As two-thirds of the travelling population, women also call the vast majority of the shots when it comes to vacation decisions and purchases for themselves and their families. But increasingly, the travel choice many women are opting for is to explore the world — whether on a relaxed European getaway or an adventurous trip to Peru — with other women.
The trend to watch, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, is female travelers who seek to bond with other women during their adventures. As the ATTA noted, these travellers “are not necessarily single, but simply seek like-minded female companions with whom to share their adventurous journeys.”
Similarly, the Travel Leaders Group 2019 travel trends survey of North American travel advisors listed women-only journeys as one of the top choices in the niche and specialty travel category.
Indeed, for women travellers, there are significant advantages to joining a women-only tour group, says Bonnie Hinschberger, co-founder of Broad Escapes, a division of Ellison Travel & Tours.
Hinschberger began running small group tours exclusively for women in 2012 with her business partner after leading a women-only trip after her children went away to university.
“A lot of women either want to travel and their husbands don’t want to travel to the same destinations or sometimes people have this desire to travel to a destination and they don’t have any other friends that want to go to the same destination, so it’s very welcoming in that regard,” she says.
For solo travellers, she says, there is the incentive of never feeling like a ‘third wheel’ on a women-only tour, and not having to pay a single supplement, as companies like Broad Escapes offer a roommate matching program with a guaranteed twin price.
Hinschberger says she felt the feeling of being excluded first-hand when travelling solo with a co-ed tour group, as she was scouting locations in advance of a women-only trip to India.
“I was the only single female traveller on the group and there were many times that I didn’t end up eating dinner because I didn’t want to go to a restaurant on my own and nobody else invited me to come with them.”
“I truly felt like a third wheel on that tour because everyone was partnered up,” she says.
But often the real advantage of the tours, which include groups of 12-24 and generally attract travellers in their 40s to mid-70s, is the experience — the camaraderie and friendship with fellow travellers as well as the chance to embrace opportunities to immerse themselves in local culture.
“We see this all the time where people just want to check it off their bucket list and move on to the next item, but that’s not what our type of travel is about. It is engaging in experiences and local cuisine, and meeting local people,” says Hinschberger.
Hinschberger, who says her company’s most popular excursions are in two completely different segments — the relaxed European tour and the ‘off the beaten path’ trip. She says most travellers are initially attracted to a destination by the sites, and the opportunity to take photographs.
“But when they get there and they engage in the activities in their itinerary, and, when they come home, they discover that the best part about the tour was the people that they travelled with and those they met along the way,” she adds. In off-the-beaten-path destinations, travellers always meet with a local village or a women’s co-operative to get involved with the communities that they’re visiting.
“Days For Girls is an organization where volunteers sew feminine hygiene kits; we’ve are able to distribute those on our various tours. This allows us to give back to the communities we’re visiting and create positive change in the lives of women we meet,” she says.
Ultimately, says Hinschberger, the trend of women-only travel is increasing in popularity around the world.
“When we started it was rather new. When we talked about it, people were like ‘wow, that’s a great concept’ but now it’s widely available.”
“Next year we’ll have more trips on offer, as well as private groups where friends can choose their own adventure,” says Hinschberger.
Popular destinations continue to be Peru, Kenya, France and Ireland and new itineraries are set for Uganda and the Azores; next spring Hinschberger will add Nepal and Bhutan.
“When women travel together, they share an experience of nurturing and caring for each other. They create strong bonds and to embrace every opportunity that they can,” says Hinschberger.