Research calls for more focus on female travellers’ needs

Research calls for more focus on female travellers’ needs

A James Cook University travel medicine specialist and AITHM member Dr Irmgard Bauer has called for travel medicine organisations to focus more on the needs of women, who face a particular range of challenges when they travel. 

Dr Irmgard Bauer from JCU’s College of Healthcare Sciences, said half of all travellers are women but there is a distinct lack of detailed travel health knowledge on topics of unique relevance to women. 

“Women-specific research in travel medicine is relatively scarce and women’s views on and experiences of many travel-related women-specific issues seem completely neglected,” said Dr Bauer.

In a new paper, Dr Bauer examined three major aspects of travel as they relate to women - the management of personal hygiene, bodily functions, menstruation and sexual behaviour; the special requirements women have regarding safety and security; and how the female traveller can contribute to the goal of minimising any potential harm to fellow humans and the natural environment.  

“Many of the discussed issues relate to all women travellers, but a lot will be of greater importance to novice travellers and those who travel to less developed, rural, remote or wilderness regions, or who plan to volunteer short or long term in rudimentary circumstances,” Dr Bauer said.   

Examples of  advice set out for women travellers, regarding transport security include: 

  • Avoid night travel 
  • Arrange an airport transfer to your hotel in advance  
  • Use licensed taxis (know what they look like)  
  • Sit behind the driver  
  • Make a ‘phone call’ in the taxi to say you will arrive shortly 
  • Pay for the taxi while still in the car 
  • On public transport, sit near women 

She said experienced female travellers frequently share their advice on travel websites. 

"Oftentimes, common sense just needs some additional hints and reminders. But a standard travel medicine consultation rarely affords the time for a comprehensive discussion of topics beyond the specifically medical issues," Dr Bauer said.  

 "Detailed suggestions relating to the three main areas covered here should not end up as a politically correct exercise, buried in academic papers."   

 She said travel medicine organisations should make practical travel health advice more accessible to the travelling public via women’s magazines, blogs, and women-specific travel sites. 

 “They could make such advice available to clinics, travel health professionals and the public via downloadable guides, which should be updated regularly.   

 She said for most women, going on a trip involves a number of medical preparations as well as careful planning of practical aspects around hygiene.  

“But there is scarce discussion in travel medicine about the travelling woman’s needs and challenges outside traditional topics,” Dr Bauer said.   

Read more about the research here in Healthy, safe and responsible: the modern
female traveller