2nd March 2020

Women to Watch in the Travel and Hospitality Industry

On March 8th, 2020, International Women’s Day celebrates the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women around the globe. Over 20 countries worldwide support International Women’s Day. According to Leisure Group Travel, it’s estimated that 33 percent of all travel companies are owned by women and approximately 70 percent of employees in the travel business, as a whole, are women. This is an opportune time to put the spotlight on several forward-thinking women setting new heights across the travel and hospitality landscape worldwide. Travel outfitters, hotels and resorts around the globe are also launching new trips, programs and special offers on International Women’s Day and throughout the year dedicated to women.

Neelam Khanna

Co-founder, Ananda in the Himalayas

Neelam Khanna is an eminent name in the field of art, design and wellness. An alumnus of the esteemed Welham Girls’ High School, Dehradun, Neelam is a luxury connoisseur, with an illustrious career spanning over 40 years. She started her career as an entrepreneur of hand-woven textiles. She followed that up with a long relationship with the prestigious Oberoi Group of hotels, where she was involved in curating stunning art spaces in the lobbies and guest rooms of Oberoi and Trident hotels, across India. She has also been at the helm of luxury apparel and publishing businesses, the most recent one being the launch of Hermes in India in 2008. Neelam co-founded India’s pioneer destination spa Ananda in the Himalayas with her husband two decades ago, and set on to create a world class wellness retreat.  It’s her fine aesthetics that adorn the walls of this palatial palace and spa. From the earthy tones, the nature-inspired wall art and the royal hues, her eye for detail and elegance, minimalistic design is what sets her personal style apart, and gives her the discerning creative flair. Neelam’s personal interest in holistic wellness has been instrumental in shaping the wellness offerings at the award-winning Ananda in the Himalayas. She also went on to launch the Ananda Spa Institute in 2008, which trains students from India and several international countries as certified therapists in Ayurveda and other traditional wellness therapies. Ananda in the Himalayas is a multi-award-winning luxury wellness retreat in the Himalayan foothills, surrounded by the majestic Himalayan Mountains, the birthplace of India’s ancient practices of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda.


Insider Tip: To honor women worldwide, Ananda in the Himalayas is offering women a free consultation with Dr. Vidhi, Ananda’s wellness consultant and Ayurvedic physician. The complimentary consultation is available throughout the month of March via Skype or phone.


Sarah Casewit, Sofia Mascotena, Marta Tucci

Co-Founders, Naya Traveler

In 2015, when Sarah Casewit, Sofia Mascotena and Marta Tucci began to brainstorm what is today Naya Traveler (launched in 2016), they looked for unique and imaginative ways to offer what the travel industry was missing—highly personalized journeys rooted in authenticity and their own personal experiences. Over the last decade, travel has shifted from must-see destinations to tailored, cultural experiences. We’ve traded in those bucket lists and souvenirs for sharing a pot of tea with a Berber family in the Atlas Mountains, stamping our own sari pattern with a textile artist in Rajasthan or being guided through an ancient Tibetan monastery. At Naya Traveler, the founders have come to understand this need for authenticity in travel and build experiences around this central idea. Much of what Naya Traveler is today is an extension of the founders’ characters as individuals as well as their common outlook on travel. Get to know them a little better to discover what inspired them to take the plunge.


Sarah Casewit was born and raised in Morocco, a lifestyle that cultivated and continues to nurture her deep sense of affinity towards the traditional world. As a university student, she engaged in extensive studies of comparative religions, which she complemented with travel and research in North Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Her immersion in the spiritual dimension of these distinct cultures and studying the religious experiences of pilgrims led Sarah to value the transformative power of travel. Sarah utilizes her expertise in the travel industry to deliver exceptionally crafted experiences that are defined by in-depth participation in tradition and encourage a sense of interiority.


Sofia Mascotena grew up on a family estate in the Pampas of Argentina—a region governed by a balanced lifestyle, where her interest in sustainable living and responsible travel manifested itself from an early age. With a background in humanitarian and cultural studies, she was profoundly influenced by the positive impact that community exchange has on travel. Sofia values the responsibility that we have as individuals towards other cultures to keep them authentic and untarnished. Coupled with several years of working in tourism, Sofia’s commitment to this altruistic dimension of travel allows a Naya Traveler journey to go beyond the thrill of discovery, promoting intercultural understanding and sustainability of traditions.


