“The power of travel for positive change” – Intrepid’s Jenny Gray hails controversial all-women Saudi Arabia trip

“The power of travel for positive change” – Intrepid’s Jenny Gray hails controversial all-women Saudi Arabia trip

Intrepid made headlines earlier this month when it announced an all-female trip to Saudi Arabia. The 12-day tour offers adventure-seeking women the chance to explore the country’s hidden gems while supporting female-led businesses in the region. It was designed in partnership with Sara Omar, a Saudi mother and keen traveller.

(Lead Image: Jenny Gray, senior product manager of women’s expeditions at Intrepid)

Intrepid’s decision is controversial given the country’s reputation around its treatment of women who continue to have different legal rights to men. Last year Visit Saudi raised eyebrows after it attempted to sponsor the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup which many said was a textbook example of “sportswashing”.

Saudi mother and keen traveller Sara Omar

Travel’s power to create social change

Intrepid’s senior product manager of women’s expeditions Jenny Gray is acutely aware of the sensitivities surrounding Saudi Arabia, particularly as a destination for women.

“This trip has been 12 months in the making and has certainly not been something that’s been taken lightly. There’s been a lot of research and development. A lot of conversation,” she said.

It is travel’s ability to break down cultural barriers that made Intrepid decide to go ahead with the trip.

“Intrepid fundamentally believes in the power of travel for positive change, to connect people and to broaden perspectives. It builds empathy – which we need more than ever in the world right now,” Gray added.

Jenny Gray is acutely aware of the sensitivities surrounding Saudi Arabia

Female businesses are at the heart of the expedition 

Starting in Riyadh and finishing in Jeddah, groups will stay in a female-owned boutique hotel, heritage property and desert camp, directly supporting a total of nine female-owned and operated businesses.

For Gray, supporting local women was a key focus from the trip’s inception.

“We actively seek out female-owned businesses throughout our entire supply chain [on all trips], but on these trips, it’s integral to the design,” she said.

“All of these trips are run by women for women and directly benefit women on the ground. The trip is led by local female leaders and guides as well as supporting women-led businesses.”

One of the Intrepid tour hosts shows off views to the city.

Alone but not lonely

Whilst 82 per cent of the women on the trips are travelling alone it really is this sense of community and connection which is at the heart of the experience, Gray says.

“Through our customer feedback, we know that these women are looking to explore these off-the-beaten-track destinations with the comfort and safety of travelling with like-minded women.”

Travelling with a large tour company like Intrepid means you can ensure your safety whilst keeping the trip authentic, she adds.

Intrepid travellers were immersed in the local culture and supported female business owners

“We have really extensive systems and processes in place to operational due diligence before working with a new operator and in new destinations.”

“You’re guided by an expert, local leader and guide on the ground which is particularly assuring for female travellers who may not feel as confident navigating a new place alone. The convenience of all those logistics are taken care of.”

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