Learn From These Eight Inspirational Women In The Travel Industry

September 7, 2021
Keri Pfeiffer
6 min read

Women are the driving force behind the travel industry.

Not only do they make up between 60 and 70% of the tourism workforce, but they also hold the buying power, making 70% of travel-related decisions.

While the scales in tourism are not yet balanced between genders in terms of work opportunities, people at executive-level, and pay packages, steps forward are being made.

Today, there are so many influential women in travel who are reshaping the industry. While this list deserves a great deal more names on it, here are a handful of inspiring leaders we can all look up to.

From CEOs to visionaries, these women are making waves, leading by example, shaping initiatives, and driving tourism forward.

Eight Influential Women In Travel Who We Can Look Up To

1. Evita Robinson

Image from LinkedIn

Evita Robinson is the Founder of the NOMADNESS Travel Tribe. The Tribe is a community of travel influencers, innovators, and community members who represent the industry impact and voices of BIPOC travelers.

Recently, we were fortunate enough to host Evita alongside speakers Dr. Alana Dillette and Dr. Stefanie Benjamin of Tourism Reset for a webinar unpacking Data: Race, Diversity, and Equity in the Travel Industry.

Besides her role in the NOMADNESS Travel Tribe, Evita is the Executive Producer of the AUDACITY Fest, an On-Air Host and Storyteller, and Contributing Editor at Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

She has been recognized in National Geographic’s 21 Most Visionary Women in Travel History, Entrepreneur Magazine’s 50 Most Daring Entrepreneurs, and The Root 100. She is also an AFAR Travel Vanguard Award recipient.

2. Zina Bencheikh

Image from IWTTF

Next on our list of influential women in travel is Zina Bencheikh.

As the managing director for Intrepid Travel in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Zina is passionate about making the industry a more inclusive place.

She is actively using tourism to create new economic opportunities for women, encouraging them to train as tour leaders, and constantly working to strengthen female entrepreneurs. In particular, opportunities for women in Morocco, her home country, are one of her major focuses.

In fact, Zina has played a key role in creating the partnership between Education For All and the Intrepid Foundation. To date, she has been involved in creating opportunities for around 174 girls from rural Morocco, helping them access education, internships, and work experience in tourism.

3. Nikki Vargas

Image from LinkedIn

Nikki Vargas is a travel editor, journalist, producer, author, and public speaker. We recently connected with Nikki, where she shared her story about Unearth Women, a women’s travel publication she founded in 2018.

Unearth Women celebrates travel and the stories of women around the world. From feminist city guides to hotels recommended by women, women to watch to unearthed stories, its focus is to break down stereotypes and support women-led businesses, especially in the tourism industry.

To date, the publication has featured in The New York Times, Good Morning America, The Washington Post, CNN, and Vogue Spain.

As a speaker, Nikki has taken the stage at the Women’s Travel Fest, Latino Travel Fest, Women in Travel Summit, and the New York Times Travel Show. She has also been a host and producer on several video projects.

In addition to her role at Fodor’s Travel, Nikki is currently working on a book to be published in Spring 2022 and an upcoming true-crime documentary.

4. Martinique Lewis

Image from LinkedIn

Martinique Lewis is a leading advocate for diversity in travel, from the executive level through to the traveler.

She is the founding member and president of the Black Travel Alliance and works as a diversity in travel consultant. Martinique also released the ABC Travel Greenbook, an up-to-date resource guide for Black travelers that celebrates and connects Black culture and communities globally.

In addition, Martinique is the Creative Lead for the NOMADNESS Travel Tribe. Here, she works alongside the Founder, Evita Robinson, who is also on our list of influential women in travel.

You can find Martinique weighing in on equality and inclusion in the travel industry at speaking events, conferences, and as a recently appointed Conde Nast Traveler advisory board member.

5. Lindsay Nelson

Image from LinkedIn

Chief Experience Officer and Chief Brand Officer of Tripadvisor, Lindsay Nelson (along with her team), takes charge of the full traveler brand experience.

Lindsay Nelson has many important roles in Tripadvisor, including brand and product marketing, communications, user experience, advertising, and all-round innovation.

She is a widely recognized speaker, regularly covering topics on women in leadership and driving transformative change.

Lindsay has been named the No 1 “Most Important Woman in Travel” by Wonderlust (Bob Guccione’s publication). She has also been recognized and rewarded by Boston Business Journal’s 40 under 40, Phocuswire’s 20 Travel Movers and Shakers, Forbes CMO Next List, and AdAge Woman to Watch.

6. Lynette Montoya

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Lynette Montoya is the president and CEO of the Latino Hotel Association. After a career start in residential real estate, Lynette spotted an opportunity and sold the St.Anthony Hotel in San Antonio for $32 million.

Today, she has a Hotel Broker business that operates throughout the United States. Through the Latino Hotel Association, Lynette provides information and education in hotel investment and ownership opportunities to Hispanics and Latinos nationally.

7. Veranda Adkins

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As the VP and Co-Founder of the Association of Black Travel Professionals (ABTP), Veranda Adkins fulfills an essential role in empowering businesses owned by people of color.

In our Follow The Journey conversation, she talks about a gap she noticed through her own experience and while networking, where people of color were not that visible in the industry. So, Veranda wanted to create an organization that could empower Black professionals by providing them with resources and a place to have conversations about entering the tourism industry.

Through the ABTP, Veranda has created a platform that focuses on the growth, development, and certification of Black Travel Professionals.

8. Aneeqa Ali

Image from Mad Hatters

Only 3% of women work in the travel industry in Pakistan, and for female solo travelers especially, it is not always an easy country to navigate. Aneeqa Ali is here to change all of that.

Aneeqa is the Founder and CEO of Mad Hatters, an experiential tour company that guides travelers to the less explored areas of Pakistan.

We connected with Aneeqa in a Follow The Journey interview. During the conversation, she explained how she has always loved travel and soon realized that there are many challenges women have to face while traveling in Pakistan.

Setting out to be the change and solve some of the travelers’ problems in the country, Aneeqa started Mad Hatters.

Then in July 2020, she co-founded the Root Network, an initiative that promotes sustainable and inclusive tourism in the country. The goal for this project is to help local communities navigate the demand that tourism places on them, to put them in a position of sustainable growth.

In addition to that, the Root Network also aims to achieve better gender equality in Pakistan tourism by encouraging and empowering women to take up roles within travel, tourism, and hospitality.


There are so many influential women in travel who deserve recognition for the work they are doing – we’ve barely touched the surface in this article.

Fortunately for us, we regularly get an opportunity to meet with some of the movers and shakers in the industry through our Follow The Journey series, Facebook Lives, and webinars that we host.

You can subscribe to our channels or keep checking back in to stay up to date with the latest conversations.

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