For digital content creator and travel influencer Silvia Njoki, a trip to Bali on her 30th birthday with a few of her friends became the turning point of her life as it inspired her to begin planning travels for women.
“I hadn't envisioned becoming the chief planner of the trip, but my love and experience for travel led me to plan the entire experience. I invited five of my closest girlfriends to join me on this adventure and, as the planning process unfolded, I noticed that my friends were more than willing to entrust me with the entire logistics and itinerary, because of my travel history,” she starts.
That remarkable and memorable trip birthed the desire to curate incredible experiences, and sharing them with others was something. Eager to enhance her knowledge and skills, Silvia embarked on a journey of learning, delving into the intricacies of travel planning.
“This newfound passion has since become a driving force in my life, inspiring me to explore more, share my adventures, and help others create unforgettable memories through travel. In the years that followed, I dedicated myself to honing my craft. I spent countless hours gathering a network of valuable contacts, delving into the intricacies of group and private trips, and relentlessly seeking ways to elevate the travel experience. This journey led me to engage with industry experts, absorb their wisdom, and apply it to my own endeavours,” she continues.
Then just after the world weathered the storm of the Covid-19 pandemic, Silvia embarked on another travel adventure. A trip to Turkey.
“Leveraging my platform on Instagram, I extended an invitation to whomever would want to join. The response was nothing short of amazing. It was a trip that was meant to be a once-a-year occurrence, but the overwhelming enthusiasm and the many requests that followed changed the course of my journey. Driven by the incredible feedback, it led to the birth of my travel company, Soul Sync Discoveries,” she says.
The company has expanded over the years and, over the past 14months, they have successfully executed 12 public group tours and multiple private group trips.
“These tours have not only been a source of joy and adventure but have also brought together women, primarily from Kenya, as well as from diverse corners of Africa. In addition to our public group tours, we've ventured into crafting bespoke experiences for individuals, families and friends. We recently unveiled our calendar for 2024, showcasing detailed itineraries for all upcoming group tours. This provides a sneak peek into the incredible journeys that await our travellers in the coming year, promising more enriching experiences, cultural discoveries, and lasting connections,” she says.
Over the past few years, travel has become a major phenomenon, with travel companies rising up to dedicate to women-only clientele or women-only trips. According to this year’s statistics by UK site Condor Ferries, 64 percent of travellers worldwide are female. There has also been a growing lone women travel and it is expected that $125 billion will be spent by women on travel this year.
When it comes to what women prefer to do, 75 percent love cultural, nature, adventure, shopping and sightseeing trips. According to Silvia, most women love travelling in groups and her company has observed a blend between Kenyan women and those in the diaspora joining the trips. She has also noticed a growing interest and participation from women in other East African countries, as well as South Africa.
“This expansion in our client base demonstrates the appeal of group travel experiences, which resonates with women from a broader geographical region. As we continue to explore new destinations and curate unique adventures, we anticipate an even more diverse and inclusive community of women travellers joining us in the future.”
She believes that women love travelling in groups because planning a trip is overwhelming by the complexity of planning and carrying out international travel on their own.
“Women also often find empowerment and safety in travelling together. Travelling in a group provides an added layer of security and comfort, particularly in unfamiliar destinations. This ultimately fosters independence and encourages them to step out of their comfort zones. Travelling with other women provides a strong support system and a chance to network. Women can relate to one another's experiences and challenges, which can lead to deeper connections and friendships, as you will be travelling in a group that has shared interests,” she observes.
When it comes to the activities that they enjoy, they relish a diverse range of activities and experiences through themed events such as lunches, engaging game nights and fun dress-up sessions. Noticing their love to capture their moments, Silvia ensures that she includes a photographer to capture and immortalise each precious moment.
“Our itineraries are meticulously crafted to provide a holistic experience of each specific destination. We customise each experience, which varies from destination to destination, but they all share an element of adventure and exploration. Women in our groups have enjoyed thrilling activities like hot air balloon rides, quad biking, horseriding, and yacht cruises. We also organise beach and pool parties for relaxation time,” she says.
