A lot of women have an adventurous streak and a bucket list of exciting places around the world but are put off by the thought of travelling alone.
“Single, married, divorced or widowed, women want to travel a lot more than they could. This is attributed to spouse workload, some don’t know how to plan a solo trip and some think tour packages sound too clinical and rushed,” says Paulomi Bhatt, founder of The World at her Feet.
The travel consultancy, launched in 2012, arranges women-only trips with the aim to create lifelong memories and developing friendships along the way.
She chose to pursue a niche idea in a male-dominated field as “the travel agents’ approach to packages is rigid and not women-friendly”.
Paulomi has worked in the hospitality industry, which gave her the chance to meet a lot of people and understand back office operations. This provided her a diverse experience to create a product that makes the dreams of travel a reality. “The World at her Feet is the culmination of personal love for travel and hospitality,” she says.
Did she have any apprehensions when starting the business?
Leap of faith
“Apprehension and self-doubt are usually the first experiences when moving out of your comfort zone. And setting up a business in a dynamic market raises all sorts of questions, including customer conversion and success. It was a leap of faith to prove to myself that determination and passion are the attributes that would take me far,” she says.
Paulomi says being a women-only firm, they have to ensure the travellers are not worried about their comfort and security. Therefore, a lot of research goes into the destination, but above all the on-ground partners. A representative always accompanies the women and they are escorted by a female tour guide.
The itinerary is developed to include women-centric activities such as spa visits, shopping and culinary tours in addition to the usual sightseeing experiences.
Paulomi says women from all over the world join the tour groups and they absolutely love the concept of travelling with other women. “A number of them register frequently for the trips and many develop friendships with others living in different countries,” she says.
The countries most in demand are Japan and Iceland. The firm tries not to repeat destinations; however, they are planning to return to Japan later this year as many women requested a trip.
“Iceland would probably be another destination we would like to repeat – it is exceptional and one of the great places to visit,” she adds.
Regarding her favourite destinations, she says every trip is unique with its own memories because every place injects a different essence.
“Some of my favourites are visiting the coalmine in Austria and the actual residence of the Von Trapp family, which has been converted into a hotel; climbing the Great Wall of China; savouring Khachapuri – the bread from Georgia; tasting the fresh water of Iceland, there is nothing like it in the world.”
The package costs vary, depending on destination and can go above Dh10,000. Places like Iceland and Japan have higher price tags. “This September, we have slated two bucket list destinations; Russia and Japan. Our food and vineyard tours take place throughout the year to destinations like India, Armenia, Thailand, Amalfi and Bali,” she says.
Paulomi says her consultancy faces no competition in the UAE. “We do not offer the same facilities like travel agents who organise visas and flights. Our model is different; we focus purely on ground activities and curating women-centric tours.”
She says the travel industry continues moving towards curating exceptional itinerary.
“The modern traveller is extremely discerning with specific expectations; it is no longer a cut-and-paste one-size-fits-all approach. Travellers want to enjoy a destination in its entirety, including authentic food, visiting hidden gems and throughout feel safe. With social media playing an active recommendation role, many travellers are becoming aware of novel experiences at each destination. Therefore, the demand to develop an itinerary that enthralls clients becomes a necessity,” she says.
Paulomi believes success is an illusion. “Every day we move the success post further as we grow the portfolio. So before we can pat ourselves on the back and call ourselves successful, we ensure the hard work doesn’t stop.”
Paulomi is steering The World at her Feet to expand into new markets. They have recently appointed representatives in the UK, the US, India and Italy. This is part of a strategy to be represented across key markets.
Setting up this venture was a dream come true for Paulomi. “I have had a great experience carving a niche in an industry that is constantly evolving. Working with global partners and meeting women from all over the world has been a wonderful part of the business. Just like our travelling women, we too have made wonderful friends along the way,” she adds.
Paulomi believes the struggles of setting up a business should not deter women from pursuing what they believe in and what they set out to do. “It is your passion to push your project forward, the determination to see it come to life and persistence to move forward when you hit a brick wall. Don’t let those who fail to understand your dreams deter your ambition,” she says.