Marta Tucci 

As a documentary photographer, Marta’s pursuit for stories has taken her to some of the most interesting, complex and beautiful corners of the world. From the Peruvian highlands and the valleys of Kashmir to Burma’s subtropical plains, her experiences have inspired an approach to travel focused on cultivating meaningful relationships and engaging with local communities. Marta identifies most with a region by exploring its cultural landscape through the eyes, traditions and stories of those who personify it. Her unique travel experiences and ethnographic knowledge are reflected in the connections and interactions present in all Naya Traveler itineraries, adding a unique human dimension to all our journeys.


Insider Tip: Naya Traveler curates a special journey for female travelers to Morocco focusing on the cultural role of women in society. The tailored-made itinerary includes several experiences centered around the topic of women and the activities are led by local female guides and academics.


Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence

Co-Founders, Traveling Spoon

Traveling Spoon connects travelers with authentic food experiences, from market tours to homecooked meals to cooking classes, with locals around the world. The company’s mission is to make travel more meaningful. 100% of experiences are private, and 100% of hosts are vetted. Learn how to make pasta from an Italian in her central Florence home, or grind curries from scratch on a family farm in Thailand. The solely female-owned Bay Area, California company was founded by Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence in 2013. Steph and Aashi met at the Haas School of Business and quickly realized their shared passion for food and travel, and for helping travelers to connect with meaningful travel experiences and preserving food traditions. The company has won the Dartmouth Entrepreneurship Forum, Women 2.0 People's Choice Award and the Berkeley Venture Lab competition. Traveling Spoon currently operates in 65 countries and 175+ cities across the globe, from Asia to Europe to Central and South America. Over 80% of Traveling Spoon’s hosts are women and one of the company’s biggest missions is to create economic opportunities for local women and women food producers globally.


Aashi Vel is a food and travel enthusiast with a deep passion for creative problem-solving and product innovation. Aashi has 11 years of experience as an industrial design professional managing teams of designers and engineers developing life-changing products. Her expertise in user-centered research, and experience in product development enables her to transform consumer insights into marketable products. A patent holder, Aashi has designed products that have received the IDEA, Good Buy, and Institute of Packaging Professionals awards. Aashi is a magna cum laude graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design and received her MBA from Haas.


Steph Lawrence has a background in marketing and business strategy and a depth of experience in the social sector, where she spent five years as a non-profit consultant focusing on emerging markets. She has launched a number of successful websites and marketing campaigns, most recently working with Alice Waters and the Chez Panisse Foundation to develop their national rebranding campaign. She has a deep passion for food and travel and has strong industry ties. An award-winning food blogger and photographer, Steph graduated with honors from Dartmouth College and received her MBA with honors from Haas.


Insider Tip: In support of International Women’s Day, Traveling Spoon is offering a 5% discount for all experiences booked from March 1st – 8th using promo code WOMENSDAY2020. Valid for experiences throughout 2020. For every traveler that books an experience using this code, 2% of their sales will be donated to La Cocina, a San Francisco-based nonprofit working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants and people of color.


Lauren Bates

Founder, Wild Terrains

Lauren Bates is a thought leader in the travel industry and has launched a truly transformative travel company for women in July 2018. Wild Terrains is a women-led travel company specializing in small group tours for women who shy away from cookie-cutter tours. Wild Terrains trips are designed to propel women forward by cultivating meaningful relationships that cross generations and borders. In each of their destinations (Mexico City and Portugal), Lauren has cultivated partnerships with local women hoteliers, chefs, artists and designers to create one-of-a-kind, uplifting experiences you can't find anywhere else. Wild Terrains is also setting a trend for transparency in the travel industry by publishing their full itineraries in detail, putting a public spotlight on the incredible women they partner with rather than trying to keep them secret. Lauren is an avid traveler with a deep passion for connecting people and creating meaningful experiences. She has traveled to over 35 countries and lived in both Argentina and Peru. Prior to Wild Terrains, Lauren was Chief Marketing Officer at UrbanStems. While planning a last-minute vacation, Lauren researched women’s group travel only to find activity-specific trips focusing on yoga, trekking, surfing and other adventure pursuits. Desiring a deeper, experiential trip highlighting the destination’s local arts and crafts, design and culinary landscape, she set out to develop a travel company that ticked all of those boxes, while connecting like-minded, creative women who shared the same curiosity to meet, support and learn about the local female-owned businesses within a destination.


