Women's hands of different colours are intertwined

Celebrating Women in Tourism Around the World

MAKE TRAVEL MATTER

Our adventures can empower the growing number of women who work in tourism, in every corner of the globe

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day when we celebrate the achievements of women, and consider all that remains to be done to create gender equality around the world. Despite obstacles, an increasing number of women are creating opportunities for themselves in tourism, and that creates opportunities for us as travelers: we can support women’s economic empowerment as we explore the world.

International Women's Day Graphic with four women holding a sign that says equality and shouting into a megaphone.

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 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.

Indian women in colourful saris carry water jugs on their heads

How Travelers Can Empower Women in Tourism

If thoughtfully planned, our adventures can support the growing number of women working in tourism around the world. On my own travels, meeting local women has allowed me to learn about their cultures, as well as their dreams and challenges. I am endlessly inspired by the incredible women working in tourism, often in places where a patriarchal culture makes this especially challenging. 

I wanted to share some the stories of some amazing women, working in tourism around the world, and the ways we can support them and enhance our adventures at the same time. 

A date palm grove in Morocco

Choose Women Tour Guides

In Cairo Egypt, Laila Hassaballa and Mariam Nezar turned their love of food into a tour guiding business they call Bellies en-Route.  In Kampala Uganda, Rosette and Hannah created a guiding business which connects travelers with local adventure and sustainable tourism: Adventures with Locals.  And in India, Monika followed her dream to become a Tour Guide in Agra, escorting visitors to India’s jewel, the Taj Mahal. 

Sometimes women tour guides can be found through a simple google search. Tourism boards can also be a place to find women tour guides or women-owned businesses.  

Of course, seeking women tour guides isn’t only for adventures in developing nations. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a wonderful guide in Athens Greece, who recently stepped away from a career as an archeologist to follow her dream of working in tourism. You can read more about Penelope and her clever insights in: Greece Tips from an Athens Tour Guide.

African women sit together and work on a weaving project

Empowering Women in Tourism 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 nearly 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 in tourism. It is a powerful economic opportunity for women in Africa, according to the World Tourism Organization. We can support these talented entrepreneurs by hiring women when possible on our Africa travels. I recently visited Africa for the first time and had a chance to meet and travel with some remarkable guides and women working in tourism. Here are a some fun and inspiring examples of women in tourism in Africa.

Women Travel Entrepreneurs in Africa

Stella and Tloco, two women guides and travel entrepreneurs, pose together in front of a sign at the entrance to Victoria Falls in Zambia. They are dressed casually in jeans and t shirts and both are smiling.
My guides at Victoria Falls, Zambia. Stella (left) and Tloco (right)
Tloco Kelebemang and Susan Heinrich pose together in rain ponchos, in front of Victoria Falls in Zambia. The falls and a misty spray are visible beyond them, as well as some green trees.
I had a wonderful day with guide Tloco Kelebemang in Zambia

If you are choosing an organized group tour, or a tour company to design a trip for you, explore their website to find out if they employ local women and in what capacities. Additionally, many will highlight the fact that they support women-owned businesses. If you can’t find answers to these questions on the website, reach out and ask.  

Lubu Travel Africa, a Botswana-based agency, is a local Africa specialist and can plan any sort of safari or other adventure in Southern Africa. Founder Tloco Kelebemang is a travel entrepreneur passionate about sustainable travel and empowering women in tourism. I traveled with Tloco on my recent trip to Africa and it was a marvelous experience. 

And if you already have Africa plans but would like to find a way to meet with and support local women, consult Girls Trip Tours founded by Eyitemi Popo. They support a network of women entrepreneurs in Africa and create customized experiences for solo women travelers and small groups. 

Chobe Game Lodge Guide, Oriah Nthobatsang, points to something out of view on the Chobe River. She is a seated at the wheel of a riverboat wearing a grey jumpsuit and am orange life jacket.
Chobe Game Lodge Guide, Oriah Nthobatsang, leading a tour on the Chobe River

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 challenging work —  the women work long hours and live at the lodge. But these trailblazers love the conservation work, and the opportunity it provides. They have also proven incredibly popular with guests and have nicknamed themselves the Chobe Angels.  The head guide at Chobe, 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 Okavango Delta. The Chobe Angels have proven that women can do this job as well as men and that travelers appreciate the opportunity to support women in tourism. 

When I visited Chobe in March 2023, my guide was Oriah Nthobatsang who expertly led us on a tour of the river as well as land safari. 

Aika Robert Nkya, Founder of Girls Adventures Tanzania, a tour company and affordable safari operator in Tanzania.
Aika Robert Nkya, Founder of Girls Adventures Tanzania

Girls Adventures in Tanzania

Aika Robert Nkya dreamed of starting her own tourism business in Tanzania, one that combined her passion for showing her country to visitors with supporting local communities in the Kilimanjaro region where she is from. 

