Tourism: Get To Know 7 Impressive Travel Business Owners

women

March 8 is International Women’s Day and in anticipation of it, I wanted to take a closer look at female-founded businesses in the travel industry. Not too long ago the industry was very male-dominated with women business owners and tour operators being relatively rare, however, that has changed a lot. I spoke to seven women who have found their own niche, founded their own business and are blazing their own trail in the travel industry. They tell me how they did it below.

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?

Eat Like a Local Mexico City offers food tours for “tour haters” – small and flexible experiences for the food obsessed. Ninety percent of my clients always say “I hate tours, but I like this.” I also promote sustainable and responsible tourism and encourage my guests to create meaningful connections with the local vendors.
More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field

I think that more women started traveling and this made us realize we need better travel experiences. I got into the travel industry after traveling and experiencing tours that were horrible. The travel industry is changing and women are seeking more personal, meaningful experiences throughout our travels. As women, we tend to be more sympathetic, we are better at making connections, we tend to be more flexible and we know how to read people in order to provide a better travel experience.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?
Travel, travel, travel. There’s no better way to understand what travelers need than through traveling yourself. This way you’ll be able to create a better experience and with a personal approach. Traveling is the best source of inspiration.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?
I went to Tibet after a very bad breakup and that trip changed my life. I was not a Buddhist or into trekking, but I just ended up there by chance. The love, happiness and compassion Tibetans showed me inspired me to be a better person. I created my sustainability and social programs after I came back from that trip.

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?
The travel industry is at a turning point where people are seeking extraordinary moments filled with authenticity and personal value rather than checking off a must-see list or following a guide book. They’re looking for personalized and high-end experiences that go beyond the tourist route, in favor of opportunities to engage with locals and their traditions.

Recognizing this void in the travel industry, we launched Naya Traveler with private journeys that bring back purpose and value through immersive, cultural experiences — a philosophy that is very much engrained in the way I personally travel. We cater to a tight niche in the industry, one that is sophisticated, discerned and well-traveled, looking to go on a high-end adventure in a far-flung destination with the luxury component as a given rather than at the centerpiece of the journey. Our travelers are mostly couples in their 40-60s or small families and groups of friends, working in law, media or finance, generally based in the East and West Coast of the U.S.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?
It’s inspiring to be a part of this new wave of female-run businesses taking over the travel industry. Over the past few decades, women have become economically independent which has encouraged many to take off on their own to launch new concepts that have diversified the travel industry. Given that the industry was male-dominated for many years, women discovered a void, one that calls for a renewed type of travel.

In this, female business leaders have brought in unique concepts, such as small-group travel led by female tour leaders (such as our new founder-led Trip to Morocco, led by myself) and travel “by women for women”. However, I believe women’s input in the travel industry goes well beyond the female sphere and is not limited female-oriented concepts. Naya Traveler, for instance, is a company that I started with my two female co-founders and although we thrive off of planning trips for small groups of females and solo travelers, our philosophy— being one that was inspired by the universality of cultures, attracts not only women. As we design trips with our philosophy in mind for all types of travelers, we bring in a particular sensitivity and awareness that endows our journeys with an intangible value.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?
Learn to fight off your fears and anxieties as early as possible because they will only slow down your learning process and hinder your growth. Be true to yourself and to what you believe in, and never try to fit in. Love what you do with fervor, believe in your vision and people will applaud you for your authenticity and passion. Most importantly, enjoy the ups but also the downs, because each failure is a lesson learned for tomorrow.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?
Last summer, I traveled with my partners on a recon trip to Ethiopia for Naya Traveler. As we journeyed south, we took a week-long road trip through the Omo Valley to encounter some of the world’s oldest tribes and peoples. The arduous drive from Turmi to Arba Minch took us through desolate plains, muddy flash floods, winding mountain roads.

One day, when the rain was pounding down on us, we stopped for shelter at a village of the Hamer tribe. Known to be a secluded and private people, the chief (a female) welcomed us into her thatched hut. We sat enclosed around a fire with some nine people of the community and our guide translated bits of their storytelling, providing profound insight into their way of life. After a few hours, the rain finally came to a stop and a rainbow took over the sky as we drive off. Looking back, it was one of the most intimate cultural experiences I’ve ever had and one that I will always cherish.

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?
We aim to provide personalized and high end travel to South America for the discerning traveler. When I started the company 15 years ago, there were fewer than five companies doing similar to what we do, and we have continued with the same philosophy of crafting personalized journeys according to the unique desires and requirements of each of our guests. As a business, I want Kuoda to continue to grow with these values, to enrich people’s lives (both visitors and those here in Peru) with meaningful projects. I want my company to be one that those who work here can be proud of, a role model to learn from for ourselves and our children.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?
As is the case in many industries now women are becoming more confident and affluent in their roles, and looking to be the best we can be in anything we try our hands at. We are equal in all we can to provide to our clients, but we have a natural sense of empathy and understanding in our communications with those traveling that we can show as an advantage over straight selling. We might still want to have a desired balance of home life with traditional roles, for which starting a travel company is possible without needing to have an office to work from.