Insider Tip: Take part in Wild Terrains’ International Women’s Day Trip (March 6-10, 2020) and support female-run businesses throughout Mexico City. From $1,950USD per person (double occupancy) and $2,850USD per person (private room), includes accommodations, most meals, transportation and all activities. Airfare, alcohol, visa fees, and travel insurance not included.


Amanda Keidan

Owner. Casa Delphine

Opened in April of 2019, Casa Delphine is a boutique hotel in San Miguel de Allende, designed and owned by Los Angeles designer Amanda Keidan. The five-room hotel focuses on a curated clean lined design aesthetic that is meant to make guests feel relaxed and inspired as they experience all that San Miguel de Allende has to offer. Amanda started her first company at the age of 22, Keidan Jewelry, a high-end jewelry company focusing on private commissions and one of a kind engagement rings. Casa Delphine is Amanda’s second business venture and the boutique hotel showcases her love of design and affinity for creating spaces that bring warmth, beauty and color together. Amanda, who is a creative in every sense of the word, turned 40 in 2018 and decided to make a big life change and move to Mexico which led her to dive into the world of hospitality. As a lifelong traveler, consummate adventurer and community creator, Amanda had the sensibility to create a place that is both intimate and elegant, with unusually themed monthly dinners that caters to a design forward and food focused demographic. Casa Delphine will be hosting retreats throughout 2020 that will cater to women travelers, including design and architecture tours in San Miguel de Allende, wellness cooking courses, mediation retreats and more. The hotel is perfect for a group of friends, colleagues and family to come down, take over the property and build enriching memories together.


Insider Tip: For all women travelers, enjoy 15% off stays at Casa Delphine for the entire month of March 2020. Use booking code WOMEN20 at checkout.


Rocio Vazquez Landeta

Founder and Owner, Eat Like A Local Mexico City

The founder and mastermind behind Eat Like a Local Mexico City, Rocio Vazquez Landeta was born and raised in Mexico City. A world traveler with more than 23 countries and 65 cities under her belt, Rocio is a sustainable tourism researcher, an avid reader, a food expert and entrepreneur. After fleeing a domestic violence situation that threatened her life in 2016, Rocio transformed her company into an all-women team where she could enable her employees to have the best wages in the industry along with health insurance benefits, fitness club memberships and annual rewards.. In December 2019, Rocio received certification from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and as a result, Eat Like a Local Mexico City complies with all the international sustainability standards. The company is committed to reducing single-use plastics and offsetting carbon footprint through a reforestation program in Mexico City. Rocio provides English lessons for children, free tours for Mexican senior citizens, English lessons for stall owners in the markets, donations to improve the markets, a zero-hunger program where anyone who approaches a tour can have as much as food as they want, a culinary cultural exchange program where children from the markets learn about other cultures and more. Eat Like a Local Mexico City is the only Mexican-founded food tour agency that actively promotes economic growth and creates opportunities for families within the traditional markets.


Insider Tip: Learn about the benefits of sustainable tourism, responsible consumption and quality customer service at one of Rocio’s conferences. Her conferences are a platform to discuss how to be better entrepreneurs, consumers and travelers. Titled “How to Make Money without being an A**hole”, Rocio’s first conference drew over 150 attendees in early January 2020.


Leyla Marchetto

Partner, Navy Beach Hospitality

Leyla Marchetto has been entertaining stars from the time she was a small girl in New York City’s West Village, where she was often found roller skating through the neighborhood’s legendary Italian restaurant, Da Silvano (owned by her father, Silvano Marchetto). After earning a degree in Psychology and French from Georgetown, her early career wound in-and-out of hospitality and design, including stints with Lenny Kravitz, Lulu Guinness and Cath Kidston, to name a few. She moved to Los Angeles in 2005 to dip her toes a little deeper into Hollywood via Jeffrey Best Events, working with him at the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance, but returned to New York shortly thereafter where she met her husband, Frankin, their business partners Frank and Kristina Davis, and opened Navy Beach Montauk together in 2010. Leyla has played a critical role in the Navy Beach brand’s expansion to the Caribbean with Navy Beach St. Thomas opening December 2019 and Navy Beach St. Maarten opening February 2020. She currently splits her time mostly between Montauk and St. Maarten with Franklin, their 5-year-old son Caelan, and Boston Terrier, Mochi.

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