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Here’s what I learned during Airbnb’s #WomenInTravel Industry Dialogue

Here’s what I learned during Airbnb’s #WomenInTravel Industry Dialogue

As a woman, I don’t usually go traveling alone. Whenever I would travel, I would usually do so with family, friends, or even my boyfriend. I don’t feel safe going outside, so why should I travel to an unknown location on my own? Of course, I love traveling. I would love to be one of the people they include in the hashtag #WomenInTravel. But, the fear of traveling alone makes me hesitant to do so.

[L-R: Airbnb Senior Communications Manager for Southeast Asia Cheryl Tay, Philippine Commission on Women Gender and Development representative Anne Jeaneth Casalme, The Mayor of Quezon City Honorable Maria Josefina “Joy” Belmonte, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy of Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong, and Taiwan Mich Goh, Philippine Coast Guard officer, mountaineer, and the first Filipina to summit Mount Everest Noelle Wenceslao, and tourism entrepreneur, Airbnb Host, and Filipina content creator Colleen Vidal]

Here’s what I learned during Airbnb’s #WomenInTravel Industry Dialogue

Recently, I attended Airbnb’s inaugural #WomenInTravel industry dialogue last February 28, 2023, at the Gallery by Chele in Taguig City. Just in time for International Women’s Month! Airbnb celebrated the role of women in driving greater equity in the Philippines’ travel and tourism industry. The industry dialogue also discussed how travel challenges stereotypes and breaks boundaries as more Filipinas begin to take action when it comes to uplifting and empowering new generations of Filipinas in the travel and tourism industries. 

The #WomenInTravel industry dialogue speakers included the following. Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy of Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong, and Taiwan Mich Goh. The Mayor of Quezon City Honorable Maria Josefina “Joy” Belmonte. The Philippine Commission on Women Gender and Development representative Anne Jeaneth Casalme. Philippine Coast Guard officer, mountaineer, and the first Filipina to summit Mount Everest Noelle Wenceslao. And, tourism entrepreneur, Airbnb Host, and Filipina content creator Colleen Vidal

Mich Goh highlights the importance of Airbnb’s women-powered Host community in the Philippines during the #WomenInTravel industry dialogue.

Women Hosts are playing an increasingly pivotal role in the travel and tourism sector, especially in the Philippines. We are heartened to see more and more women open their homes to travelers and provide the authentic hospitality that Filipinos are renowned for. As more Pinays step up to lead our Host communities and share hosting tips with one another, we remain committed to supporting and growing our Pinay Host community and ensuring that their roles in contributing to the industry are recognized.

Mayor Joy Belmonte, on the other hand, mentioned during the #WomenInTravel industry dialogue how Quezon City has given women recognition, empowerment, and celebration through various initiatives.

Quezon City is committed to ensuring that every woman is recognized, empowered, and celebrated through various initiatives that promote economic empowerment, equality in business, and livelihood opportunities for all genders, including women tourism entrepreneurs. We will continue to be a leader and models of local governance to create a society that is inclusive and unbiased. We look forward to industry players such as Airbnb supporting our goal to make Quezon City and the Philippines a go-to destination, with women at the forefront of tourism development.

Meanwhile, Anne Jeaneth Casalme echoed the need to drive more visibility of Filipinas in the tourism industry. 

The Philippine Commission on Women fully supports initiatives to empower Filipinas in the tourism sector. We are excited to see companies like Airbnb showcasing their expertise in tourism development and promotion of women entrepreneurship in the country while advocating the safety of women tourism travelers. We look forward to more discussions on women’s sector development with the private sector in the country.

During the #WomenInTravel industry dialogue, Noelle Wenceslao also pointed out that stereotypes only exist if we allow them to. 

Throughout my years in the Coast Guard, I’ve worked alongside so many diverse and strong women. Including a two-time Olympian, a world-champion dragon boat paddler, women rescue divers, and bomb squad members. To top it off, they are mothers – proving that stereotypes exist only if we allow them to.

I believe everyone has their own Mount Everest, an ultimate goal we want to achieve. It took me three years of preparation and three months on expedition to spend just thirty minutes on the summit, but it meant so much that the long preparation was nothing compared to what I felt when I conquered it.

Of course, Colleen Vidal shared her journey from content creator to travel entrepreneur during the #WomenInTravel industry dialogue.

When I first started creating travel content, I wanted to share tips to guide my followers on how best to plan their vacations. Along the way, I realised that I could provide these very accommodations and activities – and that’s how my journey as a tourism entrepreneur came about. Throughout the years that I have called Siargao my home, I have learned that us locals make up its very soul. Promoting the island’s travel offerings has meant giving back more economic opportunities to local communities, while also helping tourists experience what Siargao is all about.

Airbnb reveals that the Host community in the Philippines has the second-largest women-powered Host community in the world. Of course, coming after New Zealand.