If we might say an industry is dominated by males, then as women, we can come in with new ideas and new ways to show the places that we want to visit and to give a certain sensibility to the customer. Those that travel are male, female, young, elderly, couples, friends and families, there’s a place for all types of agencies, but especially for a new line of thoughts, and that’s where we can make a positive impact.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?
Enjoy the journey! Be passionate about the product you are selling. This is a natural trait for many of us as females. And if you are thinking of starting your own company, do it now because you are already late. Try to be surrounded by the best in the travel industry, build the connections, and learn every day – those who have a similar outlook and a vision to aspire to. Create a business which primarily has a meaningful purpose, and it will bring its own joys and rewards.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?
Sharing my passion with my daughter during a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Travels can be just a couple of weeks of vacations each year for each of our clients, and so they need to be unique and special. This trip reminded me of the need for more time with my own children, and to truly understand why we travel, to have new perspectives and share experiences with those we love and cherish.

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?
I founded NOMADNESS Travel Tribe, we’re close to 22,000 members of mostly African American women that are avid travelers. We’re an online community but also have over 100 meetups around the world every year. We also have over 30 tribe ambassadors that are the liaison between my team and our chapters of members.

We do group trips, and large-scale events, such as our Annual Tribe Barbecue which this year is going to be in Richmond in July. We also do Audacity Fest which is the first festival in the country that addresses black and brown millennial travelers. We have panels and showcase tourism boards, with big corporate sponsors like Airbnb. At this event we have panels to discuss things like “Traveling under Trump” during which African- and Muslim-Americans talked about their experiences traveling around the world. We try to have interactive experiences wherever we go. We started as 100 people in 2011 and we’ve become a home for black and brown travelers around the world.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?
As we’re doing this interview I’m sitting in The Wing, an all-female coworking space which seems very relevant. We’re 78 percent female so this question often comes up. So many women are at the forefront of this travel movement and I think it’s because want life experiences now not during our retirement. We’re more independent, make more money than previous generations and a lot of us are not tied to one location. We’re creating a lot of opportunities for ourselves. I saw a problem when I was backpacking around the world at 27 because I didn’t see a community of people who looked like me. Instead of pouting about it I founded NOMADNESS.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?
Figure out your demo, you’re not supposed to be everything to everyone. Find out who you’re important to. For me the core of my business has always been community, so I would say find your people.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?
I just got back from one of our trips called “Love” in Turks and Caicos where we had workshops about relationships and did the trip specifically over Valentine’s Day. These were powerhouse women there — doctors, dentists, entrepreneurs, and we also had Alex Merritt, also known as The Love Engineer do a bunch of workshops. I believe everyone left with tools for their personal relationships and new friends for life.

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?
Ciao Bambino is a global travel planning resource for families. Our mission is to inspire and empower families to travel through information on our website and our bespoke planning service focused on designing trips for families with kids of every age and stage. We personalize every client experience around the ages of the children and the objectives for a particular trip, and our wide array of vetted family-friendly resources enables us to plan incredible itineraries around the world. Because we’re dedicated to family travel, we’ve created an incredible feedback loop where our clients give us real-time updates on what they’re loving, and we use this detail to further refine the recommendations we use across our travel agency.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?
In our market, women plan many (not all but many) of the trips and have first-hand experience with the challenges. I think this has inspired many of my colleagues to found businesses accordingly. As a mother with a school age child selling family travel, I’m right in the heart of the demographic we sell to… this enables us to offer a service that is relevant and truly meets the needs of both our online audience and agency client base.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?
The travel industry is a relatively small one when it comes down to finding partners who share a similar mindset and passion. Network like crazy and of course, ensure that you have the freedom to travel as there is no substitute for face time and personal experiences when it comes to selling and offering a differentiated product. ASTA.org, American Society of Travel Agents, is a good industry resource for suppliers and agencies alike.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?
We’ve traveled on four continents as a family over the past year, so this is a hard question, but I have to say that traveling in Japan is something that really provides a lasting, deep cultural immersion opportunity. We had our share of moments of true travel struggle given the extreme language barrier, but it is exactly these moments that create the lasting memories! And in many cases, like this one, the seemingly mundane is memorable; we struggled for 15 minutes to get our tickets through the train turnstile as an audience gathered. The stress melted into belly laughs for all in the end and we’ll talk about this as a family forever. We also ate lunch in a Japanese farmer’s home in the countryside. We couldn’t communicate directly, but we shared heartfelt joy together appreciating hospitality, traditions, and a home-cooked meal.

Can you give me an overview of your business?
Black Girls Travel Too is a boutique travel company that specializes in creating sustainable travel experiences globally. Originally when we started, we were very similar to any other travel company offering trips. However, the more I traveled solo I noticed there was a void within the travel space. Travelers weren’t really connecting and diving deep into the destination let alone with locals. In order to truly experience a destination, you must embrace and engage with the locals to gain an authentic cultural experience. A destination is nothing without its people.

