live at the lodge. But these women are dedicated to their work and the opportunity it provides. They have proven to be incredibly popular with guests and have nicknamed themselves Chobe’s Angels. The head guide at Chobe Lodge, Florence Kagiso, is a bit of a local celebrity and inspires other women to do as she did and undertake guide training at the Wildlife Training Institute in Maun, Botswana, a town set at the edge of the Okavanga Delta. Chobe’s Angels have proven that women can do this job as well as men, and that many travelers appreciate the opportunity to support women in tourism.
What a privilege it is to explore this beautiful world, and help to empower women along the way. I will be updating this article with more examples of incredible women in tourism around the world, as well as my own experiences as I meet women working in tourism on my travels. If you know of a tourism business in a developing country that is owned by women or employs women in a meaningful way, please share it in the comments.
Happy International Women’s Day, and happy travels!