The travel industry awards for women are back! Nominations are now open for the third annual Bessie Awards, hosted by Wanderful and WITS. Anyone is welcome to submit a nomination; official votes for the finalists can only be cast by WITS attendees, past and present.

The Bessie Awards typically run alongside the annual WITS travel conference for brands and creators in North America, but were recently hosted in 2020 during the second WITS Online on October 3rd.


Check out the key takeaways from our first WITS Online


The next WITS North America will be hosted by Kansas City from April 23rd to 25th, 2021, where the third annual Bessie Awards for women in travel will be presented.

Beth Santos at the podium to present the Bessie Awards at WITS by Wanderful - for women in the travel industry

What are the Bessie Awards?

The Bessie Awards honor women of impact in travel, particularly influencers, creative entrepreneurs, marketers, and industry members who have added a compelling voice to the industry. 

The Bessies are named after Bessie Coleman, the first woman of African American and Native American descent to hold a pilot’s license.

Invoking the spirit of Ms. Coleman, these travel industry awards honor the truly creative work of some of the incredible thought leaders and innovators in travel.

Wanderful hopes that, by showcasing such work, we can inspire more builders in the travel space to contribute their voices.

We aim to make the travel industry ever more thoughtful, inclusive, and meaningful.

The Bessie Awards value the contributions of diverse women and nonbinary people of all ages and backgrounds who represent us as a community of travelers.


Creators: Get insights + tips to help you thrive.


In celebration of the impact of the travel industry and the many women who are changing the industry for the better, these awards highlight the diverse changemakers.

Travel Industry Awards for Women

These travel industry awards celebrate women of impact. Women are not a niche in the travel industry, rather, they are the decision-makers and purchasers.

From our global Wanderful community, we launched WITS on two continents to further our mission of helping more women travel. Wanderful believes in the power of sisterhood, and the powerful women of WITS are a perfect demonstration of that effect.

The creators and brands who come together at WITS are challenging the status quo.

Travel industry awards for women at the Women in Travel Summit (WITS)

Despite the enormous influence women have as consumers in the travel industry, their influence on the business itself has still not found parity. Just take a look at these statistics:

  • Women make 80% of travel decisions
  • 2 out of 3 travelers are women
  • The number of women-only travel companies has increased by 230% in the past 6 years

Meanwhile, the digital revolution continues to rise:

  • Influencer marketing is 11x more powerful than traditional advertising.
  • 84% of customers have made a purchase after reading about a product or service on a blog.
  • In the 18-34 age range, blogs are the #1 decision-making factor influencing purchases.

Wanderful created the WITS travel conference to bring creators together with industry players and open up a conversation about making travel more meaningful and inclusive.

At WITS, attendees and sponsors collaborate to better use our platforms and expand some of these values, growing our businesses and supporting more women who are building their own businesses.

Now in its 8th year, WITS North America hosts an evening event to honor and celebrate women who are truly making an impact.

The Bessie Awards for travel industry professionals, bloggers, influencers, and others in this space ensure that diversity is celebrated and further encouraged year after year.

women in travel summit (wits)

Categories of Bessie Awards for Travel Professionals

Awards in travel can include a wide range of categories of work within the travel sector. The Bessie Awards are not just travel writing awards, nor are they focused solely on multi-national industry heavyweights and corporations.

Rather, these travel awards celebrate individuals and organizations that are changing the industry in a positive way. From writing to collaborations, from inventive creations to trailblazing ferocity, the Bessies reward those who dare to challenge and change the current system.

Here are the travel award categories for the Bessie Awards:

Collaboration of the Year

In support of working together, this award celebrates a successful collaboration by or between creators and brands to amplify traditionally marginalized voices and accomplish shared goals.

2020 Winner: Intrepid Travel #BeIntrepid

2019 Winner: Fat Camp (Annette Richmond)

Creator of the Year

Honoring a creator who has gone above and beyond in the past year to challenge the status quo as a thought leader in the industry.

2020 Winner: Evita Robinson

2019 Winner: Oneika Raymond (Oneika the Traveller)

Inclusion Award

For a brand that has shown outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion in the last year, whether in the form of a campaign, piece of content, partnership, or other initiative.

