Inner Circle

Travel to do and learn, not just to see

Yeoh Siew Hoon on the ultimate getaway with girlfriends

Travel to do and learn, not just to see
We needed a retreat not only to recharge, but to learn something useful and enrich ourselves.

This weekend I learnt how to make scented candles, herbal compresses and carve a pumpkin into a piece of art. I also learnt to do a bamboo dance without getting my ankles crushed and sang with an “angklung” band, who play South-East Asian bamboo wind instrument. I did this with eight women friends. We needed a retreat not only to recharge, but to learn something useful and enrich ourselves.

“People today want to do things and learn something, not just see things,” said one of my girlfriends who runs a company that looks after tourists in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. She is right - I find that more of my girlfriends are asking me to recommend and organise such retreats. And so over the last couple of years, I’ve arranged escapes in Bali, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Today’s travellers, women in particular, are looking for different experiences in which to immerse themselves. This particular retreat took place after a conference I arranged named Women In Travel. It was interesting to learn how women differ from men in terms of their travel preferences, how they search online and use social media to share experiences and recommendations. 

The majority of leisure travel decisions are made by women and research indicates that they prefer review sites, such as TripAdvisor, while men prefer to use search engines. Women tend to be more positive in their reviews and more active with posting photos and sharing experiences on social networks. The rapid growth of Pinterest, into the world’s third largest social network, after Facebook and Twitter in the US, is mainly due to women.

As part of the event, TripAdvisor posted a poll in Singapore and Thailand asking two different sets of questions. In Singapore, women were asked what they look for when choosing a hotel, and the majority responded location and price. In Thailand, women were asked the first thing they do upon entering a hotel room and most answered, “Check under the bed.”

In terms of hotel experiences, various polls have shown that women don’t necessarily want to be singled out but want to be treated as special – and so, of course, personal amenities and attention are appreciated. Mostly women tended to be moved more by the overall experience – all senses coming into play – than specific features of hotels.

The most significant lesson I learned was how adventurous women have become in their travels, thanks to social networks broadening destination options, and travel companies tailoring experiences exclusively for women.

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