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The number of solo female travelers has been on the rise in recent years, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the travel industry has caught up yet. In some countries, women are just starting to break the glass ceiling in the travel industry. Zanzibar recently welcomed their first certified female travel guide, the UAE recently allowed female uber drivers, and group travel created by women for women is slowly but surely growing. It can feel discouraging how far we have yet to go, but these women are making waves and breaking the glass ceiling in the travel industry to change it for good. Next time you travel, consider booking your trip with any of the following female guides or female-owned travel businesses so we can be women supporting women.
- 1 3Sisters Adventure Trekking
- 2 Traverse Journeys
- 3 Salmon Berry: “No Man’s Land” Alaska Tours
- 4 Antelope Canyon Indigenous Female Tour Guide
- 5 First Female Captain in Polynesia
- 6 Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company
- 7 Female Travel Guides in Brandberg, Namibia
- 8 Book a Transport, Philippines
- 9 Women-Supporting Travel Initiatives in India
- 10 WOAH Travel Travel For Women
- 11 Women in Travel Summit
- 12 Share These Inspiring Women
3Sisters Adventure Trekking
Teja from Teja On The Horizon
Teja talks about supporting Nepal’s first women-owned trekking company and their story over-coming adversity.
“When I embarked on my first trekking adventure in the Annapurna mountains of Nepal, I specifically chose to be guided and portered by 3Sisters Adventure Trekking. Founded in the 90s by three Indian sisters and based in Lakeside, Pokhara, 3Sisters Adventure Trekking was the first women-founded and women-run trekking company in Nepal.
3 Sisters specialize in training new generations of Nepali women as trekking guides and porters through their non-profit training arm Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN), and employing them at 3Sisters. My guide Devi spoke fondly of team building and empowerment training they had received as part of building guiding confidence.
Female employment options are limited in Nepal, contributing to the relative disempowerment of women in society. The mission of 3Sisters is to open a path for women to benefit from the trekking tourism industry which is a big industry in Nepal.
Prior to their efforts, trekking tourism was completely dominated by men, and female employment in the industry was negligible. It was also culturally strange for women to go off on their own into the mountains with foreign tourists.
However, 25 years later, while professional female guides and porters are still not quite a normal thing, I saw it as an advertised option even in trekking companies other than 3Sisters. On the trails, my female guide and porter interact normally with their male counterparts, and are well received in the villages and guesthouses we went through. Acceptance must have come a long way indeed.
In addition, aside from mountain trekking, 3Sisters have now ventured into other adventure tourism activities such as river rafting, paragliding, and rock climbing, expanding the skillset of their female guides substantially.
Aside from empowering Nepali women specifically, 3Sisters also contributes to lifting the general trekking industry standards in Nepal. For example, porters in the industry bear load beyond what would be considered good for occupational health, as trekking customers prefer to hire fewer porters. 3Sisters is among the few trekking companies that strictly adhere to a weight limit for both female and male porters, among providing other protections such as insurance and a provident fund.
On a wider scale, 3 Sisters also gives back to Nepali society, for example by running enrichment programs with Nepali schools through EWN. Expanding female leadership still further, they have also founded a Tourism Training Institute in collaboration with the Nepali government, to train skilled tourism manpower from among Nepali youth.”
Now if that isn’t a group of amazing women changing the travel industry for better, we don’t know what is. Consider booking 3Sisters for your upcoming Nepal adventure.
Follow Teja on Facebook to see which inspiring women she meets next.
Ashley Blake and Laura Hamm from Traverse Journeys
Traverse Journeys is a sustainable and ethical travel company owned by two women dominating the travel industry, founder Ashley Blake and her business partner Laura Hamm. These two carefully create trips that serve the local people, the planet, and do it all with purpose. Alongside their ethical itineraries, they work to create local partnerships with NGOs and local businesses to boost the local economy. One such partnership they have created is with Sani Warmi. Ashley and Laura tell us more about the trip to Ecuador that supports women.
“We’d love to highlight an incredible group of women that we visit as part of our Rainforest Encounter Ecuador trip. Sani Warmi is a women’s cooperative that is part of the Sani Isla community of about 140,000 in the Ecuador Amazon along the Napo River.
During our trip, we visit Sani Warmi and tour their permaculture farm, which plays a huge role in rainforest preservation and ecology. In addition to agriculture (cacao, plantains, coffee, sugarcane, and much more), they participate in turtle preservation by hatching eggs and releasing them after they’re old enough to survive on their own. They also work with the local government to ensure that surrounding areas maintain national protected park status, to protect from outside interests – in particular, oil and mining. Sani Warmi also plays a huge role in local education, as community children attend the public school on the property. Additionally, Sani Warmi preserves traditional craft making and cooking through engaging programs geared toward tourists.”
