Women account for the majority of people working in the global tourism industry. But despite its size, that female workforce tends to occupy informal, low-paying or entry-level positions.
With a large gender gap still present in managerial and business-owner roles in the tourism sector, it’s more important than ever to support women who challenge the status quo and fight for more representation. The next time you’re planning a trip, why not put your travel funds behind one of these female-owned and operated businesses?
Here are five travel companies, all led by women, providing world-class travel experiences and doing incredible work to empower female communities, all in one.
Seven Women, Nepal
In Nepal, people living with physical disabilities are often ostracised and discriminated against – women especially so. After meeting several Nepali women in 2006 who were struggling to survive as a result of their disabilities, Stephanie Woollard founded Seven Women to help empower them.
Originally a small-scale project that trained women to make handicrafts that could be sold back in Woollard’s home of Australia, Seven Women has since grown into a broader philanthropic and social enterprise. It’s estimated to have provided literacy classes, skills training, and income generation projects that have helped over 5,000 marginalised women in the South Asian country.
The organisation offers classes to travelers in Nepali cooking, crafts, and language, as well as 10-day “immersion” programs, which include homestays with local families; Himalayan trekking excursions; cooking classes hosted by local women; language lessons; and visits with other grassroots organisations and local changemakers.
The NGO also operates a fair trade clothing workshop, a guesthouse, and a cooking school in the capital of Kathmandu.
My Sisters, Georgia
Sitting at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Georgia has been making the rounds with established travel publications and bloggers for being an up-and-coming destination – an as-yet-undiscovered gem that’s been dubbed one of the coolest places to visit in the world post-COVID-19. The country is indeed fascinating, and Tsibili, its capital, is emerging as one of Europe’s most vibrant cities to explore.
In some of Georgia’s underprivileged rural communities, however, poverty is common and labour migration into the larger cities is a pressing issue. To support women in these areas, My Sisters is a female-run venture that is part social enterprise, part tourism company. Its work and initiatives focus on working with local artisans, mostly women, to develop and sell local hand-crafted products to international buyers.
My Sisters also provides cultural experiences for tourists, bringing travelers to some of Georgia’s most remote areas to visit the homes of artisans, observe their craft, and support their work.
The organisation provides Georgian women with a reliable source of income, as well as the opportunity to promote their local culture to curious visitors in the country. Part of the proceeds from the artisan products are also invested back into the community, helping to improve living conditions and providing for more training for future artisans.
Maggie’s Tour Company, Tanzania
African safari expeditions are by and large a male-dominated field, which is why Maggie’s Tour Company stands out from the pack. Owned and operated by Maggie Duncan Simbeye – one of the first female guides in Tanzania – the company offers women-led safaris and cultural tours, as well as “women-to-women” tours, where female travelers can meet and engage with local women.
Thanks to the success of her tour company, Duncan Simbeye was able to establish her own NGO in 2013, Dare Women’s Foundation, which hosts projects dedicated to poverty alleviation, economic empowerment and gender equality for Tanzanian girls and women.
I love Asia, Vietnam
Exploring the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City on a motorbike is a quintessentially Vietnamese experience. Before you jump on a bike and risk life and limb in Vietnam’s chaotic streets, however, check out I Love Asia.
This female-founded company provides scooter tours with female guides, employing around 100 women as local experts and drivers. Originally started in Hue with a mission to empower women through English language skills, the company has grown and expanded to all of Vietnam’s major cities in just six years, as well as internationally into Cambodia and Laos.
Besides providing a livelihood to its female staff, I Love Vietnam also donates 10 percent of its revenues to charitable organisations, and prides itself in taking travelers off the beaten track, for a real glimpse of everyday life in Southeast Asia.