Skift Take

Intrepid’s new women-led tours in Saudi Arabia are about “focusing on the hosts, not just the travelers.”

Intrepid Travel has announced a women’s-only tour in Saudi Arabia — led by women, for women. 

The tour represents an effort to sidestep the luxury-focused travel industry in the country while giving travelers a more authentic experience and supporting the booming female labor force.

The launch follows several years of progress for Saudi women, who gained the right to drive in 2018 and to be tour guides in 2019. As the country seeks to become a leading travel destination, the percentage of women who make up the tourism workforce has skyrocketed to 45%.

“This shift had one positive effect, which is that it gave more rights to women,” said Zina Bencheikh, the managing director of EMEA for Intrepid Travel. “[This tour] effectively means that we can speak to women and we can meet women who own businesses, women guides, women who run restaurants.”

The 12-day adventure will bring travelers to female-owned establishments. “I think the beauty of traveling this way is to focus on the hosts, not just the travelers,” said Bencheikh.

Going Local, Not Luxury

The tour involves a family-owned citrus farm, rock formations, and giant tombs. Travelers will visit the holy site Medina, take a tour of Al-Balad in Jeddah with Saudi’s first female guide, and go on a cruise in the Red Sea.

Intrepid partnered with a local agent, Sara Omar, to design the trip. Omar has previously focused on planning trips for Saudi women to experience other parts of the world. Now, she’s helping Intrepid bring the world to Saudi women. 

“A lot of people think Saudi women are unable to do anything, that we’re not educated, that we don’t work. Meeting the locals is the best way to understand what the lifestyle is really like,” Omar said, according to Intrepid’s press release. 

The tour also taps into something that has been difficult for tour operators to breach in Saudi Arabia – local engagement. While the country has marketed themselves as a luxury destination, many travelers want a more authentic experience.

“I think the country has positioned their tourism in one part of the travel industry, which is that kind of more mainstream luxurious experience,” said Bencheikh. “But in my opinion, they are kind of missing the point. In all the reports we see that what people want is interaction with the local people.”

The Saudi tour is the latest in a series of women-led tours. Others include tours to India, Nepal, Morocco, Jordan and Pakistan, all of which have grown in popularity since their inception. 

These tours align with the travel experiences trends Intrepid is seeing, which show that female travelers above 50 are increasingly looking for solo meaningful experiences in lesser visited countries. 

Intrepid’s women-led trekking tour in Morocco launched in 2018 and now has 20 departures per year.

“If you think about the economic impact for those women,” said Bencheikh. “Some of them never worked before and now they have a job that is paid for by doing something they enjoy.”

Bencheikh said that Intrepid is scoping for locations for new tours, and may have its eyes on Asia next. 


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: intrepid travel, saudi arabia, Travel Experiences, women travelers

Photo credit: Sara Omar has helped Intrepid Travel design the women-led trip through Saudi Arabia Intrepid Travel

Up Next

Loading next stories