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Women in Travel & Tourism, Entrepreneurship and Technology…This could be The Greatest Show!

Women in Travel & Tourism, Entrepreneurship and Technology…This could be The Greatest Show!
5th February 2019 Alessandra Alonso
Alessandra Alonso
In Discussion

My children back in the UK have been totally obsessed with this film, THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, since it first came out over a year ago. They know all the songs and almost know all the dialogues by heart.

It is indeed a beautiful film with an enchanting soundtrack and if you have not seen it I highly recommend that you watch it.

However: what has this got to do with women, entrepreneurship, technology and Travel & Tourism? 

Well, for once the Greatest Showman tells the story of somebody who from very humble beginning and through huge amount of struggle manage to realise their entrepreneurial dream.

This struggle is very much part of a common story to the majority of wannabees entrepreneurs.

On top of that – it is also a story about diversity, inclusion and the search for meaning.

This is where we are beginning to get closer to the female side of entrepreneurs.

First – the very fact that within female entrepreneurship, global data shows some very contrasting level of inclusion:

  • There are only ten countries in the world where women start as many enterprises as men
  • In 2016, an estimated 163 million women were starting or running new
    businesses in 74 economies around the world.
  • In addition, an estimated 111 million were running established businesses. (Women’s Entrepreneurship 2016-2017, GEM 2017)
  • In the USA – female entrepreneurship is the fastest growing sector of the economy and sits at about 34 per cent
  • In Africa – female entrepreneurship is as high as 54% according to the WB
  • In the UK – an eye watering LOW level of businesses are owned by women [18 PERCENT] and yet RBS has calculated that boosting female entrepreneurship could deliver approximately £60bn extra to the UK economy. (Anne McPherson, MD Diversity in Business, RBS, in the Guardian 10 April 2013).

Women are undoubtedly beginning to make their mark in entrepreneurship – whether by needs or by opportunity – but those who are driven by opportunity to start their own business are more likely to be innovative, use and access technology and also work with research institutions and academia.

About the search for meaning

Outside TRADITIONAL FOR PROFIT entrepreneurship, in the world of social entrepreneurship – of which the business I founded called Women in Travel is an example – the world in which individuals seek purpose as well as profit, women entrepreneurs globally have been making much better stride.

British Council research shows that social entrepreneurship is in fact a key channel for women empowerment and the equality agenda.

In most countries, women are more likely to head a social enterprise, because this type of structures enables them to combine their passion for business with a passion for social good and positive impact.







Women (% leaders in for-profit sector)






Women (leaders in social enterprise)







Source: British Council social entrepreneurship report

Now this is where the parallel with the Greatest Showman stop – at least for the moment.

I want to try and spend a little time delving a little deeper into female Travel & Tourism entrepreneurship and also technology.

The problem is, hardly anything has been researched and investigated on Female Entrepreneurship in Travel & Tourism.

OVERALL there is very little out there as a way of research around this topic, and nothing as far as I know that truly and coherently depicts and explains the female travel and tourism entrepreneurship landscape internationally.

So here is my call for action to any academics reading this: PLEASE DISCUSS WITH YOUR PhD STUDENTS AND WITH YOUR FOUNDERS WHETHER THEY WOULD CONSIDER RESEARCH into FEMALE ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN TTH. Women in Travel would be very happy to consider partnerships. 

What I am going to tell you over the next few minutes or so is based on anecdotal evidence, knowledge assembled over time through tens of meetings, gathering and discussions with women entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs world-wide.    We have also in the last month undertaken our own little research and I will share more about this a little bit later. 

Over the years I have spoken to hundreds of women from London, to India, to South Africa to Brazil via Greece and Portugal and asked them about their dreams, aspirations, challenges and opportunities around Entrepreneurship.

Their answers have often been surprisingly similar…

  1. I have ideas but I am worried about failure,      
  2. I have ideas but I lack the confidence and the support network to empower me,
  3. I am already running a company but I struggle to access technology, funding and sometimes good people.

SO WIT is hoping to help address some of these struggles by providing a good mix of education, skills but most of all a supportive network of women who can meet and network on and off line.

One of the things that has really been impressed upon me by these women, in a way one of the key lessons when it comes to female entrepreneurship though is that ENTREPRENEURSHIP is globally far more within reach for WOMEN that possibly EMPLOYMENT will ever be.

Given all barriers and self-doubts that I have mentioned above you may think this is strange or counterintuitive, but actually it is not and I tell you WHY.

Because IN PRINCIPLE even in those countries where CULTURALLY women struggle to go out and find employment in travel and tourism, because this may mean mixing with men and foreigners or getting involved in places and situations that are deemed inappropriate for women, WOMEN ARE NOT PREVENTED FROM EARNING provided this can be done in a safe place, away from those riskier situations and indeed provided they still complete all the other chores, such as child care, cooking, cleaning and the likes.

But of course, none of this could happen and could have quite happened to the same extent WITHOUT TECHNOLOGY.

The arrival of lap-top, INTERNET, Wi-Fi, mobile technology and the contemporary creation of the so called gig-economy has suddenly provided a huge number of opportunities to women who can now work from their kitchen table, selling tours, providing catering, writing blogs, promoting places whilst at the same time fulfilling all other obligations.

WiFi connection and a laptop – sometimes in fact as little as a mobile phone – have created unexpected opportunities that women have been able to grab with both hands in ever growing numbers world-wide.

Most of these businesses remain small and they may never grow beyond SOLO-PRENEURSHIP.

A very small number may well grow and develop – sometimes accidentally.

For all of them TECHNOLOGY plays a really big part:

  • Mostly as enabler, as discussed so far
  • Sometimes as a key focus and indeed the reason d’etre of the business

So what about Women in Travel’s own little research?

What we did is to send out a short survey and also have some focussed one to one conversation with Women entrepreneurs. It was undoubtedly a small sample but it has provided me with some really interesting insights into what TECHNOLOGY MEANS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS.

The survey asked ten questions:

  • If the business was owned (83% yes)
  • If the business was TTH focussed
  • And the role of technology within it

It also asked:

  • To what extent technology influenced the decision to set up a business
  • How important access to technology will be over the next 3 years
  • What type of technology

And finally:

  • How technology has impacted female entrepreneurship in T&T
  • What kind of berries has technology been able to lower for female entrepreneurs
  • What must happen for technology to make an even greater impact on women?

To summarise, with regards to the answers, these are some of the key findings:

  1. Technology is a key business enabler more than the focus of women owned businesses
  2. Access to technology is key if we want more women to become entrepreneurs and launch businesses
  3. Going forward, to grow and sustain operation access to technology is even more critical to women’s businesses
  4. Even the most simple technology – wifi and a lap top – can make a massive impact on women’s ability to do business and be an entrepreneur
  5. Technology has made female entrepreneurship better by providing
  • Flexible working
  • Peer support
  • Share stories
  • Gain visibility
  • Access audience / customers
  • Cost cutting & simplifying

These slides also shows how:

To conclude, technology has made an immense impact on women intending to launch their own business, across all geography. Technology does not need to be particularly complicated: as a matter of fact, a lap top and wi-fi are often enough. However increasingly, education  and costs will become more important.

Women worldwide have ideas, talent and desire to open innovative, start up businesses. If we support their talent through access to technology and customised education, female entrepreneurship in travel & tourism will soon become ‘The Greatest Show!’ 

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