Women Taking the Lead in Transforming the Travel Industry

  • Craig Miller
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  • March 23, 2023
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  • 7 minute read
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Women have a significant impact on the travel sector, making approximately 85% of all travel-related decisions.

Despite this, they are often underrepresented in decision-making roles within the industry.

As the first Native American cabinet secretary in the U.S. government, Deb Haaland, U.S. Department Secretary of the Interior, is working to give Indigenous groups a voice in managing America’s public lands and cultural heritage.

To celebrate the women who are making a difference, we are highlighting trailblazers changing the way we travel.

The Inclusive Guide: Fostering Diversity and Inclusion

Crystal Egli and Parker McMullen Bushman, inspired by the Green Book, founded The Inclusive Guide in 2019.

This online platform allows users to rate businesses based on factors such as safety, respect, representation, and overall experience.

The Inclusive Guide aims to create a more inclusive travel environment for everyone, regardless of race, gender identity, or disability.

Marlene Valle: Empowering Deaf Travelers

Marlene Valle, a deaf Latina travel content creator, established Deafinitely Wanderlust to share her travel experiences and advice with other deaf travelers.

Her YouTube channel and Instagram feed offer valuable insights and promote deaf artists, entrepreneurs, and communities worldwide.

Textured Waves: Building a Community of Black Surfers

Chelsea Woody, Danielle Black Lyons, and Martina Duran created Textured Waves, an organization that encourages people of color to engage in surfing and fosters an inclusive and international sisterhood of surfers.

They aim to normalize the sight of Black women surfing and create a more diverse surf community.

Judy Tudor: Championing Accessible Travel

Judy Tudor, a travel advisor at Fora, is dedicated to making travel more accessible for everyone, especially those with mobility issues.

As a wheelchair user herself, Tudor assists clients with their unique needs, offering guidance on various aspects of travel, such as security, airline accommodations, and accessible lodging.

Martinique Lewis: Reviving the Green Book for Modern Travelers

Martinique Lewis, president of the Black Travel Alliance, published The ABC Travel Greenbook in 2020.

Inspired by the original Green Book, it provides resources for travelers looking to connect with the Black diaspora globally.

Lewis’s work focuses on centering Black experiences in travel to drive change.

Cathy Dreyer: Protecting Wildlife and Conservation

Cathy Dreyer, the first woman head ranger for South Africa’s Kruger National Park, leads a team of rangers to protect the park’s wildlife and biodiversity.

She also focuses on building relationships with local communities and combating wildlife crime, particularly the poaching of endangered rhinos.

Zakia Moulaoui Guery: Raising Awareness of Homelessness

Zakia Moulaoui Guery founded Invisible Cities in 2016, a social enterprise that offers city tours led by people who have experienced homelessness.

The tours provide a unique perspective on various cities, sharing personal stories and promoting authentic travel experiences.

Empowering Disabled Travelers: Maayan Ziv and AccessNow

In September 2022, 32-year-old Maayan Ziv, a disability advocate living with muscular dystrophy, embarked on a journey from Toronto, Canada, to Tel Aviv, Israel, to attend an accessibility conference.

Upon arrival, Ziv discovered that her wheelchair had been severely damaged. This incident highlighted the challenges people with disabilities face while traveling.

In 2015, Ziv founded AccessNow, a crowd-sourced app that allows users to share their experiences at various locations worldwide in terms of accessibility.

With a growing team of 15 full-time and 40 part-time employees, and thousands of contributors, AccessNow recently expanded to include AccessOutdoors, which maps accessible parks and trails.

Sustainability in Travel: Julia Simpson and the WTTC

Julia Simpson, president of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), is working to achieve ambitious carbon net-zero goals.

In November 2021, the WTTC partnered with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to develop a plan to decarbonize travel and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

In April 2022, they introduced “Hotel Sustainability Basics,” a set of criteria all hotels should follow to promote responsible travel and tourism.

Caramel Curves: Defying Stereotypes in Motorcycling

Caramel Curves, an all-women motorcycle club based in New Orleans, challenges stereotypes with their glamorous outfits and passion for motorbikes.

Founded in 2007 by Nakosha “Coco” Smith, the group now has 17 members from diverse backgrounds.

The club aims to inspire other women to think outside the box and gain confidence in pursuing their interests.

Deb Haaland: Bringing Indigenous Voices to the Forefront

As the first Native American cabinet secretary in the U.S. government, Deb Haaland, U.S. Department Secretary of the Interior, is working to give Indigenous groups a voice in managing America’s public lands and cultural heritage.

Haaland aims to repair broken treaties between the government and tribal nations, allowing Indigenous groups to reclaim their land and control over natural resources.

In 2021, Haaland facilitated the transfer of the National Bison Range in Montana back to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai groups.

This change in management allows for a more accurate representation of the area’s cultural and historical context, and acknowledges the Indigenous community’s role in bison conservation.

Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network

Established in 2018, the Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network has been providing Indigenous Australian women with the skills and resources needed to protect and maintain Australia’s diverse landscapes.

Under the leadership of Managing Director Larissa Hale, the organization has trained over 60 women, offering them valuable mentorship, workshops, and networking opportunities.

In Queensland, women make up only 20% of the rangers.

The Network aims to increase the number of female rangers, thereby improving environmental outcomes for everyone.

Hale believes that when Traditional Custodians look after the land, the land, in turn, takes care of them.

Earthshot Prize Win for Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef

The Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef, a chapter of the Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network, were recently awarded the prestigious Earthshot Prize, which includes a 1 million euros prize to continue their work.

The prize, founded in 2021 by Prince William and Sir David Attenborough, recognizes the importance of Traditional Custodians in managing Australia’s land and sea.

Captain Kate McCue Breaking Barriers on the High Seas

Captain Kate McCue became the first American woman to command a mega cruise ship in 2019, overseeing Celebrity Cruises’ $1.2 billion flagship vessel Celebrity Edge.

She has since been promoted to captain of Celebrity Beyond, becoming a celebrity herself in the process.

Appointed by Celebrity’s first female president and CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, McCue’s appointment is a symbol of progress for women in the maritime industry.

Mickela Mallozzi Connecting Cultures through Dance

Mickela Mallozzi, a New York City-based dancer, uses her passion for dance to connect with strangers and cultures around the world.

Her Emmy Award-winning TV show, Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi, highlights her travels and the dances she learns along the way.

Now in its sixth season, the show continues to inspire people to connect with different cultures through music and dance.

Captain Teara Fraser Pioneering Indigenous Aviation

Captain Teara Fraser became the first Indigenous woman in Canada to start an airline, Iskwew Air, right before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially intended as a charter service between Vancouver International Airport and remote Indigenous communities, Fraser pivoted to ferrying essential goods during the pandemic.

Now, with scheduled nonstop service, Iskwew Air is helping to facilitate cultural exchange and increase diversity in the aviation industry.

In conclusion, the women featured in this article are breaking barriers, reshaping the travel industry, and fostering a more inclusive, diverse, and accessible environment for all.

From advocating for sustainability and accessibility to empowering underrepresented communities and creating innovative platforms, these trailblazers are redefining the way we travel and experience the world.

As we celebrate their accomplishments and leadership, we are reminded that there is still much work to be done in ensuring that the travel industry is truly representative of and accessible to everyone.

It is through the continuous efforts of these inspiring women and future leaders that we can envision a more inclusive, equitable, and transformative future for the travel industry.


Craig Miller

Craig Miller

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