International Women’s Day: Meet travel’s sustainability trailblazers

As part of our IWD coverage, Euronews Travel spoke to a number of women working in travel who are determined to make a difference in the industry.


The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is ‘Inspire Inclusion’.

Every year, IWD gives focus to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women.

Taking place on Friday 8 March, 2024’s event aims to understand and value women’s inclusion – promoting a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment.

With that in mind, Euronews Travel spoke to some of the most impressive women in the travel industry, all with a focus on sustainability – from Europe and beyond.

Dr Susanne Etti – Intrepid Travel’s global environmental impact manager

Dr Susanne Etti is not only the global environmental impact manager of Intrepid Travel – the world’s largest adventure travel company – but is also a world leader in efforts to decarbonise the travel industry.

Committed to leading the industry towards a more regenerative, healthy, inclusive and sustainable 1.5-degree future, Etti has led Intrepid to achieve industry-first milestones, like becoming the first tour operator with verified Science Based Targets to reduce its carbon emissions.  

A big focus of her work is ensuring gender equality and the empowerment of women.

“When we empower women through tourism – including leading tours – we open a world of possibilities. These women can share with travellers about sustainable practices in their country and can take these sustainable practices home to their families and communities,” Etti tells Euronews Travel.

“With the right knowledge and policies, the tourism industry can rebuild stronger and more equitable. We need to respond to the immediate issues ahead, viewing women as the key pillar in our climate action plans,” she adds.

Sue Stockdale – polar explorer and climate crisis advocate

Sue Stockdale was the first British woman to ski to the North Pole and across the Greenland Icecap, both in the 1990s.

Since then, she has used her experiences to educate others with her various roles as a motivational speaker, author, TED talker and podcaster.

She tells Euronews Travel that she has firsthand experience seeing the devastation global warming is causing – and urges governments and individuals to take serious action.

“As a polar explorer, I have seen with my own eyes the impact of climate change on both the Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice cap,” Stockdale says, “NASA has recently reported that September Arctic sea ice is now shrinking at a rate of 12.2 per cent per decade which is beyond concerning.”

Stockdale is currently working as an ambassador for Panache Cruises, who provide small ships with a focus on luxurious and expedition travel.

Onboard, passengers are encouraged to take part in scientific research and various conservation projects, including rubbish collection, as part of their wider holiday experience.

Stockdale says this approach is important in making travel ever more sustainable.

“These experiences are crucial if we are to encourage people to make environmental changes in their everyday lives,” she says.

Dr Fiona McIntyre – marine biologist and social entrepreneur

Dr Fiona McIntyre is a marine biologist by training and background but, in 2022, she opened a dolphin and whale-spotting off-grid eco facility – Greyhope Bay in Aberdeen, Scotland.


The location is frequently recorded as the best place in the UK to spot Bottlenose dolphins from land and, thanks to McIntyre, now boasts a not-for-profit community and cafe space.

The thinking behind it is to “connect and engage communities with our marine world”, which encourages visitors to look outwards, take in views and wildlife and engage with natural surroundings.

McIntyre had hoped that around 20,000 people would visit on a yearly basis, but the figure is now more than double that, something that she is thrilled about.

“My intention with Greyhope Bay was to establish a greater connection between the local community and its greatest asset – the beautiful coastline – and to create better awareness and appreciation of marine life and the natural world, whilst regenerating the area in a sustainable way,” McIntyre tells Euronews Travel.

Sustainability is crucial, she says – and something that the destination will continue to encourage visitors to explore.


“They are inspired by being part of something with purpose, integrity and sustainability at its heart, and it feels like a positive movement towards safeguarding our future, which gives me some hope,” she says.

Güliz Öztürk – CEO of Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines

In May 2022, Güliz Öztürk was appointed as CEO of Pegasus Airlines, the Istanbul-based low-cost carrier, rendering her the first female CEO in Turkish aviation – and among the few female C-level executives in the entire industry.

Since she took on the role, she has put sustainability at the forefront of the airline’s strategy.

Öztürk tells Euronews Travel she and her team have made sure to purchase environmentally friendlier aircraft, invested in Sustainable Aviation Fuels and been operating e-vehicles for ground operations – all with the aim of working towards greener aviation.

The wider industry appears to have sat up and taken notice too. In November last year, Pegasus received the EMEA Environmental Sustainability Airline/Airline Group of the Year Award at CAPA’s Environmental Sustainability Awards for Excellence.


“Sustainability is the single most pressing issue of our time and it’s no different for aviation,” she tells Euronews Travel. “At Pegasus Airlines, we take our share of the responsibility and embrace this challenge. Our vision is to build a sustainability culture at our company by looking into every aspect of our business.”

As well as that aim, Öztürk is also determined to improve gender equality at Pegasus.

“Our commitment to sustainability also extends to a strong focus on diversity, equality and inclusion. Over the years, we’ve been committed to promoting gender balance at Pegasus and last year launched the Harmony initiative: a comprehensive strategy that focuses on nurturing an inclusive culture, promoting women in leadership and equal pay,” she explains.

Louise Cottar – conservationist and CEO of Cottar’s Safaris

Louise Cottar is the co-owner of Cottar’s Safaris and co-founder of Cottar’s 1920s Camp, two luxury and sustainable properties in Kenya.

