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Today we celebrate the leading ladies in travel who spearhead companies that offer your clients bucket-list experiences. Leisure Group Travel estimates that 33 percent of all travel companies are owned by women, and approximately 70 percent of employees in the travel business as a whole, are women. So, in celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020 and Women’s History Month, we’d like to focus on a few leading ladies who are putting travel and hospitality on the map (pun intended).

1. Neelam Khanna, Co-founder, Ananda in the Himalayas

Neelam Khanna, co-founder of Ananda in the Himalayas. (Photo courtesy of Ananda in the Himalayas.)

Neelam Khanna is known in the fields of art, design and wellness. Her 40 year career started as an entrepreneur of hand-woven textiles. She then worked with the Oberoi Group of hotels, where she was involved in curating stunning art spaces in the lobbies and guest rooms of Oberoi and Trident hotels across India. She has also worked in luxury apparel and publishing businesses, the most recent being the launch of Hermes in India in 2008.

When it comes to her current travel projects, Neelam co-founded India’s pioneer destination spa Ananda in the Himalayas with her husband two decades ago, and set on to create a world class wellness retreat. It’s her fine aesthetics that adorn the walls of this palatial palace and spa. From the earthy tones, the nature-inspired wall art and the royal hues, her eye for detail and elegance, minimalistic design is what sets her personal style apart, and gives her the discerning creative flair. Neelam’s personal interest in holistic wellness has been instrumental in shaping the wellness offerings at the award-winning Ananda in the Himalayas. She also went on to launch the Ananda Spa Institute in 2008, which trains students from India and several international countries as certified therapists in Ayurveda and other traditional wellness therapies. Ananda in the Himalayas is a multi-award-winning luxury wellness retreat in the Himalayan foothills, surrounded by the majestic Himalayan Mountains, the birthplace of India’s ancient practices of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda.

Travel Perk: To honor women worldwide, Ananda in the Himalayas is offering women a free consultation with Dr. Vidhi, Ananda’s wellness consultant and Ayurvedic physician. The complimentary consultation is available throughout the month of March via Skype or phone. For more information, visit

2. Sarah Casewit, Co-Founder, Naya Traveler

Sarah Casewit exploring the Sahara Desert. (Photo courtesy of Naya Traveler.)

In 2015, when Sarah Casewit, Sofia Mascotena and Marta Tucci began to brainstorm what is today Naya Traveler (launched in 2016), they looked for unique and imaginative ways to offer what the travel industry was missing—highly personalized journeys rooted in authenticity and their own personal experiences. Much of what Naya Traveler is today is an extension of the founders’ characters as individuals as well as their common outlook on travel.

First, let’s meet Sarah Casewit, who was born and raised in Morocco, and has inspired her deep sense of affinity towards the traditional world. As a university student, she engaged in extensive studies of comparative religions, which she complemented with travel and research in North Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Her immersion in the spiritual dimension of these distinct cultures and studying the religious experiences of pilgrims led Sarah to value the transformative power of travel. Sarah utilizes her expertise in the travel industry to deliver exceptionally crafted experiences that are defined by in-depth participation in tradition and encourage a sense of interiority.

3. Sofia Mascotena, Co-Founder, Naya Traveler

Sofia Mascontena, co-founder of Naya Traveler, horseback riding in Patagonia. (Photo courtesy of Naya Traveler.)

Sofia Mascotena, one of the Naya Traveler co-founders, grew up on a family estate in the Pampas of Argentina—a region governed by a balanced lifestyle, where her interest in sustainable living and responsible travel started at an early age. With a background in humanitarian and cultural studies, she was influenced by the positive impact that community exchange has on travel. Sofia values the responsibility that we have as individuals towards other cultures to keep them authentic and untarnished. Combine that with several years of working in tourism, Sofia’s commitment to this altruistic dimension of travel allows a Naya Traveler journey to go beyond the thrill of discovery, promoting intercultural understanding and sustainability of traditions.

4. Marta Tucci, Co-Founders, Naya Traveler

Marta Tucci, one of the Naya Traveler founders. (Photo courtesy of Naya Traveler.)

Next up is Marta Tucci, co-founder of Naya Traveler. As a documentary photographer, Marta’s pursuit for stories has taken her to some of the most interesting, complex and beautiful corners of the world. From the Peruvian highlands and the valleys of Kashmir to Burma’s subtropical plains, her experiences have inspired an approach to travel focused on cultivating meaningful relationships and engaging with local communities. Marta identifies most with a region by exploring its cultural landscape through the eyes, traditions and stories of those who personify it. Her unique travel experiences and ethnographic knowledge are reflected in the connections and interactions present in all Naya Traveler itineraries, adding a unique human dimension to all the journeys.

