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This start-up makes female solo travel feel safer, like having a “local bestie.”

During her first trip to Morocco, Vanessa Karel got lost in the middle of the night.

For a business trip in 2020, she had intended to fly into Marrakech, but the pandemic-related airline chaos forced a last-minute change to Casablanca, which was over three hours away by automobile.

The San Francisco-based entrepreneur admitted that he was afraid and that it was midnight. “I didn’t know anybody,” he added. The 32-year-old Karel was desperately looking for a concierge service “who can greet me and drive me to my hotel so I know I’d be fine” on her phone.

Even though Karel was able to locate her accommodation, the incident had a lasting impact on the rest of her stay.

Fortunately, I don’t have a horror story, but I have had a lot of horrible things happen to me, she stated. “A few places made me feel uneasy and unsafe. I was distinct because I was a small woman. I was clearly lost and had no idea where I was headed.” Karel reported that she was occasionally pursued along the street by males.

Even though she looked everywhere, she could only find one female tour guide.

That gave rise to the concept for a firm that would empower women while focusing on safety. Greether, a platform for for-purpose travel that was introduced in November 2021, aims to alter the way women travel while promoting ethical tourism. Via the network, single female travellers are put in touch with trustworthy locals who make itineraries, give safety advice, and even meet them at the airport or hotel. These people are called “greethers,” a pun on greeters.

Greether was admitted to Expedia Group’s first-ever accelerator programme in the autumn of 2022. The programme began in February 2023.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization named the startup as one of the top 15 innovative sustainable travel businesses in January.

travelling alone as a woman

Despite her experience in Morocco, Karel still likes to travel alone; to date, she has visited around 30 different nations alone.

I enjoy travelling alone since it has helped me learn a lot about myself, she remarked. It has helped me become an extremely versatile and adaptable person.

Karel also recognised that she was the only female traveller among her friends and relatives. She asked them why, and they replied that they were “scared” of what might occur, which is a typical worry among single female travellers.

In a poll of more than 5,000 women conducted in 2022, 69% of those who had not yet travelled alone cited their personal safety as the reason why. Even many women who travel alone, safety is their primary priority.

Even if they are technically travelling alone, women nonetheless prefer to travel in groups whenever possible. Ninety-six percent of study participants said they would choose a women-only tour if they were travelling alone, up from 68% in 2021.

The reality of violence against women is unavoidable, particularly in nations where women have fewer rights or where there are divergent cultural norms for men and women. A 2018 survey found that 2 in 5 women have encountered sexual harassment when flying alone. More than half of the respondents admitted that while travelling alone, they had occasionally felt dangerous. And occasionally, things go wrong, which is everyone’s greatest fear.

Karel hopes to use Greether to help dispel some of that anxiety.

Instead of empowering women to continue pushing for safe spaces, I don’t believe creating fear. While there are instances of gender-based violence and harassment everywhere, there are also a lot of fantastic people in the world. Our task is to identify these people so that women always have a trustworthy person they can rely on. I think women may use skills and resources to feel and be less vulnerable.

In general, solo travel is becoming more popular, but more and more women are eager to see the world alone. Helpful is the growth of the digital nomad.

We can all relate to the idea, according to Karel, that as women, we have faced roadblocks and obstacles since we were very young. More women than ever are employed, and millennial women are getting married and starting families more later in life.

What’s the process of Greether?

The platform already has local guides in more than 500 cities across 97 countries, including Seoul, South Korea; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Tel Aviv, Israel, in just under two years. Every day, more cities are being added; the first Guatemalan guide is scheduled to meet up with a visitor on March 20. Greether will make an effort to locate a travel guide for you if you don’t see one in the city you intend to visit.

Whenever you go, it’s like having a local best friend, Karel added. Everything is highly customised for you.

Furthermore inclusive, the platform offers services to nonbinary, transgender, and other LGBTQ+ individuals. According to Karel, some Greether guides identify as nonbinary and transgender.

Your tour guide will meet you at your hotel or any other location you want, and the two of you will explore the city using a customised schedule she prepared for you, down to vegan restaurants, if that’s your thing.

She will also give you a briefing on safety concerns, including neighbourhood avoidance, using public transportation, and local dos and don’ts. Before to, during, and following your journey, your guide will provide you updates via the website’s messaging system. (The business is working to create an app.)

Many Greether clients have layovers or stopovers and want advice from a local on what to do in their short windows.

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