In 2021 she launched Girls Adventures Tanzania, which offers every kind of activity an adventurous traveler could imagine: one-day kayak tours, overnights in a Maasai village, and multi-day hiking or safari trips. Her team of women guides and porters will even support your dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Aika summited it in 2010.

An important objective for Aika is offering authentic cultural experiences that give opportunities to local communities. She also directs a portion of profits to a local NGO that supplies menstrual kits to young women.

A traditional Maasai tent with a woven roof, has a table set with dishes and a bright red cloth, ready to welcome tourists for a meal, near Moshi Tanzania.
A traditional Maasai bungalow, ready to welcome tourists for a meal. Near Moshi Tanzania. Photo courtesy of Girls Adventures Tanzania

Local Communities and Affordable Safaris

Girls Adventures Tanzania also offers experiences at various price points, including affordable safaris in a country considered to be a top tier (ie. expensive) safari destination. I’ve had the chance to get to know Aika and intend to book some experiences with her on a future trip to Tanzania. 

The women of Dunia Safari Camp together around a jeep with their arms raised and happy faces, in Tanzania Africa
The women who run Dunia Camp in Tanzania

Women-Owned or Operated Accommodation

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 run Dunia are away from family for months at a time but say they love what they do and are proud to be breaking down barriers that have existed for decades. Dunia is on my bucket list for a future trip to East Africa.

ladies walking humayun tomb delhi

Choosing a Tour Operator

G Adventures: Supporting Women Taxi Drivers in India

Even if you travel with a tour operator based in your home country, look for opportunities to support local women. The Women on Wheels program in India employs at-risk women aged 18-35 to work as drivers in Delhi. I learned about it 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 replies with the charming declaration: “This is my way of thinking.” I noticed many curious stares from men in the cars we drove past. When I asked her about it she shrugged and smiled: “They are not so used to seeing women taxi drivers.” 

If you are traveling to India, you can book a transfer with women on wheels directly via the Azad Foundation. 

Ashley Blake of Traverse Jouneys in Ecuador with some women of the Sani Warmi project. This community partner empowers local women and protects the rainforest.
Ashley Blake of Traverse Jouneys in Ecuador with some women of the Sani Warmi project, a community partner which empowers local women and protects the rainforest.

Traverse Journeys: Supporting Women Entrepreneurs

I traveled to Greece with this women-owned tour operator and was impressed with their commitment to “People, Planet, Purpose”. Every trip is designed to have a positive impact on the places they visit. One element of that is supporting women-owned businesses when possible. Examples include a woman-owned boutique hotel in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, restaurants in Jordan, and a Berber women’s textile cooperative in Morocco.  Traverse Journeys also supports a community partner in every location they visit. In Ecuador, that is the Sani Warmi project which empowers the women of Sani Isla to run their own businesses selling artisanal crafts. This sustainable source of income also empowers the  Sani Warmi women to serve as protectors of 42,000 hectares of rainforest, located here. 

Tour operators sometimes have such details on their website, or you can ask. 

 

Women in Tourism in Mongolia

I recently learned about the tour company Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the founders commitment to employing local women. The company philosophy is to nurture the potential of  locals by providing long-term employment opportunities. That includes a free training program for Mongolian women who wish to work in tourism. As a result, all of their tour leaders are women. You can read more about the ways that has enhanced the company by founder, Jess Brooks: Girl Power in Mongolia.  In the story Jess says, “I am lucky enough to be in a position to run my own business and, as a woman, it is important to me to use my skills and influence to improve the prospects for other women.”

A woman holds a necklace at a gift shop at the Shinta Mani hotel in Siem Reap Cambodia
Beautiful handicrafts made by local women are sold at Shinta Mani hotel

Choose Hotels that Support Women in 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 the Shinta Mani 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. In addition to a wonderful vacation, I met many inspiring women and learned more about the ways that tourism creates opportunities for them in Cambodia. 

womens cooperative rajasthan india

Shop at Women's Collectives that Pay Fair Wages

In a pretty courtyard in Rajasthan India, women work on traditional handicrafts at a women’s collective called Sunder Rang (beautiful colors 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 learn 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 Garh Hotel which helps to run and support both the school and the cooperative. 

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Susan Heinrich with her tour guide, Penelope Triantafyllidou, in Athens Greece
Susan Heinrich with her tour guide Penelope in Athens, Greece

What a privilege it is to explore this beautiful world, and find ways for our travel to support the dreams of women in tourism. 

Women like Aika of Girls Adventures Tanzania represent a generation of women travel entrepreneurs who know they have a role to play in this industry and much to offer. She told me she loves this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to the people who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” 

Happy International Women’s Day, and happy travels!

I will update this article with more resources as I meet more incredible women 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 and I will reach out to them. 

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About - Midlife Globetrotter

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I’m glad you’re here. Can we talk about midlife? I reached my late 40’s, realized my kids were growing up, and adventure began calling in a new way: big travel adventures as well as everyday ones. I want Midlife Globetrotter to be a place where we explore how to add a sense of fun, freedom and meaning to these precious years. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, and all that’s ahead.

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