Solo Female Travel and Gender Based Tourism


One Planet Journey’s Valentina Pucciano chats with Iaia Pedemonte, founder of the Gender Responsible Tourism Association, about the experience of solo female travel and the mission to empower women in tourism.


From my first interaction with Iaia, I knew we’d get along. When she picked up the phone, her voice sounded lively, friendly, and approachable, creating a flawless conversation.

Hailing from Italy, Iaia Pedemonte is a travel journalist and founder of the Gender Responsible Tourism Association (GRT). She focuses on supporting women in tourism, promoting projects where female workers are the main characters. From Italy to India, each initiative encourages sustainability and helps female employment. Iaia’s purpose is to open traveller’s eyes, creating a deeper connection between these tourism professionals and the visitors.

Group of women in lavender field doing yoga
Yoga class in a lavender field in Parco dell’Aveto in Liguria region, Italy. All images in article credit to Iaia Pedemonte, GRT


Gender Responsible Tourism Association – GRT

More than a decade ago, while attending a United Nations World Tourism Organization’s conference (UNWTO) in Berlin, a brilliant idea struck Iaia. It was high time women received more focus on what they contribute to tourism and had their achievements recognised. Iaia did not hesitate to create a platform where she, through interviews, highlights women’s capabilities in the sector, worldwide.

My website was the first one recognised within the UNWTO’s Ethics Division about female tourism since no one had thought about it before. I became, then, an expert on women in tourism,” Iaia explained.  

As a result, Iaia witnessed new projects, interviewed experts, and connected with several travel organisations.

3 women sitting on a bench outside a white house.
Iaia with rural women visiting the CBI-Eceat-Travelife Project in Kazakhstan


International Travel Institutions & Women in Tourism 

To my question as to how international travel institutions can support women in tourism, Iaia says:

It would be wonderful if there were companies focussing on products for women made by women, such as handbags, luggage or shoes. Promoting a business that targets and attracts female customers. Also, travel companies could train tourist guides on what to explore and sustain an equal gender pay. Governments should also promote initiatives within their territory.”

Group of women standing in a building with pillars, listening to another woman talk.
Iaia and experts from Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board with a female tourist guide at the Gwalior Fort, India


Iaia adds more insight:

There are specific projects that support the economic system where women are valuable contributors. According to some studies, they seem to be more reliable and efficient, leading to long-lasting project impact and higher profit.” 

Iaia also organises seminars, training and meetings with girls interested in tourism, focussing on topics such as stereotypes, cultural exchanges, and helping local communities. Marketing strategies should target according to the type of visitor to maximise its effectiveness, while also considering sustainability, such as women’s empowerment in tourism.

Woman looking at two other women doing art project.
NGO Oikos Insitute’s Maasai Women Art Project, Tanzania


Solo Female Travel

While discussing travelling and how visitors can support women, Iaia expresses her straightforward opinion:

Travelling means learning something new and creating a cultural exchange with the place you are visiting. Talking to locals and understanding their lifestyle. As an example, I wrote a book in Italian called ‘La guida delle libere viaggiatrici’ (the independent women travellers’ guidebook). Divided into two volumes, readers follow an itinerary that suggests supporting female tourism workers who explain and show specific locations or local businesses.” 

As a passionate solo traveller myself, I am conscious women may go through more dangerous situations compared to men. Having said that, this possibility never stopped me from journeying all around the world. Iaia confirms I am not the only one:

There are plenty of women, above all young women, who travel on their own. Women-only tour operators have increased. According to a study, 80% of women feel uncomfortable travelling solo. Whereas, once they leave, 70% of them felt more self-confident. It becomes a way for them to empower themselves and experience self-growth. It’s proven that the majority of the incidents do not happen while travelling. Solo female travel means organising and planning ahead.” 

Iaia advises,

Inform yourself first, which neighbourhood is more suited than another. Explore different resources that the web provides. Appreciate the local culture and behave accordingly.

A woman holding the reins near donkey's head.
Tourist guide Marta Signi hiking with donkeys along Cammino di San Francesco in the Umbria region, Italy. A collaboration with Alter Trek and Asineria


Women’s Impact On Tourism 

As two women conversing about women, we could not help but wonder how we can play a significant role for the future of tourism.

