The Telegraph is once again joining forces with the Everywoman in Travel Awards to showcase the female adventurers offering inspiration to millions.
The industry’s gender imbalance is a disappointing but inescapable fact, so since 2017 the awards has been shining a light on trailblazing women in the business, from apprentices to CEOs. You can submit your suggestions for several categories here (until July 8), but first have your say in our hunt for this year’s most pioneering woman in travel.
Last year you chose Jo Ruxton, the environmental campaigner and ex-Blue Planet producer who has helped turn the tide against single-use plastics. Among this year’s contenders are University of Cambridge classicist Mary Beard, wildlife enthusiast Saba Douglas-Hamilton, and Belinda Bennett, the first black woman to captain a cruise ship.
Who do you think is most deserving of the title, Pioneer of the Year 2019? To cast your vote, scroll through to our poll at the end of the article. It will close on September 27, ahead of the awards ceremony on November 13.
An adventurer, presenter, broadcaster, author, editor, photographer and filmmaker, Phoebe Smith, in 2014, became the first person to sleep at all the extreme points of mainland Britain, in 2017 she completed the ‘Sleep the Three Peaks’ challenge and last year walked the Hadrian Hundred in a Wonder Woman costume.
Her next challenge will see her venturing further afield, to Antarctica. After this, her plan is to take a group of underprivileged young adults along with her on a separate trip to the White Continent: the launch mission of her #WeTwo Foundation which aims to inspire climate activism in young people.
By virtue of her bubbling charisma and a refreshingly down-to-earth approach to ancient history, Mary Beard has expanded her role as Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge beyond recognition.
Outside of her academic remit (she is also Professor of Ancient Literature at the Royal Academy of Arts), she has carved a niche as a TV personality and written various books such as ‘Women and Power: A Manifesto’, which clearly and unpretentiously outlines the deep historical roots of misogyny. She’s nominated as one of Telegraph Travel’s Pioneers of the Year for raising awareness, and proving the importance, of ancient sites around the world.
Bespoke is not quite a guidebook, nor is it a package tour: it sits somewhere in-between the two. Sarah Keenlyside’s goal as founder of the company was to offer travellers the breadth of knowledge and transparency of a guidebook as well as the first-hand expertise of a tour operator.
As a former editor at the Sunday Times and TimeOut Beijing, Keenlyside is an inquisitive businesswoman with a discerning eye for metropolitan goings-on as is made blatantly clear from a quick glance at Bespoke’s ‘signature experiences’ which include an art deco tour of Shanghai and a ‘manga, mario and maids’ tour in Tokyo. The company has been celebrated in media outlets the world over for rejigging the fusty model of the package holiday tour provider.
Belinda Bennett’s ascension to the top job this year makes her the first black woman to captain a cruise ship. Bennett, who was raised on the island of St Helena, a tiny outpost in the South Atlantic Ocean and one of the most remote islands in the world, joined the luxury cruise line, Windstar, in 2005 having previously worked for a fleet of private yachts. Now a qualified Master Mariner, she’s preparing to lead tourists around the world and joins fellow trailblazers Kate McCue and Serena Melani who’ve also landed milestone jobs in the cruise industry this year.
It was the birth of Susannah’s son that triggered the idea for Our Tribes, an ever-growing online resource for parents looking to organise adventure holidays with their children. 11 months after they had their son, Susanna and her husband decided to back-pack south-east Asia with a baby in-tow. The blog she kept over the seven-month duration of their trip formed the basis of Our Tribes which has since expanded to become a vast network of videos, blogs and practical travel guides, updated by contributors from all over the world.
We have nominated Saba Douglas-Hamilton as Pioneer of the Year for her ongoing dedication to protecting endangered wildlife, particularly in Africa where she has created long-term change as the manager of the Elephant Watch Camp in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve and Special Projects Director for Save The Elephants.
In 2008, she supported Merlin (Medical Emergency Relief International) after post-election violence erupted in Kenya and she’s lent her expert voice to various documentaries covering a broad remit, from endangered big cats in India to polar bears in the Arctic.