With female solo travel on the rise, this new company has been smart to tap directly into this trend, delivering a range of experiential tours for women to places such as Costa Rica, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. Globetrender speaks with Dawn Simone, owner and tour specialist at Elle Voyage, about her vision and why it’s important to partner with female-led businesses.
What is Elle Voyage and what makes it innovative?
Elle Voyage is much more than just a female-only travel company. Yes, all of our trips are for women but also all of our local experiences are with women-owned businesses. Having always worked for myself both in the UK, Barbados and Greece, I’m familiar with some of the struggles women can encounter in countries where women aren’t deemed as being equal, so I’m really passionate in supporting other female-run businesses wherever we go, making our trips authentic and ultimately unique.
Who are your competitors?
There are quite a few companies that are doing women-only trips, for example: Intrepid Travel, Explorer Chick and Responsible Travel. But although these companies include locally sourced trips, none of them to my knowledge are just supporting the locally women-owned businesses and forming a collaboration with them.
Who is it targeted at?
Women in their 30s, 40s and 50s but it’s not a hard and fast rule. We’re just about to launch some Mother’s Day trips so the age is really flexible. But, it really is for women who are passionate about experiencing different cultures and traditions around the world, and having fun in a group of like-minded women.
Why did you launch it and when?
I launched it at the beginning of this year. I had been looking to go away as most of my friends had other commitments or couldn’t take the same time off as me and all I found at the time was hiking holidays, holidays for the under 30s or yoga retreats.
Not that I have anything against a yoga retreat as I’m a Pilates teacher myself, but I wanted a trip that allowed me to experience the country, the culture, the food, the arts and also have some adventure at the same time. I couldn’t find any that encompassed all of this, and this was the reason I decided to start Elle Voyage.
Why do you think more women are travelling alone?
I think women these days are waiting longer to settle down and start families, and travel is a high priority. You only have to look at Instagram and see how many people are posting photos of where they’re travelling to, which also sparks the curiosity of others wishing to do the same.
With so many companies catering to the solo traveller market and planning the trip for you, it takes out the hassle and adds an element of security to it.
What are the main challenges women face when travelling alone? How can Elle Voyages help?
Many of the women I have spoken to say the challenges have been having to share an amazing experience by themselves, finding restaurants and eating by themselves, spending the evenings alone or not feeling safe in certain areas, or constantly getting harassed by local men. Oh, and photos being either just of the scenery or unexciting selfies.
Travelling with a group of women from different walks of life can be as life-changing as the trip itself. You have the support of the other women in the group and can share experiences you would otherwise miss out on as you didn’t know they existed.
On some of our trips we will have a photographer join us so you don’t even need to spend time taking the perfect shot – we have that covered and each evening you will be sent a download of that day’s photos to use as you wish.
You can save money by sharing a room and may even find a life-long friend in the mix. But, I think the main thing is the people you will meet along the way. The women we collaborate with have become friends and the experiences you will take home with you cannot be bought, they are from their huge generosity and love for what they do and how they can help and teach you.
What is the appeal of travelling in groups with women you don’t know?
I think we all tend to have friends like ourselves with similar beliefs, jobs and financial status, but by travelling with a group of females you don’t know allows women to meet people they would never have normally met, have conversations they may not otherwise have had and I think the main thing is that women feel they can be themselves, even reinvent themselves.
I’ve seen women become more confident and try things they would never thought they could do because they step into a version of themselves they may otherwise have kept locked away.
What kinds of trips are available?
All of the trips are experiential, adventurous and, as I’ve said, we use local women-owned businesses for our activities be it a hotel owner, restaurant owner, dance teacher, artist or guide. We currently have trips to South America, South East Asia, Zimbabwe, India and Europe.
What do they typically include and how much do they cost?
Most of the trips are on a half-board basis although you may have the occasional day that only breakfast is included. I think part of experiencing a country is by eating the different cuisines and I although I think it’s important to have meals included, it’s also just as important to make the itineraries flexible.
Most of the destinations are between £700 for a weekend and £1,200 to £3,000 for ten days excluding flights.
What are your ambitions for growth?
I would love to see more women travelling and to be able to partner with more women-owned businesses in other countries. Next year I looking to launch bachelorette weekends to our most popular destinations, Portugal, Italy and soon to launch, Seville.
What do you predict for the future of female travel?
I believe we will see a lot more women deciding to follow their dreams and go travelling. Even five years ago, there weren’t as many options but organised, women-only trips on the rise, there’s a lot more available to choose from especially if you are a first-time traveller.