For Dolly Khan, a Ugandan and CEO Big7 Africa Travels, the passion for travel began during her childhood. Being a girl guide patrol leader meant heading out camping out of town.
“In high school, I joined the Girl Scouts, for whom I was troop leader. We used to go camping and for geography study tours in the national parks and tourit destinations that are popular in our country. That’s how I fell in love with travelling at a young age,” she says.
After school, working in the hospitality industry for a while, Dolly began working as a freelance tour operator. In 2018, she started her own tour company, at the prompting of a friend.
“My friend was impressed by how I promoted tourism yet, for me ,it was just a passion of sharing my travels. I didn’t know what potential people were seeing in me until he contacted me. He encouraged me by giving me someone to help me register a company. It was my destiny, because I studied travel and tourism to get a job but I didn’t know, or even think, that I could own a tour company,” she adds.
Dolly has travelled extensively within East Africa and has noticed the rise in the number of women travelling in Uganda. According to her, the trend can be attributed to various factors, such as increased security, improved infrastructure, and a growing sense of empowerment.
“Additionally, the accessibility of travel information through social media and online platforms has played a significant role in inspiring women to explore new destinations and embark on exciting adventures,” Dolly observes.
Her clients, who are mostly women, seek immersive cultural experiences, to connect with fellow travellers, and create lasting memories.
“Travelling in groups offers a sense of security, camaraderie, and shared experiences. Women form strong bonds when travelling together, allowing them to explore new destinations confidently, exchange knowledge, and empower one another,” she says.
Despite the fact that he has a mix of travellers, Duncan Kiema of Xtrym Adventures organises hikes and expeditions for women.
“Women love to travel and see the world and what’s out there and, when I noticed this, I decided to have some of the travels dedicated to them. We sometimes do CSR trips to places like Samburu, where we give back to the community with them. I also have programmes to cater for various financial options and she offers discounts, pay per hike, pay to her clients,” he says.
Since 2012, when he started his travel business, Duncan has been to Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Peru and is currently in the French Alps with the girls. He plans to visit Spain and Asia next year.
For Faith Muiruri, a 2016 visit to Switzerland, where her sister lived, sparked the spirit of adventure in her.
“My sister had lived there for a while and kept talking about the country and how things work. This is what made me visit,” she says.
She found the country quite serene and beautiful. Since then, she has been travelling to different countries and has hiked Mt Meru in Tanzania, Mt Elgon in Uganda and, most recently, Peru. She has also toured France and Spain.
“I loved Peru because of the mountains, their culture and food. Japan and Namibia are next on my bucket list,” she says.
Faith believes that women travel more as they are more adventurous and willing to try new things.
“For me travelling is about discovering new places, enjoying and learning people’s culture. Hiking is like a breath of fresh air and it’s experiencing what my body and mind can be able to take in terms of endurance.”
Offering group travel experiences exclusively for women, while incredibly rewarding, can come with some challenges. For Silvia, it is catering to the diverse interests of the women who travel.
“Within a group, there may be a wide range of interests and preferences. Balancing these and ensuring that each participant has a fulfilling experience can be a daunting task. Balancing individual needs, while still offering a wholesome experience is something we are learning to manoeuvre through offering relaxation time and optional activities. This will also ensure that we manage the different group dynamics, hence fostering positive relationships,” she explains.
And while women are her core clients, inclusivity is at the core of her vision.
“While our main clients are women, men are always welcome to join our journeys, unless a specific trip is designed exclusively for women. We believe that travel is a universal experience that transcends gender, and we look forward to continuing to foster a community of like-minded explorers, who are passionate about discovering the world,” says Silvia.
To ensure that the women are comfortable, Dolly ensures that their accommodation prioritises safety, convenience, and comfort.
This includes considering factors such as well-lit areas, secure locks, and female-only facilities if preferred.