According to travel industry experts (source here), there has been a 230% increase in the number of women-only travel companies in the past six years.
Women are particularly interested in supporting other women, which sees companies hiring female guides and sourcing from female-owned suppliers. Itineraries tend to cater to the women’s interest of collecting cultural capital on their trips by including community-based tourism experiences, connections with local female artisans, and so on. For example, at Run Wild Retreats, many of our locally based guides are women, in places like Iceland and Spain, we proudly work with female-owned outfitters.
So why is there such a boom in women-only travel?
1. Women’s increasing stress levels motivates them to seek out experiences that are going to improve their overall wellness. Women in their 40s tend to be at their peak stress levels, as they work harder than ever to balance career and family, which takes a toll on their health. These women reach a point at which going on a vacation, either alone or with friends or a group, is about reinvesting in their health and happiness rather than just being an opportunity to “play” or “see the world.” (stress statistics in America here).
2. The rise in popularity of Wellness Travel. Both the Global Wellness Institute and Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) have identified that travel experiences combining adventure with wellness to be one of the travel industry’s fastest-growing segments, especially among women. “Wellness travel” has historically referred to spa-based vacations, though that is changing as women are seeking vacations that combining active adventure with time for rest/recovery and personal development. The definition of “wellness” is expanding to include activities that help reduce stress and facilitate personal growth and learning.
The trend is for adventure itineraries to include an element of wellness, but not as the primary motivation of the trip. In fact, the Global Wellness Institute found that only 7% of all leisure travel consisted of primarily wellness trips (when the main goal was visiting an ashram or a yoga retreat, for example). This reflects the fact that adventure travelers are increasingly seeking experiences that allow them to unplug, focus inward, and tap into the mental health benefits of adventure travel.
People are increasingly using travel experiences as an opportunity to regain a sense of control among the chaos they encounter in their everyday lives. In fact, the ATTA’s 2017 research with Dr. Paige Viren and Outside magazine showed that physical and mental health are key motivations for travelers when they seek out adventure travel. “We’re seeing more trips offered as restoration, wellness, recovery, and digital detox, which seek to offset the intensity of modern life,” reported Dr. Milena Nikolova of the American University in Bulgaria.
3. Women’s increasing financial independence and purchasing power. Due to more women than ever building careers and businesses, they have a greater means to travel. In North America, this may also be connected to women choosing not to have children, or having fewer children, which allows them greater freedom to travel. A few other related statistics:
- Women make 70% of all travel decisions. (Source: Bridget Brennan, “Why She Buys”.)
- The average adventure traveler is not a 28-year old male, but a 47-year-old female who wears a size 12 dress. (Source: Travel Industry of America)
- One in four women have participated in a “girlfriends getaway” and 39% plan to do so at least once in the next three years. (Source: AAA)
A deepening understanding of the motivations for adventure travelers supported by research is helping to bring the science of experience design more intentionally to adventure travel product development. Milena Nikolova notes: “Experience design involves knowledge about the importance not only of different elements in an itinerary, but also the sequencing of activities, the time spent in different activities, balancing effort with the sense of achievement, and the emotions surrounding challenge.”
personal growth and change. This finding, combined with the widespread appreciation of the benefits of transformational travel, is encouraging more tour operators to focus more intently on the way elements of a trip come together to deliver on the motivating factors of personal growth, learning, and ultimately transformation.
So what does Run Wild Retreats have to do with all this?
Run Wild Retreats + Wellness offers carefully designed retreat experiences that offer a unique combination of aerobic physical activity (trail running) with mindfulness (wellness workshops that teach mindful running principles).
This includes setting intentions near the start of the retreat, providing time for reflection on the daily retreat experience and sharing of those experiences. Participants get to immediately apply the mindfulness principles to the running and traveling they do each day and notice its effect on their stress levels, confidence, mental state and level of physical relaxation.
Each retreat ends with a closing meeting that reviews all they’ve learned and experienced throughout the week so they can take that home after the trip ends and continue practicing those ideas to better manage stress in everyday life.