Adventure travel has been my favourite niche to sell for over a decade, and for many reasons. I think it encourages travelers to appreciate the symbiotic relationship between Earth and animal kingdom; It provides travelers with the opportunity to experience an alternative way of life; And more recently, adventure travel empowers women in local communities by providing employment opportunities, financial independence and a sense of personal agency. And with rate of international tourism on the rise each year (up 7% according to UNWTO) and women occupying more than 85% of positions within the industry, it’s not only important but absolutely essential to support women living in these local communities.
Why women specifically?
When it comes to education, women and young girls are the first ones to lose out or be denied access to formal education. Domestic or familial duties often see them plucked out of school, forced into marriage, made responsible for taking care of their siblings at home, or exploited in some way that takes away their agency. A lack of education may hinder access to economic independence and make them vulnerable to exploitation. Tourism can be a means for women to glean a respectable living without formal education. It can provide a way for them to participate in the formal economy and most importantly, this empowerment encourages them to create long-term and sustainable opportunities for themselves and their communities.
So how does adventure travel empower women?
Adventure travel tends to bring travelers off the beaten path, which often means you’re experiencing deeper cultural immersion and traveling through more rural and traditional communities. Travelers who choose these types of experiences do so because they want to engage with local cultures, they want to learn about their histories, art forms, cuisine etc. Adventure travel empowers women in a way that they are able to use their domestic skills such as cooking, hosting or creating handicrafts to make money. In parts of the world where a ‘working woman’ was against tradition, adventure travel and tourism has opened doors, planted the seed, and as you will read next, encouraged local women to be entrepreneurial.
What can I do to support women in local communities with my travel choices?
When you are doing your research on adventure travel companies who give back, there are plenty of options, around the world, who contribute to the empowerment of women. However, not all give the same way. I have two organizations for you to consider.
The first adventure travel company to think about is Canadian based G Adventures. The company was founded in 1990 by avid backpacker Bruce Poon Tip, and has more than 680 itineraries in more than in 130 countries. After escorting travelers to the furthest reaches of the planet for 13 years, The Planeterra Foundation was born in 2003:
Planeterra connects social enterprises to the tourism marketplace by providing catalyst funding, capacity training, and a market link for small businesses supporting women, youth, and indigenous communities.
Planeterra focuses on long-term sustainability and social enterprise. Which means, they work in partnership with local communities, ensuring projects are spearheaded by those on the ground. 100% of the proceeds provided by G Adventures goes directly to fund the more than 50 projects they operate across 6 continents. From Women on Wheels in New Delhi, to the Sisterhood of Survivors in Nepal to the Nagadas Community Homestay in rural Java, there are ample opportunities to give, learn about local issues and fascinating cultures, and empower women.
Another adventure travel company I enjoy working with is Intrepid and Intrepid Urban Adventures, an Australian based group offering up more than 1500 itineraries in 120 countries. Like G Adventures, their focus is on locally led initiatives:
We support local organisations tackling important community issues all over the world – from conservation and wildlife protection, to education, healthcare and human rights.
The Intrepid Foundation receives proceeds from its tours, but if you choose book your tour with them and donate to the Intrepid Foundation, they will match your donation (up to $1000 per individual donor), they pay for all administrative costs which means 100% of your donation goes to the project. The Intrepid Foundation not only supports the empowerment of women, but also works in concert with locally run organizations to eradicate illiteracy, provide vocational help and support to those living with disabilities, and encourage social change through story-telling. With forty-four projects in total, you are bound to find one that aligns with your passion.
So if you’ve been dreaming up a culturally immersive, environmentally enlightening or socially transformative trip, and want to support the most vulnerable in local communities, remember that adventure travel empowers women when you partner with the right organization.