Women make up two-thirds of all Airbnb Hosts in the country. This is because Filipinas are powering the local tourism industry now more than ever. Known for their iconic warmth and hospitality, Filipinos – and especially Filipinas – are increasingly contributing to the country’s tourism economy by welcoming travelers into their homes, and employing fellow women to support them in their daily operations. 

Hosting is also providing a significant financial opportunity amidst rising costs of living, with Filipina Hosts collectively earning over Php 2.5 billion in 2022.

Women are a cornerstone in Airbnb’s guest and Host community and comprise 55% of all Hosts globally. They also comprise 40% of Airbnb’s 1 million Superhosts, who provide guests with outstanding hospitality in more than 200 countries and territories. Solo travel is also gaining momentum in the Philippines. In the Philippines, 56% of all solo traveler nights in 2022 were booked by women.

And, I was gladly able to learn at least one thing from each of the speakers during the industry dialogue.

As an archeologist by profession pre-politics, Mayor Joy Belmonte had her own travel company called ArcheoVentures. They would have archeological excavations and open them up to the general public. That way, they could also join the dig. The company would pick them up, orient them, and bring them to the site.

Mayor Joy Belmonte also shared why traveling feels empowering, citing three A’s that were associated with empowerment. These three A’s include agency, authority, and autonomy. Agency pertains to your ability to do things on your own. Meanwhile, authority refers to how people trust you and believe you because you’re able to do things on your own. Autonomy, on the other hand, points out the fact that you become independent as you learn how to make your own choices.

Traveling forces us to adapt those three A’s. In order to achieve what we want to do which is to see a new place, to learn something new. And, that in itself, is also empowering. Given the opportunity to derive an education from your trips.

Mayor Joy Belmonte also shared about how she used to backpack on her own, stressing how she travels on a cheap budget. She was traveling on her own throughout Mexico. She was studying the history of pre-Hispanic Mexico as it had a close relationship with the Philippines. The now-Mayor traveled alone as an archeologist, learning more about the relationship between Mexico and the Philippines.

She only had a pair of earphones that taught her Spanish, enough to converse with other people, read museum labels, and find accommodations among others. She mentioned a moment during her backpacking days when she would have to ride a fifteen-hour bus ride in Mexico.

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An older man put a blanket over her when she fell asleep, citing how women aren’t supposed to travel alone in the country. The man wanted to protect her as a young woman, putting a blanket over her as protection from the cold air. It was such a nice and compassionate gesture that I’m sure she will forever cherish as a traveler.

Anne Jeaneth Casalme refers to meeting all kinds of people and the locals as one of the most empowering things when traveling alone. You not only meet the locals, and the business owners, but you can also meet yourself. Whether it’s for personal or work, traveling allows you to reveal an unknown fact about yourself.

She expressed that the unknown fact has always been there. But, you just have to open the door to traveling just to find it out. When it comes to personal travels, you get to meet the heart of the travel destination which she points to the people and the community.

Mich Goh had a similar experience with Mayor Joy Belmonte when she was traveling alone in Iran as a student. She mentioned how traveling has a real way of pushing one out of their comfort zone to experience something new. She shared about how people kept asking where her husband was, seeing as they don’t usually find women traveling alone on their own.

Mich Goh pointed out that the notion of a woman traveling alone is quite unusual in Iran. And, she thinks that going to places that are lesser known or a little bit less understood has a stronger appeal to her mainly because it pushes her out of her comfort zone. That’s why she feels so lucky to have a job at Airbnb and be able to travel for a living.

Meanwhile, Noelle Wenceslao shared how she was such a sheltered child growing up. She once had to travel from a dragon boat race to a mountaineering trip all on her own from Hong Kong to India. Then, from New Delhi, she rode a seventeen-hour bus ride through the famous world’s most dangerous highway.

Similar to Mich Goh, it took her out of her comfort zone. As a sheltered child, she found everything shocking and scary. She felt like a little baby lost in a supermarket. That’s when all she wanted to do was make herself feel scared about everything. The more she travels, the more she learns to be more open-minded, appreciative, and independent.

Collen Vidal, on the other hand, grew up as a studious child in Saudi Arabia. Her passion in traveling started when she migrated to the Philippines for college. This, then, led her to entrepreneurship. She was introduced to Filipino culture, leading her to discover her love for traveling.

Colleen compared traveling to love at first sight. She felt that strong and rare connection with traveling, leading her to quit a very stable accountancy job. It made her realize to work for herself, not for anybody else. And, now she lives as a full-time traveler and lived her best life possible as a tourism entrepreneur.

I don’t always consider traveling alone. I always want someone to join me. But, the stories that this group of women has mentioned during Airbnb’s #WomenInTravel industry dialogue has encouraged me to do otherwise. Sure, it might be scary. But, it will allow me to get out of my comfort zone. So, brb, just looking for a flight. See ya!

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