Beth Whitmen is a women’s travel expert and the founder of WanderTours, where she leads small group adventures to off-the-beaten-path destinations. She is also the author of the Wanderlust and Lipstick guides for women travelers and the publisher a website by the same name. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a philanthropist, having started the Wanderworld Foundation, a non-profit to help women and children in developing countries. We sat down with her to find out more about trends in travel, especially for women.
Q: Tell us about your background and what led to the launch of WanderTours.
A: Wow – that’s a big story. But in short, I was traveling a lot myself and after writing Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo, I was getting a lot of requests to lead tours. My first one was to Bhutan in 2008 and I’ve been adding destinations every year through WanderTours I don’t offer every destination each year but swap them up. This includes a number of countries in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia), Bhutan, India, Africa, Ireland and culinary tours to Santa Fe, New Orleans and Seattle. We’re offering our first Wellness Retreat to Santa Fe in the fall of 2017 and I’ve got plans for South America soon!
Q: Do you think more people are seeking group travel? Why?
A: Specifically I think more women are seeking group travel for a number of reasons. First, there are more options available to them as more companies are offering women-only tours. Second, it’s become more acceptable for them to travel on their own–meaning without their husband, significant other or friends. Women tend to enjoy the camaraderie and friendship that comes with group travel and they consider these trips as a way to take care of themselves. And we also offer women-only tours, that are unique and often go places where women will help other women. As an example, during our women-only tours to Bhutan, we visit RENEW, an organization that helps women of domestic violence. We make a donation the WanderWorld Foundation but our tour participants are usually so moved that they make additional donations during or after the tour. In Bali, we help the ROLE Foundation which works with teenage girls and teaches them skills to get jobs in the hospitality industry. On our recent trip to Tanzania, we donated to the Rhotia Valley Children’s Home, an orphanage that houses 32 youngsters.
Q: What sets WanderTours apart from competitors? (Would love a mention of women only tours here and unique experiences offered)
A: Most of our trips are to off-the-beaten-path destinations such as Papua New Guinea and Bhutan. During all of our tours we try to get to know the culture as best as we can as visitors and have experiences with locals that really provide us with a connection to the culture. As an example, we might take a cooking class in the home of a local person.
Possibly most unique is the fact that at most of our international destinations we include a giving component where a portion of a person’s tour costs goes to a charity organization at the destination. This is made through the WanderWorld Foundation, our registered non-profit.
As an example, during our women-only tours to Bhutan, we visit RENEW, an organization that helps women of domestic violence. We make a donation the WanderWorld Foundation but our tour participants are usually so moved that they make additional donations during or after the tour. In Bali, we help the ROLE Foundation which works with teenage girls and teaches them skills to get jobs in the hospitality industry. On our recent trip to Tanzania, we donated to the Rhotia Valley Children’s Home, an orphanage that houses 32 youngsters.
Q: What is the most popular destination for WanderTours? How has it changed since the company launched?
A: Probably Papua New Guinea. We are one of very few companies that offer reliable trips to this incredible destination so we sell out every year. But our Santa Fe Culinary Tour also sells out every year!
Q: What do you predict to be some of the most sought after travel destinations in 2017?
A: Oh geez. I can only go by what people regularly request from me and that’s Cuba, Peru (Machu Picchu) and Morocco.
Q: What is something people would be surprised to know about you or your company?
A: Probably that I never intended to run tours! I stumbled into it because people were asking if I led tours and now I love this part of the business best.