If you want to join Ashley or Laura on their trip to meet the women of Sani Warmi, sign up for their next Rainforest Encounter trip, or check out any of their other responsible itineraries that support local economies. Make sure you follow Traverse Journeys on Instagram for more updates.
Salmon Berry: “No Man’s Land” Alaska Tours
Susanna of Wandering Chocobo
Susanna was born and raised in Alaska and recommends Salmon Berry Tours, a tour company run by two women who offer a “No Man’s Land” tour for women.
“Alaska, the last frontier, a place where for many years men outnumbered women. But all that has changed as strong women, such as Candice McDonald and her business partner Mandy Garcia of Salmon Berry tours, are making Alaska not only their home but inviting others to experience the wilderness for themselves. This dynamic duo is changing the way people travel in Alaska. Salmon Berry operates all year allowing for tourists to see an how we locals live through the long dark winters, rather than just coming in through a cruise ship.
The team behind Salmon Berry love getting their visitors off the beaten path to see an authentic side of Alaska. To achieve this they hire badass female guides like Tiffany, their local glacier guide, and incorporate local communities to improve the economy and stability of Alaska. Salmon Berry is committed to going green and focuses on reducing waste and plastic consumption and even donate to various women’s charities throughout the state. These women have developed a special relationship with Alaska’s indigenous community and are the only tour company who have been invited by the Chickaloon trip to visit their site.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you the women behind Salmon Berry are changing the travel industry in Alaska, it gets better. Salmon Berry offers “No Man’s Land: Alaskan Wilderness for Women.” Which means women can tour with them off-the-beaten-path and with other like-minded women. “
Antelope Canyon Indigenous Female Tour Guide
Garima Nag from Sweet Sharing
Garima had a local indigenous female tour guide for her tour of Antelope Canyon in the U.S. Antelope Canyon is located on tribal land and her guide’s family handles the ticketing and manages the tours in the area. She talks about her experience below.
“Last winter, I visited Antelope Canyon. It is a must to hire a guide in order to explore this magnificent place as entry without a guide is strictly prohibited. Usually, they send you with a group, but as a big group had already left before us, we were lucky to have the guide all by ourselves.
To our surprise, it was a woman in her early fifties. She was a member of the family who managed the touring and ticketing in the area. It was good to see that even the ticketing counter was managed by a young girl, probably one of the family members. The family belonged to a local Navajo tribe, that has been residing in the area for generations. She started with a warm greeting and our hour-long tour started.
Initially, she gave us the usual information about the mystical place. How it was formed? What is the right time to visit the Antelope Canyon? How many visitors it receives each season? Later, when probed by me, she started talking about how her ancestors lived in this place. It used to be their home. It was heartening to hear how they had to bear the violence against their tribe and they often took shelter in these caves.
I could just imagine how many memories she must relive every time she came down these narrow caves. She was well versed with every nook and corner of lower antelope. She guided us through it, where to take pictures, angle and even sometimes poses. She knew, visitors nowadays prefer clicking pictures than actually exploring and enjoying.
As a tour guide, she not only took us to the journey to Antelope Canyon but also gave us a piece of her history, culture, and heritage. I would cherish this experience forever.”
When visiting Antelope Canyon remember that you are trespassing on the ancestral land of Indigenous peoples. Always ensure you are visiting with respect and supporting the local tribes when you visit.
Follow Sweet Sharing on Facebook for more adventures.
First Female Captain in Polynesia
Amy Alton from Out Chasing Stars
Amy met a local Tongan woman, Aunofo who owns her own expedition company in Tonga. Read about her encounter:
“In the islands of Tonga, deep in the heart of the South Pacific, the humpback whales migrate to give birth and nurse their babies. A small number of tourists come to swim with these amazing animals, guided by locals with special training.
Among these locals is Aunofo, a Tongan woman leading whale encounters and expeditions for her own business – Vaka & Moana. Aunofo is the first female licensed captain in Polynesia and a female business owner. Her company takes tourists out to view the whales in their natural habitat.
Aunofo started her maritime career washing boats for a charter company. Eventually, she was trusted to move the boats around and gain experience until she was able to get her license.
But Aunofo didn’t stop there and she went on to break the glass ceiling of the Tongan tourism industry. She founded the Tonga Voyaging Society and participated in a sail from New Zealand to California on a traditional Polynesian ship. In 2012, she made history by leading an all-female team in the Te Mana o Te Moana voyage, the first time for an all-female crew on a vaka, sailing using traditional navigation. Now, she is an international captain, working for Tradewinds Charters in Fiji.
I met Aunofo when passing through Tonga on my own boat. Through her travels and hospitality in Tonga, Aunofo has connected with so many other women involved in sailing and has welcomed them to Vava’u.”
If swimming with whales is on your bucket list, make sure you book with local Tongan and female business owner Aunofo.
Follow Out Chasing Stars on Facebook to see what other amazing women she meets as she sails around the world.
Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company
Namita Kulkarni of Radically Ever After
Namita shares the story of Ladakh (north Indian in the Himalayas) region’s first female-owned travel agency and the inspiring woman behind it.
“How many women does it take to start an all-women travel agency and a women’s welfare network for women in distress, write tirelessly on social and environmental issues, win a bronze at the National Ice Hockey Championship, and keep training an ever-growing number of women to be professional trekking guides in the harsh terrain of Ladakh? Just one, if that woman happens to be Thinlas Chorol.
Back in 2009, Thinlas Chorol founded the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company, which has the distinction of being Ladakh’s first travel agency completely owned and operated by women.
Her foray into the mountains began as a 5-year-old accompanying her father on long treks through the mountains with their goats and sheep. Having lost her mother when she was a baby, her father was all she had. Scared that ‘something might happen’ to him if he were to venture into the mountains alone, she went with him. Today as one of Ladakh’s best trekking guides, she looks back on that incomparable training fondly, as ‘the bliss of her childhood’.
Many societal restrictions, taboos, and narrow mindsets had to be fought for her to become a professional trekking guide at a time when female trekking guides were nonexistent. Despite her trekking competence, travel companies refused to hire her as a guide, solely on account of her being a woman. Whereas many of the men were (and still are) hired as trekking guides even without any professional training or knowledge of trekking routes or awareness of environmental impact. She was repeatedly told that a Ladakhi woman going into the mountains with a group of foreigners would be frowned upon by society. But, she didn’t let the rejections and social taboos stop her. She had met quite a few female travelers who had been harassed by their male trekking guides and were keen on having a female trekking guide they could trust. With the encouragement, she received a SECMOL (Students Education and Culture Movement of Ladakh), an organization that helps educate children from remote regions of Ladakh and with the support of her American English teacher, she went on to acquire some commendable professional qualifications – a mountaineering course from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (Uttarkashi) and a semester at National Outdoor Leadership School (Uttarakhand), where she picked up wilderness and leadership skills. She even worked as an instructional aide at the NOLS and was the first Ladakhi to do so.
Not one to sit back and take ‘no’ for an answer, she started the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company in 2009 at the age of 29. Since then, many Ladakhi women have approached her to train them to be trekking guides and today the company has 8 guides, 4 trainees and 20 employees in all. It takes a minimum of one year with the company to become a trekking guide. Thinlas also co-founded the Ladakhi Women’s Welfare Network in 2013, which helps women report crimes and works towards their general welfare.
Given their deep sense of connection with the land, responsible travel forms the essence of LWTC’s work. Having seen a lot of garbage dumped on the mountains by irresponsible campers and tourists, the women at LWTC ensure that the ‘Leave no trace’ rule is respected on their treks and environmental impact minimized.
In empowering herself, Thinlas has empowered a host of other women and says ‘women should think for themselves and not depend on their families. If they believe in themselves, they can achieve what they want’. Her vision for LWTC is to see her trekking guides spread their wings across the globe with their trekking expertise, and in turn, inspire many others to actualize their dreams.”
When planning your trekking trip in the Ladakh region make sure to support Thinlas Chorol and the other women behind Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company for a safe and secure trek.
Follow Radically Ever After on Instagram for more updates from the road.
Female Travel Guides in Brandberg, Namibia
Carrie Mann of Trains, Planes, and Tuk Tuks
While on a women’s trip to Namibia, Carrie encountered an incredible female tour guide working with other women who have been given financial stability thanks to their new opportunity to guide travelers to Brandberg Mountain.
“In an isolated corner of northwestern Namibia, an incredible group of women are setting a new standard for guiding travelers around their indigenous lands.
Brandberg Mountain is the highest mountain in Namibia and a hiker’s paradise. But, it’s not just a nature destination — it’s also covered in ancient rock paintings. The most famous of these paintings is the Brandberg White Lady. The paintings were created by the San tribe centuries ago.
The mostly all female guides at Brandberg come from a small village a few kilometers down the mountain. Their only connection to the outside world is via a handful of “community cars.” Until recently, women born in this village had few options — they were unlikely to work outside the home and were likely to live in extreme poverty. As a tribal community, they were also likely to experience discrimination from the government.
But all that changed as tourism has come to Namibia in full force. Now, these women learn English starting in childhood to equip them to work with tourists. They earn a standard government salary plus tips from their guests — meaning they have financial independence.
I encountered one of these remarkable women when visiting Brandberg with a group of all-female travelers. We hired Patricia as our guide for a three-hour hike to visit the rock paintings. Patricia knew all the standard talking points of the history and culture of the region — but she also had an incredible depth of knowledge of the rock paintings’ connections to modern culture, given that she grew up in the community.
Throughout the hike, Patricia also taught us about the lives of women in Namibia. She joked about her relationship horror stories — remarkably similar to my own (“I’m giving up on men FOREVER,” she said). She even tried to teach us how to tell off men in the Damara language — not an easy task, considering it requires mastering four different clicking sounds that have no equivalent in Western speech.
We were the last group of the day, so in the end, Patricia asked us for a ride back to her village where we got to see her life up close. It was really nothing more than a small collection of homes and a couple businesses. We learned that most people from the village now have at least one family member working in the tourism industry — a total game changer for the community.
Most travelers in Namibia never hear from women about their daily lives and experiences, but thanks to the community tourism initiatives at Brandberg, that’s finally starting to change in a way that benefits the local people as well.”
Tourism can change places for the better, or it can harm them. When visiting Namibia, make sure you hire a female guide to take you on a hike to infuse money into their economy and ensure you are visiting respectfully.
Follow Carrie on Instagram for more travel inspiration.
Book a Transport, Philippines
Ferna Mae Fernandez of Everywhere with Ferna
Ferna has been in the travel industry in the Philippines – which is usually dominated by males. She recently launched her own company, read her story, here.
“I am Ferna Mae Fernandez from the Philippines, I previously worked as a tour guide for 5 years in a travel agency that offers exclusive tours serving tourists from French-speaking countries. It was a great privilege to work in the travel industry. I gained many strong skills to further my career, how to organize, independent learning, multitasking, understanding the French language, and leading small groups. I’ve learned the best culture and tradition in my own country at the same time. The work as a guide matters in this tropical country, for there is a great human connection and interaction between locals and tourists through the help of a guide. Furthermore, being a female tour guide, guests traveling with kids always asked for a female guide, so they know their kids are in good hands with a female guide. I often considered myself a great nanny as well as a great tour guide.
The experience of being a tour guide pushed me to build and create my own company in the local tourist transport industry. The company that I am creating now is called Book A Transport. Book a Transport serves the Philippines allowing tourists to book transportation from boats, van, car, multicab, or pedicab. While this kind of business is dominated by men in the country, as all drivers and operators in the vehicle industry are mostly men, it didn’t stop my goal of changing the industry and creating work for the young women ages 18-22.”
Make sure you use Ferna Mae’s business Book a Transport to suit your transportation needs in the Philippines.
Follow Everywhere with Ferna on Instagram for more updates.
Women-Supporting Travel Initiatives in India
Mariellen Ward of Breathe Dream Go
Mariellen is a Canadian living in India. As a local with an award-winning blog on India, she sheds light on some amazing businesses in India supporting women in the travel industry.
“India is known to be a tough place for women, both locals and travelers. Despite that, it is also a place where a lot of initiatives that support women — including women in tourism — are popping up. These are just a few, in the Golden Triangle area of India, and I’m happy to hear about more all the time.
Women on Wheels. Women on Wheels from the Azad Foundation in Delhi trains women to be drivers. It also offers women travelers the opportunity to be driven by women drivers. You can arrange for a Women on Wheels driver to pick you up at the airport in Delhi when you land. I have done this and I can tell you that it’s a wonderful feeling to have a smiling woman driver waiting for you!
Open Eyes Project. Open Eyes Project is an award-winning, Spanish-Indian company based in Delhi that supports a range of initiatives to empower women in tourism. Working with the Azad Foundation, Open Eyes Project is training Women on Wheels drivers to also become tour guides. I went with them one day for a tour of the Old Delhi spice market and it was a fantastic experience. These women cook with spices every day and were able to give me so much more insight, and so many cooking tips, that a man would typically not be able to offer. Open Eyes also trains blind women to give massages at their wellness retreats and supports a village of women artisans outside of Jaipur that tourists can visit.
Speaking of Jaipur, Pink City Rickshaw is a social enterprise company run by women that offers tours of the pink city by well-trained women rickshaw drivers.