All major associations agree women are essential in boosting tourism. First, they bring more results. Second, women included within a team helps with diversity and inclusion, decreasing the gender pay gap. Women’s experience with taking care of children, together with sustainable and empathetic characteristics, means it’s in their nature to look at the future,” Iaia explains. 

Woman in yellow dress with a pages of paper in her hands.
An immigrant tourist guide in Naples, Italy, organised by Migrantour Association


Thanks to a wealth of projects developed around the world, the current situation of many women has changed and improved. Iaia shares some examples:

In the region of Molise, Italy, some girls escaped from their houses because of violence in the family. The women took an olive-growing course and built a start-up where they sell home-made products to restaurants in Molise. A local association used tourism to support these women”. She continues:

“Last year, I visited a project in Madhya Pradesh, India, created by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board. Here, women are engaged in rural community organisations. Madhya Pradesh’s tourism department studied how to involve their population, and, as a result, women came into consideration. Some took on the role of guards, participated in martial arts courses, or became drivers. The idea is to empower different populations groups by creating activities that interest visitors. It’s a rare example of a government directly thinking about its people.

Woman driving a rickshaw
An Indian woman as a driver for the ‘Safe Destination Project’ in Madhya Pradesh, India


Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board is the winner of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism Awards for projects such as Rural Tourism, Safe Tourist Destination for Women, Access for the Differently Able, Responsible Souvenirs, and Clean Destinations.

Iaia has travelled intensively and has a pile of stories to inspire us. Among many associations supporting women in tourism, Iaia remembers her trip to Tunisia:

In Tataouine, south Tunisia, I met this girl named Selma, who is a tourist guide and collaborates with NGO ARCS Tunisie association. Selma also established an association called ‘Farm Hospitality’ aimed at bolstering local women who sell their natural and agricultural products, such as jam. Selma hopes to open a B&B with her project Maison d’Hote.” Iaia reveals more:

Woman standing inside a stadium with a couple of people around her.
Selma in Tataouine, Tunisia


This kind of initiative is present in other countries, but because it was in an unknown area of Tunisia, it caught my attention. Another example is the organisation in Paris called ‘Paris ZigZag’. It’s a feminist tour, organised with the collaboration of the costume designer and historian Magali Segouin, to discover the women who marked the history of Paris. Starting from a painting in a museum, Magali tells you the historical context in which this woman lived and then takes you to visit her house around Paris. In Venice, Italy, there’s also a similar tour.”

Woman standing in front of a fountain wearing a flowery dress.
Magali while guiding tourists in Paris 


Deep Travel & Sustainability 

Iaia’s experience is impressive, and the knowledge gained through her trips makes her a pioneer in gender tourism and a role model for solo female travel. Her passion is to help and support other people by connecting with them and learning from their experience.

To me, being a ‘libera viaggiatrice’ (an independent female traveller) means exploring the world with empathy and curiosity, hoping to make a further step towards a better humanity,” Iaia says. One episode in particular comes to her mind:

While speaking with some Argentinian women, I felt they had taught me something – not sure what they learned from me – but by interviewing and talking to them I made them feel important and seen.” Iaia’s latest upcoming project centres on a YouTube channel showing one-minute interviews with women from around the world. They would present their business or activity related to tourism, increasing awareness and supporting the local economy. 

Travelling touches many aspects of someone’s daily life, and human connections are the starting point of an unforgettable journey. Getting to know each other breaks barriers, reducing unfair opinions, and opening our eyes. Both men and women are essential to a thriving community, and recognising our roles creates a positive impact.

Iaia Pedemonte’s organisation shows how we can all contribute to a more sustainable world when planning our next holiday or adventure. It testifies that these initiatives not only help people who struggle to make a living, but also how they leave a lasting impression on both tourists and locals. This form of deep travel allows us to take part in projects that could change not only our lives, but other people’s future. It’s a way for everyone to feel seen, heard, and accountable. A blue print for sustainable humanity. 


Have you tried solo travel? How does your region promote women in tourism? Let us know in the comment section! Subscribe to our newsletter and benefit from travel guides, sustainable tourism and luxury travel tips, insightful interviews, and inspirational places to visit. One Planet Journey – The World’s First Deep Travel Magazine.


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