Take, for instance, Barbados. I traveled to Barbados at least a minimum of ten times in 2018 and well over 25 times over the years. My frequent and in-depth visits have afforded me the opportunity to create something very unique and special within the Black Girls Travel Too experience. We strive continuously to create sustainable tourism by keeping the locals in mind in all that we do within the destination. When possible, we reside in Airbnbs. We shop local, from purchasing fruit and veggies from a local corner vendor to buying locally made souvenirs.

Dining is one of the most important aspects of ones travel experience. We hire local chefs that are able to share unique cultural cuisines that you may not be able to experience within a restaurant that isn’t locally owned. Disconnecting from the travel apps and blogs to talking to people where you are. This is how I met an older gentleman by the name of Kelly who was a local fisherman from Barbados. He was fishing one day and his attention to detail stopped me in my tracks. That short conversation has led to many dinners at Kelly’s home, me meeting his entire family and purchasing fish from him on every visit.

What niche do you fill?
Our niche is the ability to provide bi-cultural experiences. I believe bi-cultural experiences is essential to the growth of our community. Our travelers come with us out of comfort and familiarity. They desire to travel with women they can relate to and don’t have to be concerned with code-switching, as we all have often done when we are the minority in certain environments. On our experiences, we support each other as we dive into a new culture. The benefit of the bi-cultural experience is that we grow and create life-changing experiences together. We get to remain who we are while experiencing another culture within a supported environment.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?
I feel there are several factors on why there’s an incredible rate of women entering the travel and hospitality space. As history has shown us, there were a lot of things women weren’t allowed to do such as vote until 1920. These forms of social setbacks have allowed men to overpopulate several industries, literally getting a head start into the workforce.

Now that the playing field is slowly being leveled out, women are now applying for a position that they are more than qualified for. In addition, women not only make up over 80 percent of all travel decisions, we are the most traveled gender and we bask in the space of solo travel. In turn, this has been inspirational and has built confidence for women travel vloggers, bloggers and travel influencers. It’s propelled women forward in the space of entrepreneurship by starting their own travel companies and or becoming a travel agent within a male-dominated industry.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?
Find your niche. Identify your target market. But most importantly, identify a problem within the travel space that your target market has and provide a solution.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?
There are two memorable travel experiences that made my 2018.
At the start of 2018, I created a philanthropic arm of Black Girls Travel Too called Serving In Paradise Foundation. Serving In Paradise Foundation is a global non-profit entity founded with the purpose of joining the indigenous people of the Caribbean and Africa in strengthening and stabilizing their local communities.

In July we held our first voluntourism group trip that consisted of seven days six nights on the island of Barbados. We as a group spent three days working alongside locals in the Pine community repainting classrooms at Parkinson Secondary School and the steps at Parkinson Resource Center. We also had an opportunity to speak to the senior class at Parkinson about the importance of education and following your dreams. To be able to pour into students knowing there’s a possibility your presence and your words could better their lives was so fulfilling.

Within the last quarter of 2018, I created and led the first all-black female influencer press trip in Barbados with the assistance of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. Ten black women on a fully sponsored press trip had been unheard of until this one. I had been working on this idea for over two years and not only did Barbados believe in us, they put action behind their words.

From the hotels, The Club of Barbados and Hilton Barbados, to the amazing 5-star dishes we had at Daphne’s and Cocktail Kitchen that graced our palates, not to mention a live instructional demo cooking class where we dined on local eats on the beach, mind-blowing views during our Island Safari Tour, and a fun day at Nikki Beach Barbados — the #collabinbarbados had our respected Instagram communities talking for months about how groundbreaking this opportunity was for the black travel space.

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?
Founded in 2004, Duma Explorer is an adventure travel company offering safari and trekking packages to beautiful Tanzania. With decades of Tanzania tourism experience among us, we pride ourselves on our long-standing reputation for providing high quality travel experiences to our guests. Also, as a founding partner of Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project and one of Tanzania’s only Travelife-certified tour operators, we continually focus on our commitment to social, economic and environmental sustainability.

In addition to our travel company, we also own three tented camps through our company Chaka Camps. We fill a niche by being a one stop shop that offers a very good product at a reasonable price.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?
In my experience running tours, women are usually the ones who book trips and plan travel. They are detail-oriented and I think the nature of planning trips and travel appeals to women. It is easy to be your own boss in the travel industry and I think that also appeals to women. I believe women can bring a more feminine perspective to the industry.

When I started my second company, Chaka Camps, I had female customers specifically in mind as I knew they were usually the ones selecting hotels. I designed our properties to appeal more to women. I used a lighter, softer touch in the design rather than heavy leathers and dark colors typical of safari camps at the time. The Tanzanian tourism industry was very male-dominated when I entered the market in the early 2000s. I brought a feminine perspective to both our companies and I think we have done well because of that.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?
To take risks and not be afraid to go after what you want. Nothing is off limits! Be self-confident and don’t be afraid to promote yourself.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?
Taking a helicopter over Victoria Falls and into the gorge with my two daughters.

By Rana Good
Source: forbes.com

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