2020 Winner: AUDACITY Fest (NOMADNESS Travel Tribe)

2019 Winner: Black History Month Rides with Lyft (Jessica Hansen)

Most Impactful Piece of Writing

This award showcases an inspiring, engaging, and community-oriented piece of writing that has encouraged dialogue and interaction in the last year.

2020 Winner: How to Be Less of a Traveling Asshole in 2020 by Kate McCulley

2019 Winner: The color of adventure: When will travel show more diversity? (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Social Impact Award

For an activity, campaign, or other initiative by an individual or brand that has shown innovation in ways that have positively impacted the travel community, or has developed their marketing in a sustainable and impactful way.

2020 Winner: Clean Water Across America by LifeStraw and Airstream

2019 Winner: Impact Travel Alliance (Kelley Louise)

Travel Startup of the Year

For an engaging, innovative and impactful startup that we as a community of influencers believe is changing the way we travel.

2020 Winner: Tastemakers Africa (Cherae Robinson)

2019 Winner: Wanderstay Houston (Deidre Mathis)

Wanderful Award presented by Wanderful

For a brand that has gone above and beyond to support, empower, and represent women in the past year.

2020 Winner: The Riveter

2019 Winner: The Globetrotter Lounge Podcast (Lisette Austin)

Trailblazer Award

For the go-getter who has thrived in the past year in building her own empire and carving out a path for future leaders in the travel space.

2020 Winner: Martinique Lewis


Read more about Martinique Lewis and her book, The ABC Travel Greenbook


Lifetime Achievement Award

For a person who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to working in and making the travel industry better.

2020 Winner: Betty Reid Soskin

Past Awards

2019 Ethical Travel Award presented by Lokal: Jessica Festa (Epicure and Culture)

2019 Influencer Campaign of the Year Award: Hostelling International – Sleep for Peace

2019 Outstanding Work of 2018 presented by the Quebec Tourism Bureau: Keeping It Local – Appreciating The Food Scene in Quebec (Empty Nesters Hit the Road, Wendy Lee)


View the 2020 Bessie Award finalists and nominate someone for 2021!


WITS view from backstage as Beth Santos speaks

Learn More About Bessie Coleman

The Bessie Awards are named after the iconic Bessie Coleman. Bessie was denied entry into the American aviation schools because of both her race and gender. Despite this, in 1921, she became the first American to earn an international pilot’s license from the prestigious Federation Aeronautique International in France. 

Bessie Coleman defied the odds, earning this license two years before her more famous contemporary, Amelia Earhart. Wanderful and the Women in Travel Summit honor her legacy and encourage all women to defy the odds.


Learn more about Bessie Coleman’s extraordinary life and professional achievements right here.


Learn More About WITS

The WITS Travel Creator + Brand Summit is the premier event for travel’s top marketing talent. Creative entrepreneurs, influencers, DMOs, and industry come together to discuss future innovations, build dynamic collaborations, and change travel worldwide, all while supporting and empowering a diverse community of women.

The conference takes place on two continents (WITS North America and WITS Europe) and is organized by Wanderful. Read about the inaugural WITS Europe experience to learn more from an attendee’s perspective and check out what it’s like being surrounded by women who love travel:


Learn more about these specific travel marketing awards and plentiful professional growth opportunities at WITS.

Join our global community of women who love travel to support the sisterhood. Learn more here.

Wanderful Team
We are the Wanderful Team, helping connect women travelers everywhere. Join our international membership community of globally-minded women to connect, learn, share, and celebrate! Visit sheswanderful.com/join

You may also like

5 Comments

  1. […] Learn all about the Bessie Awards for women in travel […]

  2. […] Read next: Travel industry awards for women […]

  3. […] next: Learn more about the Bessie Awards and find out who […]

  4. […] Lewis was recently awarded the Trailblazer Award at the 2020 Bessie Awards, the travel industry awards presented by […]

  5. […] Up + Go was founded by Lillian Rafson and was a Bessie Awards 2020 Finalist for Travel Startup of the […]

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *