When it opened in Washington DC, Hotel Zena was billed as ‘the world’s first feminist hotel’. The Viceroy-owned property’s pink pool tables, artwork depicting Ruth Bader Ginsburg via the medium of tampons, and its male head chef raised eyebrows. Questions were asked about the commodification of feminism in hospitality, whether corporations are missing the mark on what women want – for example, creating pink biros or ‘Empowermint’ cocktails – and, crucially, whether such an approach benefits those it professes to support. ‘If there was substance, it’d go beyond marketing and branding,’ says Zina Bencheikh, MD of tour operator Intrepid Travel.
Intrepid Travel is the industry’s largest B-Corporation, a certification that requires businesses to be legally accountable to the highest standards of social and environmental performance, including gender equality. ‘Feminism is about equal rights and equal chance for development, so you have to look at it on a macro level – not one area of the business. Women need to be supported at every stage.’
So, what should feminism in travel look like? We asked some influential women for their take.
1. JUDY DLUGACZ
President & Founder of Olivia Travel
‘In the 1970s, when we started Olivia Records – as a radically feminist, lesbian-run music label – people would always ask, “Why are you discriminating against men?” I’d reply, “If you can name five women bassists, producers, drummers and engineers, I’ll shut Olivia down right now.” They never could. So we kept going. Olivia Travel started similarly; when someone suggested doing concerts on the water, I thought – cruises for women, by women, I can do that. Women need the freedom to be themselves and feel comfortable while on holiday. Usually, the industry is targeted at gay men. So we create spaces where everyone who identifies with womanhood is invited as themselves. Safety is crucial, particularly for lesbian and trans women, so we charter the entire boat or hotel. Feminism recognises that women aren’t all starting from the same place, so it’s a constant push for equality across races, sexualities and generations. It’s in our support for women and girls around the world, whether that’s uplifting community-run NGOs financially or holding roundtables with Michelle Obama. We don’t scream, “Here come the lesbians!”; we just get on with it and are good citizens, and people go, “Wow, who were those women?”’ olivia.com
This is an excerpt from an article by Shivani Ashoka, originally published by Condé Nast Traveller.