By Allison Olmsted – FORBES Contributor
March 22, 2017
Women-specific and women-only trips are suddenly popular in the travel and adventure travel field. I’ve profiled some of these options, from hut-to-hut backcountry skiing to learn to surf camps here in the past, and this trend is a good thing, but some companies were way ahead of the curve. AdventureWomen was launched back in 1982 – a quarter of a century ago – to encourage women to physically and mentally challenge themselves while exploring the world. It remains a leader in this space.
The company was founded by Susan Eckert after she spent three post graduate years in the Peace Corps in Africa. Last year Eckert sold the company to a fellow woman adventure travel pioneer, Judi Wineland, President of Wineland-Thomson Adventures Inc., who founded her first venture, Overseas Adventure Travel in 1978. Along with her daughters, Erica Landerson and Nicole Wineland-Thomson, AdventureWomen is now under multi-generational female leadership and offers those traveling solo, with family, or with friends, women-only adventure tours in over 2o different countries. Under the new ownership, the company is doing a comprehensive rebranding, with a new website, logo and tagline – “The Destination is Just the Beginning.”
“AdventureWomen has changed the outlook, confidence, spirit and in some cases even lives of the thousands of women who have traveled with the company since 1982,” said new co-owner Judi Wineland via press release. “In 2017, we want to build on this tremendous heritage, by expanding opportunities for women travelers. AdventureWomen is much more than a travel company. We’re a relationship company, founded to invite women to build new connections with the world, with themselves, and with other like-minded women through travel.”
Going forward, the company’s new brand initiatives include an increased range and diversity of destinations offered; a commitment to include “women-to-women” cultural exchange opportunities in all of its trips which allow guests to meet with women leaders in local communities; new “play hard, rest hard” components of tours, offering challenging activities during the day and more luxurious accommodations at night; and the creation of an advisory board of women who have traveled with the company over the years. AdventureWomen enjoys an impressive repeat customer rate of over 70%.
The new initiatives are not whims, but rather the result of surveying more than 7,000 women to identify the current range of interests and attitudes of those seeking adventure travel experiences today. In keeping with the experiential trend sweeping the entire travel industry, respondents wanted trips with learning components, such as cultural exchange through cuisine, art and meeting with locals. To address this, AdventureWomen has already added a series of enhanced cultural offerings such as cooking classes in Mexico and Jordan; wine tasting in South Africa; vodka tasting in Russia; and meetings with Maasai women entrepreneurs in Tanzania.
Trips range from wildlife centric (tigers in India, grizzlies in Alaska, polar bears in the Arctic, African safaris) to hiking/trekking (Ireland, Nepal, Spain) to multi-sport (Iceland, Canadian Rockies), as well as active but more culturally focused insider visits to Russia, Indonesia, Costa Rica, and the Middle East.
Co-owner Nicole Wineland-Thomson plans to expand offerings and said that, “We’re really looking forward to continuing to raise the bar at AdventureWomen by offering new, off-the-beaten-path adventure options for our guests.” The company will announce its featured 2018 destinations later this month, with an expanded lineup of transformative tours aligned with the brand’s new commitments. In the travel business it is easy to get stuck in a rut of doing things one way, but needs and wants of travelers are always changing, and it is good to see that this venerable company is dedicated to keeping up with what women are seeking right now.