Women are driving the travel industry to explore exciting new territory.
A woman’s place is on the roam.
More females (53%) traveled than males (47%) last year, according data that tourism and travel research company DK Shifflet. And more than 1 in 4 (28%) women travels alone or exclusively with other women — fueling a 230% increase in girls-only trips in the past six years, according to Gutsy Women Travel.
Jamie Turner climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with WHOA (Women High on Adventure) Travel with a group of 22 women two years ago — and was so moved by the empowering sisterhood experience that she’s dropped between $2,000 and $5,000 to summit two other mountains with them, and will be climbing to Mount Everest Base Camp for her 30th birthday this year.
“Even though you are struggling on these climbs, having the support of other women is amazing – and that is not always the case with coed groups,” she told Moneyish. “When we were climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, this group of 17 guys was making fun of our group because there were so many of us, and we were talking and laughing and going ‘too slowly’ on our climb. But in the end, all 22 of the women in our group summited the mountain, and only about a dozen of those guys made it.”
Amanda Amezcua, 29, from Boise, Idaho recently spent four days in Vancouver with her best friend as a “last hoorah” in between earning her bachelors degree and having her second child. “I married young, so not only did I miss out on traveling as a single, as many of my friends did in their twenties, but I also went from being dependent on my parents to being dependent on my husband,” she told Moneyish. “With neither of them involved in this trip, I was able to prove to myself that I could function safely and successfully in the world.
“And on a less serious note, not worrying what I looked like because I was with my best girlfriend was an added bonus; essential to full relaxation,” she said.
This adventurous sisterhood is investing more time and money to see the world. Women’s average total trip spending increased to $737 in 2016, according to TNS Travels America, and so it’s natural that an all-female excursion was the central plot point of the 2017 hit “Girls Trip” starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith, which made more than $115 million domestically. Now tour groups and travel agencies are capitalizing on this growing movement.
Intrepid Travel celebrated International Women’s Day last week by announcing three new all-women’s expeditions exploring female communities in the Middle East, such as: Watching female rug-weavers in Morocco; basking on a women’s-only Dead Sea beach in Jordan; or immersing in the rural nomadic life of a female Qashqai host in Iran for $890 to $2,855.
Entrepreneur Kristina Roth has also created a private all-female retreat off the coast of Finland called SuperShe Island — a la “Wonder Woman’s” women-only island of Themyscira — where a lucky elite who pass a vetting process on the destination’s website will get access to weekends of yoga and meditation, farm-to-table dining and cooking classes, plus fitness classes and nature activities in “a safe space,” as described on the website, “where you can recalibrate without distractions.”
And after Horizon Charters saw a spike in women signing up for its shark cage diving tours off Guadalupe Island in Mexico — just 15% of customers were female a few years ago, and now almost half (48%) of all parties are women — it started offering all-female dives for gals ballsy enough to come face-to-face with great whites.
“Our 2018 women-only shark diving trip ($2,795 for five days) has sold out in record time, and we’re offering another trip this season to meet demand,” Horizon Charters rep Patric Douglas told Moneyish, who added that these trips are led by female professional shark divers, as well.
“Women are fueling explosive growth in the travel industry today,” GirlPowerMarketing CEO Linda Landers told Moneyish.
Even on coed trips, women are making 70% of all travel decisions — not surprising considering women drive 80% of all consumer purchasing through a combination of their buying power and their influence, according to Bridget Brennan’s book “Why She Buys,” which ranges from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually in the U.S. alone, per Nielsen Consumer data.
So what’s spurring this wanderlust?
“The reasons are many,” travel blogger Inma Gregorio from A World to Travel told Moneyish. “Women now stay single longer, have kids — if any — much later, and had better education. That allows them to get well-paid jobs and to take not only leisure but also business trips.”
Many women also just want to let their hair down with the girlfriends that they haven’t seen in forever. A 2007 AAA survey found most girlfriend getaways consist of two to three women (51%) who want to bond with friends or family (70%) and/or escape from their daily responsibility (65%.)
Amanda Carnagie and her college girlfriends grew apart after graduation, but they’ve been reuniting for bachelorette weekends the past couple of years as they have started getting married, including visiting the Everglades and snorkeling in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida. They’re hitting New Orleans next. “Traveling for these girls trips seems to melt away life’s daily stressors — like work, responsibilities, relationship strains — and opens the heart for genuine fun and unconditional friendship,” Carnagie, 28, from Michigan, who blogs at TheWorldIncorporated.com, told Moneyish. “I love this new tradition of new experiences and new memories with my best friends from college.”
Working women have also become more comfortable to exploring new places on their own thanks to traveling for business. A recent survey by guided vacations company Trafalgar, which has launched a #SheGoes campaign on social media, found that 86% of women are not afraid to travel in the world today; and of those who’ve hit the road, 73% say travel has made them stronger, and 69% find inspiration for the other aspects of their lives through travel.
— Trafalgar (@TrafalgarTalk) March 8, 2018
Pilates instructor Lesley Logan has noticed her last two retreats to Siem Reap, Cambodia for $1,300 to $1,500 have been booked exclusively by women, with many of them flying solo to come exercise daily, eat healthy meals and tour the Temples of Angkor and browse the Night Market.
“When I first started a couple of years ago, it was just my own clients who knew and trusted me coming, but now I’m getting women I’ve never met before who are signing up because they’ve seen the pictures on social media of women sweating in Pilates classes together before exploring these gorgeous temples and ruins,” she told Moneyish. “I think that with everything that’s going on in the news today, people are realizing life is short, and they’re feeling the urge to shake things up and try something new.”
Plus, a growing roster of safety apps put personal protection in the palm of your hand, such as bSafe, which lets your network of friends and family share your location and “follow” you in real time through a GPS tracker, so they can watch to see if you get back to your hotel at night. Or sign up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which gives travel warnings and alerts, plus contact information for U.S. embassies and consulates.
It’s easier than ever to connect with other adventurous women on social media if you’ve got itchy feet, but your partner doesn’t want to hike the Inca trail to watch the sun rise on Machu Picchu in Peru. Or the women-only Tourlina app connects verified female travelers with other women looking for a travel buddy.
And as tour groups continue catering to more women, that makes many of these exotic destinations more accessible than they have ever been before for those bitten by the travel bug.
“For women who maybe never would have traveled alone or without their partners, but who really wanted to go somewhere special, these companies make it a safe space for them to do that, and they often take care of all of the arrangements so you don’t have to worry about that either,” said Turner. “And once their friends see them climb a mountain, they start thinking, ‘maybe I can do that, too,’ and it becomes contagious.”
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