Intrepid partners with MDF in Sri Lanka

Intrepid partners with Australian international development program to boost female participation in tourism in Sri Lanka

MARCH 2024

New government cross industry partnership designed to drive economic development and opportunity in emerging pocket of South Asia.

Intrepid Travel, world leader in responsible travel, is joining forces with the Market Development Facility (MDF), an Australian Government funded program that promotes sustainable economic development across diverse sectors, to support female empowerment through training and career development in the traditionally male dominated Sri Lankan tourism sector.

The partnership will aim to build capacity for female suppliers to become more market ready and create a pipeline for employment as trip leaders. Intrepid currently employs four female trip leaders in a total pool of 30 in Sri Lanka and has committed to increasing female representation by 40-50% by 2025.  

Women’s participation in the country’s travel and tourism industry is low, with estimates suggesting that just 10% of the workforce comprises women, while female ownership of SMEs is projected to be around just 25% nationally.

In addition, women have not historically been a target market for tour operators in the country, so the partnership will seek to expand the number of experiences which are attractive to a female travelling demographic and scope the potential for a new Women’s Expedition.

Intrepid launched this product range in 2018 as a way to break down barriers, foster discussion and create immersive local experiences for women that are ordinarily off limits on mixed-group departures. The range currently includes trips in Pakistan, Turkiye, Jordan, Morocco, Nepal and India and has proved to be among the company’s top-sellers.

This year, Intrepid projects it will run over of 350 trips in Sri Lanka and is looking at ways to strengthen its existing product offering through unique new experiences, including those that are female-led. Sri Lanka experienced customer growth of 130% in 2023 and is anticipated to be a key growth market for the company over the coming years.   

The initiative will also enhance the skills and knowledge of women by identifying and supporting 10 potential scholarship candidates for the National Tour Guide License test, creating a group of tour guide leaders. To kickstart the program, training sessions will be conducted across three provinces (Central, East, and Uva), targeting female participants from locally-owned businesses.

Speaking to the partnership, Intrepid’s General Manager, Purpose, Sara King said: “Intrepid has a track record championing inclusivity across our trips and offices, and we want to build on this to deliver meaningful economic and social impact through tourism for women in this exciting destination.”

Intrepid’s General Manager Sri Lanka, Poornaka Delpachitra added: "In a nation where tourism ranks among the top five forex earners, women - who make up over 52% of the population - represent only 10% of the industry. Our initiative aims to break barriers, addressing social stigmas to ensure equality and support women into fulfilling careers.”

Intrepid and MDF previously partnered to successfully launch an expedition product in Timor-Leste, designed to expand the potential of tourism and create shared benefits with local communities.

MDF Country Director, Sri Lanka, Maryam Piracha said: “MDF is committed to building partnerships that promote women’s participation in the tourism sector. We are looking forward to collaborating with Intrepid to showcase the opportunities that exist for Sri Lankan tourism suppliers to tap into the growing global female travel segment. MDF believes this partnership will advocate inclusive business practices that enhance competitiveness while creating new avenues for women.”

The project is underway with in-destination training sessions scheduled to start from June 2024.

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