The creator of Thomson Safaris shares what the future holds for her latest endeavor: running AdventureWomen with her daughters
By Michelle Juergen
Judi Wineland and her family are no strangers to adventure. In 1978, Wineland was one of the first women to launch and run an adventure travel company, Overseas Adventure Travel. A few years later, she founded Tanzanian safari operator Thomson Safaris with her husband, Rick, and subsequently created Thomson Treks, Thomson Family Adventures and Thomson Collection.
The busy entrepreneur can now be found investing her time in AdventureWomen, which she recently acquired from founder Susan L. Eckert and will be operating with her two daughters, Erica Landerson and Nicole Wineland-Thomson Quinones. Judi sat down with us to discuss the next phase for the adventure tour operator, which offers set and customized itineraries exclusively for women.
How do you see AdventureWomen evolving and enhancing with the new ownership?
Susan has taken the company to a great place. We believe the women’s market is the next big market for travel. I have been in the adventure travel industry for 40 years and plan to ensure that all our trips offer a combination of insider access, woman-to-woman cross-cultural exchange and unparalleled lodging experiences. To take a 35-year-old niche market with a good reputation and get the word out to more women will give us the ability to run more trips, add more destinations and cater to more adventurous women.
Tell us about some of the upcoming itineraries.
This year, we will still offer our classic, tried-and-true adventures, such as trekking in Nepal; dogsledding and snowshoeing in Yellowstone; bear viewing in Alaska; and exploring the wonders of Egypt and Jordan. But we have some exciting new itineraries for 2017, as well, such as our exclusive one-week Baffin Island remote adventure; our Russia Rediscovered trip, offering an insider’s view of Moscow and St. Petersburg; and the Secret Serengeti trip to Tanzania, where I will accompany the women and introduce them to my friends and secret places that few visit.
We also have some new, closer trips, such as our wildlife and nature safari in Costa Rica; our hiking trip in Spain and France; our active Canadian Rockies trip; and hiking in Killarney National Park in Ireland.
How has AdventureWomen been meeting the demand for immersive travel?
This is a cornerstone of what we do, and we do it well. Our woman-to-woman cultural component is all about immersive travel. We want our adventurers to have time to be with local communities of women and understand what empowerment means in different cultures.
Why is it important for the company to focus on women-only tours?
When women are together, the dynamic is different. Women have an ability to create a non-competitive environment of support that enhances challenging, transformative travel. When the walls are down, we open ourselves up in order to truly participate in our travel experiences, whether it’s pushing ourselves physically or fully immersing in an unfamiliar culture. On an all-women’s trip, women tell us that they can be totally and unequivocally themselves.
The other component to our women-only product is the unparalleled opportunity to connect with local women. These shared moments offer a rare, honest glimpse into the lives of the people in the destinations we visit.
What else sets AdventureWomen apart from other adventure operators?
Our trips are more luxurious than our competition, more international and very focused on “the details.” We aim to give our clients a taste of it all — from physically active excursions and cultural tours to local cooking classes and even wine tastings. Our trips are custom-designed for women who are fit, quite satisfied with their lives, have their own disposable income and are confident about who they are.