International Women’s Day 2023: Key Lessons from Leading Women Striving to Further Regenerative Tourism

Words Laura Field
Date

To mark International Women’s Day 2023, we caught up with some of the women leading the way in the travel industry, from hoteliers to travel advisors, to hear about their key learnings and what advice they want to impart on others working towards the paradigm shift to a more regenerative, climate-friendly approach to travel.  

Whether you’re just starting out in the travel industry or you’re a well-seasoned expert who knows the ins and outs of the travel sector, we want to further promote the sharing of knowledge and ideas to inspire everyone to continue working towards a common vision of travel that actively benefits communities, environments and wildlife. 

Here are some key takeaways, life lessons and expert advice from nine women placing regenerative travel at the forefront of everything that they do.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your work in the travel industry?

Daria Rasmussen, Founder and CEO of Bliss & Stars, an off-grid wilderness retreat in the Cederberg Mountains, South Africa

I learned a life-changing lesson when I was at a crossroads in my career. For over two decades I worked in the media and advertising industry, and I thought I knew it all. Deep down, I felt unfulfilled, and I knew that I wanted to make a bigger impact on the world. So, I decided to take a risk and pursue my passion for creating a unique experience that prioritized compassion, and care for oneself and the world.

When I first shared my vision I faced a lot of resistance from people who told me that my ideas were unrealistic and that the travel industry worked in a certain way. I struggled with self-doubt, and I found myself falling into the trap of comparing myself to others and their businesses. Then I had a conversation with a dear friend, and he told me four words that changed everything for me: “Forget everything you know.”

To clarify: forgetting everything you know doesn’t mean disregarding all the knowledge and experience that you have acquired throughout your life. Instead, it means starting from a different place – a place where you tune out the noise of opinions and preconceptions, and ideas of how things are done, and focus on what impact and what change you want to kickstart.

I started by asking myself what I wanted people to feel when they left my place. It meant creating a sense of home as opposed to a retreat center. It meant prioritizing courage, wisdom, and compassion, even if it went against the traditional ways of doing things in the industry.

Courage to start from a different place is what helps people to create unique experiences. It’s the vision, the authenticity, and the care for the world that will make you stand out and set you apart from the competitors.

Bliss & Stars in the Cederberg Mountains, South Africa

Vivian Temba, Director of Sales & Marketing at Kantabile Afrika, a collection of luxury safari camps (including Cherero Camp) in the heart of the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

For some, working in travel is already a dream but the travel industry is huge. You need to find alignment in what you do to gain fulfillment. In the past, jobs within the industry tended to be rigid, without much freedom for creativity. But that landscape has changed. Nowadays, travel is one of the industries that allows so much fluidity that you can carve out a niche for yourself. The travel industry is constantly evolving. You cannot just stick with what you are familiar with and expect not to get left behind. A job is not a career. A career is not your entire identity. It does not define you. Let your work be led by your passion and values, because those are what define you.

Bethany Betzler, Founder of Hinoki Travels, creating custom journeys designed to help us to reconnect with ourselves and our environment

Working in the travel industry has exposed me to many of the hard truths we face as a global society. Our work is directly affected by issues in politics, the environment, and socioeconomics—and all the complexities that make these issues difficult to untangle. I’ve learned that acknowledging the complexities allows us to move past the overwhelm to focus on smaller, tangible actions.

Renee Kimball, Owner at Tranquilo Bay, an eco adventure lodge in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Panama

Stay open to possibility. When one is truly present for each part of this adventure, you let go of every day and surrender yourself to each moment. This process allows you to see things differently, learn more about your surroundings, and interact with the people you meet along the path.

Jennine Cohen, Co-Founder of Women Travel Leaders, a vetted community of top level leaders within the travel industry with a track record for success who are exchanging ideas, perspectives, business, and media opportunities

Stop stressing! Stress is the block to flow. Sometimes when clients get stressed, it’s all too easy to take on their stress too. So, it’s important to have a daily grounding practice to create energetic boundaries to keep my vibes high and to stay calm. I find that when I do this, I am attracting the right aligned clients.

Value my time. I’ve also found that traditional models have flown out the window with regards to how to charge. This means there is an opportunity for reinvention on charging structures. My peers and I are now quick to charge upfront consulting fees and upfront deposits, as our time and expertise has value. When I value my time, others do too. I’m constantly asking myself, what is the highest value thing I could be doing at any given moment?

Slow down to speed up. The travel industry is a fast paced one, however slowing down, and doing less, moving as much as possible with my own natural rhythms and energy is the surest way to innovation and creative solutions. And, to find the joy in the work – the reason many of us got into the business in the first place!

Attract your tribe! No one is an island and we all need to feel supported. When we take on a mindset of collaboration and abundance for all, we open ourselves to new perspectives and collective wisdom, solutions, and paths forward where we may be feeling stuck beyond what we see in front of us. And being in community simply just feels better.

Tranquilo Bay in Bocas del Toro, Panama

O’Shannon Burns, Sustainability Expert and Program Manager at Cornell University

The power (and importance!) of creating nontraditional spaces where people can step outside themselves, learn something new, form deep connections, and appreciate this big wild world we call home.

Bárbara Büchel, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer at Viatu, a travel platform making sustainable travel radically more accessible by allowing travelers to design and book their sustainable trip all from their phone

Perhaps this is more of a realization than a lesson—as much as travel has the undeniable and beautiful power of connecting people and bringing different cultures together, it is also an incredibly fragmented, and often dysfunctional, industry. In order to transform travel into a regenerative force, it is imperative that industry stakeholders collaborate on streamlining global strategies and frameworks, while acting locally.

Dana Krauskopf, Owner of Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort, a boutique eco hotel in Hopkins, Belize

The biggest joy of working in the travel industry is being able to make a positive contribution to people and place. The greatest success comes from leading with respect and generosity.

Danielle Meyer, Travel Advisor & Manager of Group Sales at Coastline Travel Advisors, a luxury travel agency based in Southern California that curates memorable travel experiences

The biggest lesson that I have learned from my work in this industry is that we have the power to make these trips we plan something bigger than just us. We work with so many incredible and inspiring people all throughout the world that we get to partner with and our trips get to improve other people’s lives if we let it. I have learned that this industry is all about connection, with each other, with other humans, with different cultures – it’s all about connecting.

What is one piece of advice you’d want to give to your younger self in terms of working in the travel industry?

Daria Rasmussen, Founder and CEO of Bliss & Stars, an off-grid wilderness retreat in the Cederberg Mountains, South Africa

It’s the road less traveled that leads to the most meaningful and fulfilling journey.


Vivian Temba, Founder at Kantabile Afrika, a collection of luxury safari camps (including Cherero Camp) in the heart of the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

People would judge you based on your race, age, gender, background, etc. And they would put you in a box that fits in with their mental schema, based on your physical attributes. It is inevitable, unfortunately. That should not be a deterrent that stops you from going after whatever it is that you have set your mind on achieving. Let your work shine through and speak for itself. Let others stay where they are most comfortable while you catch the wave.

Cherero Camp in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Bethany Betzler, Founder of Hinoki Travels, creating custom journeys designed to help us to reconnect with ourselves and our environment

Spend as much time as you can living abroad, and be intentional about learning and listening while you are there. It’s important to develop cultural fluency.

Renee Kimball, Owner at Tranquilo Bay, an eco adventure lodge in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Panama

Understand that travel is an investment. Inviting travelers to invest in a vacation opens their minds to creating a return on that investment. The return should support both their travel party and the place they are visiting. This mindset helps protect the place and its rich mix of nature, culture, and adventure that cannot be found anywhere else.

Jennine Cohen, Co-Founder of Women Travel Leaders, a vetted community of top level leaders within the travel industry with a track record for success who are exchanging ideas, perspectives, business, and media opportunities

Stop talking and start listening. When we learn to be the receiver without trying to relate, we are opening up a channel of communication that allows us to tap into a higher wisdom of both the said and unsaid. We all want to be heard, understood, and accepted. There’s no artificial intelligence that can replace the power of listening and speaking from the heart.

O’Shannon Burns, Sustainability Expert and Program Manager at Cornell University

There is no traditional career path in the travel industry—create what you wish tourism would look like and you will find your people!

Bárbara Büchel, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer at Viatu, a travel platform making sustainable travel radically more accessible by allowing travelers to design and book their sustainable trip all from their phone

Having professionally joined the travel industry only a couple of years ago (after finally daring to reinvent myself and break away from a comfortable life in advertising), I would advise my younger self to dare to do it sooner! I consider myself unusually fortunate to have been born into a life of travel — by age 6 I had already lived in 5 countries, and am now tracking at 10. I have known no other reality but that of continuously immersing myself in new cultures and exploring this planet’s wonders with love and respect. To be able to finally align my work with that innate purpose and try to make it more accessible to others…I am living the dream, and am so grateful for it!

Dana Krauskopf, Owner of Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort, a boutique eco hotel in Hopkins, Belize

Believe in your dream, stick to your values and keep the long run in mind. Like any industry, travel has its nay-sayers and plenty of hurdles. Combined with the industry’s exhilarating, yet exhausting 24/7 nature, it can be tempting to give up hope. It’s important to trust that you can accomplish your goals with integrity over time.

Danielle Meyer, Travel Advisor & Manager of Group Sales at Coastline Travel Advisors, a luxury travel agency based in Southern California that curates memorable travel experiences

Ask questions. Get to know more people, ask them why they are in the role they are in, why do they like their job. When you understand a person more, you are able to be a better salesperson of their product. You can better connect with people.


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