Travel website La Voyageuse was founded in April this year by Christina and Derek Boixière, and claims to be the “first women-only couchsurfing website”.
Couchsurfing is a form of low-cost travelling, in which travellers look for sofas, or “couches”, to sleep on instead of paying for an entire hotel room or Airbnb. It can also mean lodging in a spare room in a larger house.
The site offers women the chance to “find trusted hosts near you”, and says it is “only for women who are travelling or hosting”. So far, it has 1,250 members offering a place to stay, and 400 travellers, with new members signing up everyday.
Women with men in their household can be hosts, but a woman must be present to welcome and help their guests, the website explains. It says: “The idea is that a female traveller will feel more comfortable in the presence of another woman.”
La Voyageuse claims to be the "first women-only couchsurfing website" (Photo: La-voyageuse.com / Screenshot)
It adds: “We are not ‘women-only’ because we do not like men, or because we are trying to separate the world in two. Not at all. We have all had good and bad experiences travelling, as men and women. There are already many home stay platforms, but none dedicated to women only. We offer an alternative choice...for everyone who believes in the need for a safer environment for women.
“The difficult truth is that travelling is different for women. They face issues such as sexual harassment and threats to their personal safety much more than men...We want to encourage more women to travel solo. Being a woman should not stop you from travelling to see new countries.”
According to the World Tourism Organisation, the number of solo female travellers has soared from 59 million to 138 million between 2014 and 2017, and is growing significantly in Europe.
Valérie Boned, general secretary of travel company union Entreprises du Voyage, told news source 20 Minutes: “Over the past 10 years or so, we have seen a significant rise in gendered tourism. Today, there is a fashion for ‘female-only’.”
Ms Boned explained that the sector is similar to trends such adult-only, child-free, or couple-only trips, and “solo” experiences, and that the sector has been experiencing strong growth in the past 5-10 years; long before the boom in online travel start-ups, or even debates such as the #MeToo movement.
La Voyageuse is not the only French start-up offering women-only breaks; tour operator Copines de Voyages also specialises in offering trips for women looking to travel solo in safety, or to women-only destinations.
One woman, Magalie, who has travelled with Copines de Voyages, told 20 Minutes: “[Travelling alone] allows you to relax and be free from the male gaze.”
Another woman, Malgo, who has used women-only hotels in Tokyo, Japan, said: “I am very aware of the dangers of being a woman in our society. [Women-only travel] allows me to avoid being constantly chatted up, so I don’t need to come up with reasons why I’m not interested.”
While there is not yet a women-only hotel or resort in France, other European countries are starting to take note of the trend.
Last year, Swedish music festival Statement Festival became the first “female-only festival”; in the same year as the women-only Supershe holiday resort opened its doors in Finland.
And in September, a “100% women-only” hotel, Le Som Dona Hotel, opened in Majorca, Spain, which promises that guests will never have to interact or see any men, except for a few members of staff.
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