In Agra, Sheroes Cafe is a must-visit place: a cafe run and staffed entirely by female acid attack victims. I visited Sheroes and interviewed some of the staff, and it was a very moving, inspiring, and frankly humbling experience. These are women who have found their own power within, that no one can take from them. Seriously, skip the Taj Mahal and go to Sheroes Cafe, you will not regret it.
There are plenty of women-owned businesses servicing tourists in India, make sure on your next visit you are supporting these amazing women.
Follow Mariellen on Instagram for updates on her life in India.
WOAH Travel Travel For Women
Retha of Roaming Nanny
Retha is a GAL for WOAH Travel, a travel company founded by women for women. Read her experience working for WOAH:
“In 2015, while waiting in line for a Tanzanian VISA upon arrival to the Mount Kilimanjaro International Airport, my tentmate and now adventure buddy Laura, met the Co-Found of WHOA Travel Allison Fleece. Little did I know, after joining them the following year on a trip to Peru to hike the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, my life would be so full of adventure. The following year, WHOA hired me as a Group Adventure Leader (GAL), and in 2019 I’m going with them to Tanzania, Peru, Japan, and Germany.
WHOA Travel is all about doing kickass things with kickass women around the world. We hike mountains around the globe with plenty of laughs and dance parties along the way. I see the ladies of WHOA as my adventure travel sisters. A group of women who always have my back especially when the trail we’re hiking gets tough. Most recently we launched our latest adventures exclusively for plus sized women, WHOA+, and I was lucky enough to be the GAL for the inaugural trip up Mount Kilimanjaro.
What I love most about being part of WHOA is how we help support women in the destinations we explore. In Peru, our local outfitter is owned and operated by a fabulous woman named Elizabeth, with female guides on every trip. The same is true for when we hike to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, our guides and porters are women, which there are very few of in the region. In Tanzania we visit Shirikisha, a local enterprise started by Cocaya to help deaf women in her community. At Shirikisha we relax in their beautiful garden, enjoy a home cooked lunch, and shop the gorgeous hand made items (bag, wallets, skirts, etc.) the women of Shirikisha create.”
If you’re an adventurous woman then book a trip with WOAH and maybe Retha will be your GAL. Follow Retha on Instagram for more adventures.
Women in Travel Summit
Beth Santos the founder and CEO or She’s Wanderful is a female powerhouse changing the image of women in the travel industry.
Wanderful is a collective of women in the travel industry. While they work on many projects that are changing the travel industry, most notably is the Women in Travel Summit, hosted by Wanderful every year. The Women in Travel Summit, known as WITS, is the premier event for travel industry professionals, influencers, and content creators. WITS has dominated North America over the course of six years, bringing together some of the world’s top talent to discuss future innovations, build dynamic collaborations, and change the travel industry worldwide, all while supporting and empowering a diverse community of women. WITS has been such a huge hit they are expanding to Europe with the first ever WITS Europe in Latvia.
- If you want to join us at WITS Europe use the discount code #ftb19 for 15% off
- if you want to join us at WITS N. America in 2020 (it is already halfway sold out) use discount code ftbrocks for 15% off.
WITS is an incredibly inclusive and diverse place which supports all self-identifying women from all backgrounds in the travel industry, female entrepreneurs, content creators, digital nomads, and influencers. This summit is for all women in the travel industry with lots of in-depth information about blogging, travel trends, and building your business. My favorite thing they are doing in Maine is offering 1:1 mentoring with female professionals in the travel industry (including some FTB gals!) so you can get feedback on media kits, SEO, affiliate marketing, branding, and entrepreneurship. They also have a Blogging 101 day for beginners, FAM trips to help you build a portfolio, and discussions on travel trends to help you decide what content is valuable.
Aside from WITS the Wanderful team host secure and safe house swapping for women, and connects female entrepreneurs with female business coaches to achieve their dreams.
Make sure you share this post on social media and Pin to your favorite inspiration board. Have you met some amazing women during your travels? Let us know in the comments.
Susanna Kelly is an adrenaline junkie from Alaska, on a quest to explore the great outdoors.
However, she openly admits to being a total geek at heart. Her blog, the Wandering Chocobo, focuses on adventure travel and eco-tourism, while hitting pause for what she’s defining as hipster city travel. Her hipster city guides explore craft cocktail bars, boutique hotels, markets, local businesses, and geek hideouts.
When she’s not creating content for her travel blog or freelance ventures, she likes to work on her fiction novel, LARPing and gaming, volunteering and getting to level 99 in life. She currently lives in Munich, Germany.
Connect with Susanna at her site Wandering Chocobo.