We see lots of images and stories about men climbing Mt. Everest, launching surfboards into the Pacific, mountain biking down rocky trails, and commanding yachts or safari vehicles. But the travel industry knows what the average American does not. That is, women are statistically and actually much more likely to travel than men. The average U.S. traveler is a 47-year-old woman. And whether women travel with their partners, their families, friends, solo or in groups, 80% of all travel decisions are made by women. It is obvious that women love to travel. And actually, they seem to love it more than men.
While men might go in more for hang-gliding or running with the bulls in Pamplona, today three-quarters of those taking nature, adventure, and cultural trips are female. Women also like to meet people and purchase local goods more than men. In the U.S., women dominate leisure travel by a 63% to 37% ratio over men. Worldwide there are similar numbers with 64% of global travelers being female, versus 36% male.
Females slightly outnumber men in the U.S., but not by enough to explain the difference. According to the Census Bureau, of 331 million Americans, about 50.5% are female, 49.5% male. And interestingly, men are more likely to be “unpartnered” than women. Single women are much more likely to travel than single men, but there are fewer of them. There are 42.07 million single women in the U.S according to the 2020 Census, against about 48.08 million unmarried men.
Travel is expensive, and women have historically earned less than men. That is changing, however as women are moving into well-paid professions, and about 60% of U.S. college students are female. Women hold 60% of the wealth in the U.S. and they represent 54% of travelers with annual incomes over $250,000. Women outlive men and often use inherited wealth for retirement travel. Women also tend to carefully plan and save for vacations.
The travel industry is beginning to recognize these trends. Women represent more than 50% of workers in the trillion-dollar travel industry, and they increasingly have leadership roles in the industry as well. There are other signs of the travel industry’s focus on women. Increasingly women are front and center in TV travel ads and in social media, generally having a great time with female friends in glamorous and exotic destinations.
Studies show that about 91% of women book travel with their friends. As for adventure travel, one group reports that an overwhelming 85% of solo travelers are women, despite safety and loneliness concerns. With no one else’s needs to worry about, women control their itinerary and are much more likely to meet interesting new friends along the way.
Introspection, inspiration, and transformation seem to be key drivers for women’s travel. As travel has rebounded since Covid, women have led the way.