Adventure Angels Scholarship: Giving Wings to Women’s Empowerment

3 June 2019

“Coming from an emerging tourism destination, it’s always hard to start a new business, especially a distinctive one, with vision, with attitude, and with a real sense of adventure. The Adventure Angels Scholarship represented that changing point in our business when we were able to raise awareness and change perceptions of the world regarding tourism possibilities in Moldova,” said Natalia Curnic from GoAdventure Moldova, the 2018 winner of the Adventure Angels Scholarship.

Just a month after her participation at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Tuscany, GoAdventure Moldova and its co-founder were awarded the Success Story of the Year at the Moldova Business Week, marking the first time a woman received this honor.

The Adventure Angel's 2018 scholarship winner, Natasha Curnic, was also awarded the Success Story of the Year at the Moldova Business Week. © Natasha Curnic via Facebook

A Growing Partnership with the ATTA

The Adventure Angels are an energetic group of female tour operators, travel journalists, travel agents, marketing specialists, and tour outfitters who first met each other at an Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) event in 2012.

In the spirit of women helping empower other women in business ventures, the Adventure Angels came up with the idea of the scholarship after heeding the ATTA’s CEO, Shannon Stowell's, call to "Viva la Revolucion" at the Summit in Chile. Since then, they have found a way to directly assist the ATTA's strategic initiative to address issues women face in the adventure travel industry.

Dedicated to inspiring and mentoring other women, the Adventure Angels’ mission is to support an outstanding female entrepreneur from a developing country working in sustainable adventure tourism. The group’s scholarship, developed in partnership with the ATTA, offers a winner the opportunity to attend the annual Adventure Travel World Summit for the purposes of education, mentoring, networking, and marketing support.

“It's our privilege to help launch another impressive female entrepreneur in adventure travel from another part of the world,” said Laura Mandlekorn, president of the Adventure Angels and founder of Go Custom Travel. “By getting a woman to the Summit and introducing her to an entirely new network of enthusiastic industry peers, it can help elevate her company to the next level. Attending the Summit is a huge source of inspiration and education, opening up many doors by connecting attendees to countless experts and new friends in the adventure business. The Adventure Angels are honored to support this initiative by women and for women. We can't wait to meet, mentor, and learn from our new 2019 scholarship winner."

Women Adventurers in Leadership Positions

According to data from the International Labor Organization (ILO), women represent between 60% and 70% of the global tourism workforce. But this same data shows women are not proportionally represented at the leadership levels in either government or private sectors.

Noelia Corrales, owner of the Colibri Spanish School in Nicaragua, was awarded the first Adventure Angels scholarship. © Colibri Spanish School Matagalpa via Facebook

Key findings from the ATTA's Out in Front: Tracking Women’s Leadership in Adventure Travel report shows women make up about 38% of representatives on boards for adventure companies compared with only 11% of women’s representation on boards in mainstream tourism and Fortune 500 companies. While this is encouraging, it can certainly be better.

"We are committed to working in partnership with the ATTA to recognize the power of women in travel and take away the unique obstacles we face,” said Judy Karwacki, scholarship chair for the Adventure Angels. “The full and equal participation of women is one of the biggest challenges to overcome to ensure the long-term success of the adventure travel industry.”

Recent Success Stories

At the Adventure Travel World Summit in Alaska in 2016, Noelia Corrales, owner of the Colibri Spanish School in Nicaragua, was presented with the first Adventure Angels scholarship and full participation in the Summit.

“The opportunity brought me closer to the adventure travel industry, and I was able to really appreciate how it works. Upon my return home I knew I had to make adjustments to the processes within my start-up operation,” Corrales said. “My greatest accomplishments at the Summit in Alaska were getting a new client and cultivating a strong bond with the adventure travel tribe. Blessings to the ‘Angels’ who open doors."

Corrales has since experienced the negative effects that political turmoil in one’s country can have on tourism, and she reached out to the Angels for support and business brainstorming. She appreciated the insightful, thoughtful, and useful advice and found the depth of expertise in the adventure travel industry invaluable.

In 2017 the award went to Miskola Abdulloeva, director of Orom Travel in Tajikistan. Due to complicated visa constraints, she missed the Summit in Salta, Argentina, but proved her perseverance by attending the Summit the following year in Tuscany.

Before she was even able to attend the Summit, Abdulloeva talked about how she was "already feeling what a big role this Summit, networking, and the mentorship program will play in my business and development of tourism in Tajikistan."

Abdulloeva talks about how her personal life and work life are tied together, and she said she couldn’t imagine herself without her travel company. The mentorship and support she got as a woman from other ATTA members gives her more security in what she does. “Sometimes you really get upset when some of your plans are not working as well as you want, or you feel yourself as a tyrant when demanding quality from your staff. But afterwards, when you talk to other members, you find out that the same kind of problems are not only in my company and in my country, but it is all over the world.”

Miskola Abdulloeva, director of Orom Travel in Tajikistan, found the networking and mentorship opportunities through the Adventure Angels to be particularly helpful. © Miskola Abdulloeva via Facebook

A common theme among all winners is how beneficial it was to make strong connections within the adventure travel community and how having a global network of like-minded women to fall back on has opened up new horizons for their businesses.

Curnic said, “While we are still struggling and working hard in convincing and proving that Moldova is a country worth visiting, the ATTA has been a huge support in making the right connections and giving the tools for product promotion and marketing.”

As the Adventure Angels organization continues to grow, it looks forward to giving women from emerging nations the chance to answer the call to adventure and a future where tourism continues to empower women's independence and strengths.

You Can Help

In 2019, the Adventure Angels are excited to support another female business owner from a developing country where adventure tourism is life-sustaining and empower these female leaders to run their businesses with confidence, negotiation power, and knowledge.

You are invited to contribute to the Adventure Angels Abundance Fund.