Travel Perk: Naya Traveler curates a special journey for female travelers to Morocco focusing on the cultural role of women in society. The tailored-made itinerary includes several experiences centered around the topic of women and the activities are led by local female guides and academics. For more information, visit

5. Aashi Vel, Co-Founder, Traveling Spoon

Aashi Vel, one of the co-founders for Traveling Spoon. (Photo courtesy of Traveling Spoon.)

Traveling Spoon connects travelers with authentic food experiences, from market tours to homecooked meals to cooking classes, with locals around the world. All of the company’s experiences are private, and all the hosts are vetted. With Traveling Spoon guests will learn how to make pasta from an Italian in her central Florence home, or grind curries from scratch on a family farm in Thailand. The solely female-owned Bay Area, California company was founded by Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence in 2013. Steph and Aashi met at the Haas School of Business and quickly realized their shared passion for food and travel, and for helping travelers to connect with meaningful travel experiences and preserving food traditions. Traveling Spoon currently operates in 65 countries and 175+ cities across the globe, from Asia to Europe to Central and South America. Over 80 percent of Traveling Spoon’s hosts are women, and one of the company’s biggest missions is to create economic opportunities for local women and women food producers globally.

Aashi Vel, one of the co-founders, is a food and travel enthusiast with a deep passion for creative problem-solving and product innovation. Aashi has 11 years of experience as an industrial design professional managing teams of designers and engineers. Her expertise in user-centered research, and experience in product development enables her to transform consumer insights into marketable products. A patent holder, Aashi has designed products that have received the IDEA, Good Buy, and Institute of Packaging Professionals awards. Aashi is a magna cum laude graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design and received her MBA from Haas.

6. Steph Lawrence, Co-Founder, Traveling Spoon

Steph Lawrence (on the right), one of the co-founders for Traveling Spoon. (Photo courtesy of Traveling Spoon.)

Steph Lawrence has a background in marketing and business strategy, and a depth of experience in the social sector, where she spent five years as a non-profit consultant focusing on emerging markets. She has launched a number of successful websites and marketing campaigns. She has a passion for food and travel, as well as strong connections in the industry. An award-winning food blogger and photographer, Steph graduated with honors from Dartmouth College and received her MBA with honors from Haas.

Travel Perk: In support of International Women’s Day, Traveling Spoon is offering a 5 percent discount for all experiences booked from March 1 – 8 using promo code WOMENSDAY2020; valid for experiences throughout 2020. For every traveler that books an experience using this code, 2 percent of their sales will be donated to La Cocina, a San Francisco-based nonprofit working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants and people of color. For more information, visit

7. Amanda Keidan, Owner, Casa Delphine

Amanda Keidan, owner of Casa Delphine. (Photo courtesy of Casa Delphine.)

Amanda Keidan, designed and owns Casa Delphine, a boutique hotel in San Miguel de Allende, which opened in April of 2019. The 5-room hotel focuses on a curated clean lined design aesthetic that is meant to make guests feel relaxed and inspired as they experience San Miguel de Allende. Amanda started her first company at the age of 22, Keidan Jewelry, a high-end jewelry company focusing on private commissions and one-of-a-kind engagement rings. Casa Delphine is Amanda’s second business venture, and the boutique hotel showcases her love of design.

After turning 40 in 2018, Amanda decided to make a big life change and move to Mexico, which led her to dive into the world of hospitality. As a lifelong traveler, adventurer and community creator, Amanda had the sensibility to create a place that is both intimate and elegant, with unusually themed monthly dinners that cater to a design-forward and food-focused demographic. Casa Delphine will be hosting retreats throughout 2020 that will cater to women travelers, including design and architecture tours in San Miguel de Allende, wellness cooking courses, mediation retreats and more. The hotel is perfect for a group of friends, colleagues, and family to take over the property and build memories together.

Travel Perk: For all women travelers, Casa Delphine is offering 15 percent off stays for the entire month of March 2020. Use booking code WOMEN20 at checkout. For more information, visit

8. Saniya Shah, CEO and Co-founder, Pilota

Saniya Shah, CEO and co-founder of Pilota. (Photo courtesy of Pilota.)

Saniya has traveled to over 50 countries, and an engineering background, plus experience founding startups. She received her undergraduate degree in Engineering and now, after receiving her MBA from Cornell Tech, she is the CEO and co-founder of the travel tech startup, Pilota. Saniya combines her technical expertise with her love for traveling, as she builds solutions to help travelers avoid flight delays and cancellations. Pilota uses state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms to predict impending flight delays and cancellations, and gets travelers a free new flight to their destination during expected disruptions so they can spend less time at the airport and more time at their destination. The Pilota team was built at graduate school Cornell Tech where Saniya and her three co-founders met and developed the technology that is now the core of Pilota’s Artificial Intelligence. For more information, visit

Check out how these three ladies thrive as new travel advisors.