Kiwi corporate travel firm Orbit World Travel has teamed up with Maiden Voyage – an international network specifically for women and diverse travellers.

The aim is to make business travel for women safe and social by providing advice and access to a network of international ''ambassadors'' who can give female travellers inside information about their home cities, recommend places to stay or help them on their way.

England-based Maiden Voyage was founded just over a decade ago by Carolyn Pearson, who had worked in corporate roles at ITV, the BBC and EasyJet.

She saw the need for a network to support professional women business travellers who might otherwise have avoided some places because of concerns about their safety or ability to enjoy them on their own.


Air travel could be risky for women travelling alone, highlighted this week by cases of harassment on flights from women who have contacted the Herald.

''Airlines have much to learn, we are currently researching incidents of sexual harassment on board and it doesn't make for pleasant reading. Typically crew (who are often also victims themselves) are not adequately trained to deal with this type of unruly passenger,'' says Pearson.

She was encouraged to start the network after hearing of businesswomen who had spent many lonely evenings in their hotel rooms, often working, usually eating room service to avoid the embarrassment of dining alone in a restaurant or being the subject of unwanted attention.

''Whether you travel once in a blue moon or you are an ardent road warrior, we want to help you to get the most out of your business trip and especially when your working day has come to an end. We believe that staying in with room service or a supermarket takeaway is a missed opportunity - all the downside of a business trip and none of the benefits of company-funded travel.''

The network provides consultancy and support services, a community through which travellers can connect, travel safety training, on-line and eLearning and webinars on traveller wellbeing which are for a wide audience and cover issues such as travel related stress, hotel safety and overcoming jetlag.

Maiden Voyage advice for women travelling alone

•Make sure you research the destination and know what the cultural and legal restrictions, including dress codes, are for women travellers.

•Carry a door wedge or door jam as not all hotel door locks are created equal. Hotels with a single lock can be entered with a master key or sometimes hotels mistakenly double-book a room.

•Politeness should come secondary to personal safety. If a hotel receptionist announces your room number out loud, challenge that and ask for a new room and to have the number discreetly communicated with you.


•When being picked up at an airport, make sure any driver with a "name plate" is otherwise identifiable as your driver before you get into the vehicle. It is easy to copy these and this has led to incidents of kidnap.

•Be "drink-spiking" aware; even if you are drinking water in a seemingly safe hotel bistro, there have been incidents of travellers having had their drink spiked who went on to be sexually assaulted.

Brendan Drury, managing director of Orbit World Travel, says he met Pearson in Europe last year.

''We liked the idea of bringing this unique support from Maiden Voyage to New Zealand and highlighting the issues and vulnerabilities that face female and LGBTQ+ travellers in some geographies and cultures.''

He says it was timely for Orbit as the topic of traveller safety is getting increased focus with clients and within duty of care programmes.

As part of the partnership, Orbit will share Maiden Voyage advisories with all of its clients. If they want to participate in more formal training as part of their travel management programme there would be a small fee.

Pearson says the Maiden Voyage network is more than 12,000-strong in more than 100 countries and includes 80 local ambassadors.

There is a woman traveller safety trainer based in New Zealand.

Women are the fastest growing business travel segment, accounting for half of all business travellers in some countries in Europe and in the United States.

Countries that are most challenging for solo women travellers include those where there are significant intercultural differences, where women have to adhere to certain dress codes, legal restrictions or rules around interacting with locals.

Maiden Voyage founder, Carolyn Pearson. Photo / Kevin Gibson Photography
Maiden Voyage founder, Carolyn Pearson. Photo / Kevin Gibson Photography

Maiden Voyage has clients across a wide range of sectors, many of which are male dominated including banking, IT, oil and gas and even football.

''Every day we speak to women around the world who have suffered from an incident and there is palpable relief when they find us and can access support services to mitigate risks of further incidents.''

Pearson says some hotels are well geared up for solo travellers.

The network has an accreditation programme which highlights hotels with double-locking doors and other safety features.