As the travel sector is beginning to bounce back in India, many first-time travellers are ready to set their sails. Whether it is the blue waters of an Indonesian beach or an unexplored trek in the Eastern Himalayas, Indian women are ready to participate in the tourism economy more than ever before.
The Indian woman traveller has come far in terms of a separate consumer identity. The relation is directly related to the contribution of women to the Indian economy. According to a National Family Health survey, about 85 per cent of married women aged 15-49 now decide how to use their financial earnings.
This data, a push-up of 3 per cent from 2015-16, is a picture of women in tier-1 cities. This is to say, women travellers from cities, even when married, are beginning to rely far less on their family’s decisions when it comes to spending on travel.
“In 2005, women were still passionate about adventure and travel. But translating it into booking and paying the money, as well as coming on the trip, was another matter. Once they’d made a plan, they’d discuss it with their families. However, the families would easily snub the idea and suggest them to travel within the family unit,” said Sumitra Senapaty, founder of the WoW club.
Sumitra Senapaty laid the foundations for WoW (a travel company for women) about 17 years ago. Over that time period, she saw immense growth in the participation of Indian women travellers in the tourism sector. For her, an important attributing factor for this change comes from building “a family outside the family.”
“Nowadays, when women contact the club, they only need to wait for their leave to get approved before coming on boards. Nobody talks about asking the family anymore, which is a big change in Indian society. Also, women are more independent in spirit as well. Apart from the financial point of view, they want to do things. They are always looking to make friends outside the same circle of office and home,” shared Senapaty.
Senapaty’s anecdote sheds light on how financial independence can create a new life for Indian women. Financial security becomes a corridor from where women emerge from closed bubbles of domestic life, limited to husband and children, and enter into a new space of female friendships and adventure travel.
However, it is still important to note that the picture is still far from perfect in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, where many social prejudices like caste and tradition still inhibit economic inaccessibility. The Indian woman traveller still has a long way to go.