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Women Traveling © Jacquelynne Kosmicki /Pixabay
Women Traveling © Jacquelynne Kosmicki /Pixabay

How Women-Only Tours Became Travel's Newest Trend

Picture of Nikki Vargas
Travel Editor
Updated: 27 February 2017
Over the past few years, the travel industry has seen an undeniable rise of women drawn to the idea of solo travel. Blame Elizabeth Gilbert and her post-divorce Italy/India/Indonesia jaunt in Eat Pray Love. Blame Cheryl Strayed and her soul-searching hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild. A women’s desire to solo travel is offset only by concerns for her personal safety. Enter women-only tours, a rising trend that just might be what the travel industry has been missing.

In a study by Intrepid Traveler, women make up more than half (64%) of travel consumers with the demographic of 25 to 39 years old accounting for most of the market. Historically, there has been a blatant gap in the industry when it comes to travel tours, particularly those targeting women in their mid-thirties.

Luxury tours, such as those offered by Viking River Cruises, tailor to an older, retired affluent crowd. Tours offered by companies like Topdeck, do a superb job of reaching millennial budget travelers, but tours targeting professional women in their mid-thirties are seemingly scarce.

According to a statement from Topdeck – which offers trips geared towards younger travelers like its Road Trip to Phnom Penh tour, “More than half of those who travel with us are female, many of whom are traveling solo, seeking new and immersive experiences without the hassle that often comes with planning a trip.” Companies – such as Damesly and REI – are now building upon that model, creating women-only tours made for a type of traveler that falls somewhere in between a millennial and retiree. 

Woman Traveler © Splitshire /Pixabay

Woman Traveler © Splitshire /Pixabay

“There seems to be a sort of resurgence of women’s travel and a big focus for companies to try and capture that [female] market,” Kelly Lewis told Culture Trip. Lewis is founder of the travel books, Go Girl Guides, and Damesly, a female tour company that launched six months ago and specializes in marrying the art of learning a new skill with travel. For example, the upcoming Damesly ‘Wine & Design’ trip will help travelers fine tune their Photoshop and InDesign skills against the backdrop of Argentina’s Mendoza region. In short, Damesly fills a neglected space in the market, creating immersive tours for professional women.

Larger travel companies are beginning to catch on to this untapped travel consumer, launching variations of women-only tours. At The 2017 New York Times Travel Show, the behemoth, REI, announced its own women tours. “As we enter our 30th year, we are excited to roll out incredible itineraries for women to experience some of the world’s best places, have a special sense of discovery and inspiration, and learn with women and from women around the world,” said Cynthia Dunbar, general manager of REI Adventures, in a press statement. “Since 2010, women traveling with us has grown by 60%, and we continue to see this figure rise steadily annually. Last year alone, 58% of all our guests were women.”

Women © Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Women © Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

The need for female only travel is seen in the subtle differences in how men and women travel. According to tour company, G Adventures, male travelers gravitate towards booking tours that are more strenuous and active with activities including hiking, kayaking, sailing and cycling. In contrast, female travelers opt for adventures that focus on culture, food and ‘living like a local.’

Greater than the subtleties between how genders travel, is the obvious impact women are now having on the travel industry as a whole. According to Lonely Planet, “a recent study found a 230% increase in the number of women-only travel companies. More and more travelers say they’re looking for an enriching travel experience. 29% said they want to travel to explore a new destination and 32.9% stated their aim is to learn a new skill.”

As female travelers heed the irresistible call of wanderlust, one thing remains clear: women are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the travel space.