For Deepanita Tafardar, 43, a divorced school teacher, life was mundane till a few years ago. Her only daughter, Sneha, was in the UK for higher studies. In 2013 she connected with some strangers on Facebook.
“We were like-minded women and instantly bonded over food and travel. We formed a group and within a year we planned to travel to a known place, Puri. It was great fun. Since then, we have travelled to many places in India… with an all-women gang,” says Tafardar, who lives in Kolkata.
As Saint Augustine said, ‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page’ —so it seems is the motto of today’s women. They are no longer dependent on their husbands or brothers to travel the world. They are globetrotting on their own terms with a bunch of women with similar interests. Some of them are also venturing out on their own. Solo women travel is big today. Many travel agencies are offering tailor-made packages for to cash in on this trend.
The 2015 TripAdvisor India survey shows that Indian solo women travellers rank higher than their global peers on the sense of adventure (22% India versus 9% globally) and confidence (22% India versus 15% globally). Nikhil Ganju, country manager, TripAdvisor India, says, “It is encouraging to see an increasing number of Indian women planning to travel solo despite the challenges that confront them. Also, it appears that lesser Indian women now perceive travelling alone in India as unsafe (only 11% this year versus 33% last year).”
The MakeMyTrip 2015 survey shows that 66% Indian women travellers felt “safe travelling in India,” compared to 49% just a year ago. Also 52% respondents said they have undertaken solo-leisure travel compared to 44% in 2014. Of these, 49% have travelled solo in India.
“Women travellers are now confident planning and taking trips solo or in groups. Based on last year’s survey findings, we have increased the number of destinations being offered under the Women Holiday packages this year to include north-east, Kerala and Karnataka,” says Ranjeet Oak, Head-Holidays, MakeMyTrip. To attract more women travellers, the package includes activities such as art, cookery classes, spa, meditation sessions, shopping, tea-tasting in addition to the usual sightseeing.
Vasudha Sudhir, a mother of two school-going children, tells us about her “amazing women’s special Ladakh trip” with her three friends from New Delhi in 2014. “I travel with my family or in groups. This was the first time I was travelling in an all-women group. Ladakh was a dream destination and I had a few friends who shared similar interests. Next, we are planning to go to Turkey,” she says excitedly.
“Women have always loved exploring. Now Indian women have begun broadening their horizons and are stepping out of their homes to see the world,” says Shefali Walia of wetravelsolo.com. Adding that a specialised trip-crafter is present who leads the whole trip.
Travelling is not restricted to any age, like actor Indrani Haldar’s mother. She along with her women’s ‘kitty’ group recently took a trip to Madhya Pradesh. “I am busy with my shooting but I’m happy she has her own group. Earlier, women were trapped within the four walls. These days women can achieve anything… they raise children, manage careers and travel the world,” says the actor of television serials such as Maryada: Lekin Kab Tak? and Sujata.
Groupon along with women travel group, Beautiful Journey, has come up with exciting travel packages to Bhutan, Leh and Sikkim this Women’s Day. “Personally, I think it’s a completely different experience when you travel solo and it is something that you should definitely try once in your lifetime,” says Ankur Warikoo, CEO Groupon India.
Sabina Chopra, co-founder and EVP operations, Yatra.com, says women prefer travelling in large groups. “Holidaying with friends has gained momentum. Over the years a series of incidents being reported had led to a steep fall in the number of visitors with impact on female travellers. However, 2014 witnessed the transformation in the travel space,” she says.
Actor Rituparna Sengupta, who is an avid traveller, says women should travel. “I tell my mother to explore. After I lost my father, she has become lonely. The identity of a woman shouldn’t be limited to her profession or family. You should know how to guard yourself. You have to be brave and equipped enough to face every odd situation… More than physical strength we need mental stability to face the odds in life. All we need to think is that I am not a weak gender,” she says with gusto. Cheers to women power, we say.