Based on the Olderkesi Conservancy, which borders the famous Maasai Mara in Kenya, the destinations offer a sustainable safari experience.


Owned and managed by the fifth generation of the Cottar family, both Cottar’s 1920s Camp and the private Bush Villa have long focussed on being green.

Cottar’s 1920s Camp is one of only 11 accredited Global Ecosphere Retreats across the globe. That means it has achieved the highest sustainability standards through a balance in the so-called 4Cs of biodiversity: conservation, community development, cultural stewardship and commerce.

Cottar also sits on the board of the Cottar’s Wildlife Conservation Trust, an organisation that boasts the only all-female ranger team in the Maasai Mara.

She tells Euronews Travel the company is all about sustainability, equality and supporting local communities.

“It’s important for us to offer a safari experience for travellers which is not only enjoyable but also provides values, purpose and impact,” she says, “We want people to actively travel more consciously.”


Her team’s aim is to maintain and improve the unique biodiversity that surrounds Cottar’s Safaris, as well as helping to empower the Maasai community with wildlife conservation.

“As we move forward, we hope to continue to provide safaris with purpose,” she says.

Zakia Moulaoui-Guery – founder of Invisible Cities

Originally from the south of France, Zakia Moulaoui Guery moved to Scotland at the age of 21.

In her adopted home, she set up Invisible Cities, a social enterprise and travel company which trains people who have experienced homelessness to be tour guides of their own cities. It’s since expanded to six cities across the UK, employing homeless people to deliver unique, off the beaten track tours to tourists and locals alike.

For Moulaoui-Guery, sustainability has a wider meaning.


“Sustainability, when it comes to people, is often overlooked… but it means looking after communities without compromising on their future. We are all about nurturing the wellbeing of communities, especially those who are more vulnerable,” she tells Euronews Travel.

At Invisible Cities, the formerly homeless guides are able to design and curate their own tours, all while being paid the living wage. 

Under the guidance of the team, they’re also supported with other life skills and access to services and help with things like managing bills, confidence and public speaking.

Moulaoui-Guery wants everyone involved in travel to find satisfaction – from tourists to those integral to its success.

“I believe travellers want to meet other people, they want to create meaningful connections and leave the place they visit a bit better,” she says, “We also believe that everyone should benefit from tourism – meet travellers, expand their horizons, but also educate through their stories and benefit economically too. Travel is for everyone no matter where they come from or what their life stories are.”


Currently, 100 per cent of the company’s profits are reinvested and, for 2024, they’ll expand into even more cities across the country.

Rossella Beaugié – co-founder of B Corp Certified company The Thinking Traveller

Co-founded in 2002 by Rossella Beaugié, the Thinking Traveller last year became the first luxury villa rental company to become B Corp Certified – and for good reason.

The Thinking Traveller has worked closely with the Conservation Collective, a global network of local philanthropic funds focussed on protecting, preserving and restoring the natural environment, from its early days.

Beaugié has actively supported and promoted numerous environmental projects across the Mediterranean and, most recently, she played an integral role in setting up the Sicily Environment Fund. Its aim is to protect and restore Sicily’s marine and terrestrial environments from damaging outside sources.

Offering up unique properties to travellers, Beaugié tells Euronews Travel she is delighted with how the company has evolved, especially in achieving accreditation for its high social and environmental standards.


“The company’s ongoing focus on sustainability within the travel industry represents a milestone in the sector, which will hopefully start a shift towards greater social and environmental accountability and transparency,” she says.

Being ethical in an ever changing tourism industry is crucial to Beaugié, too.

“The Thinking Traveller will continue working to improve its sustainable, transparent and accountable business model and seek to demonstrate how tourism, when founded on ethical principles and guided by a thoughtful approach, can be a force for good,” she says.

Nicola Shepherd – founder of the impact-led, adventure travel-focussed Explorations Company

Nicola Shepherd has been leading and curating impact-led trips for more than three decades.

Born in Calcutta, India, she moved to Kenya and South Africa, where she spent much of her time in the bush, developing her passion for wildlife.


Shepherd then studied nature conservation before moving to Botswana where she ran camps in the Okavango Delta for several years, as well as moving around Africa assisting local communities.

In 1989, she founded the Explorations Company out of the Cotswolds in the west of England.

Since then, she and her team have worked across four continents to facilitate safaris and bespoke, intrepid experiences for open-minded travellers.

“As a business, we are philanthropic to our core – operating as the official travel partner of the African Wildlife Foundation and supporting 65+ sharp-end NGO projects worldwide,” Shepherd tells Euronews Travel. “It’s my belief that through impact-led, sustainable travel, people can better understand the places they travel to, and be better equipped to help them.”

The company works closely with travellers to provide exactly the trip they want – and need – all with an aspect of giving back.


Examples include organising for a client to spend a day with a women’s empowerment charity and another who was able to help with the building of sand dams to aid water and soil conservation in drylands.

“It’s my view that most individuals feel better when they know that they are making a positive contribution, especially while enjoying themselves on holiday. This, in its very essence, is the definition of sustainable tourism,” Shepherd explains.

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