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

Bessie Awards: Travel Industry Awards for Women

Wanderful celebrates women paving the way forward in travel marketing and media

The travel industry awards for women are back! In the second annual Bessie Awards, hosted by Wanderful and the Women in Travel Summit, the nominees have been announced and voting is now open. All past WITS attendees are eligible to vote before the deadline on April 8, 2020.

The Bessie Awards run alongside the annual Women in Travel Summit (WITS) in North America. WITS 2020 will be hosted by Kansas City from May 1st to 3rd, with the Bessies celebrated on the evening of Saturday, May 2nd.

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. 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.

The 2020 Bessie Awards will be hosted by Jeannette Ceja, a bilingual travel journalist, TV host, travel advisor, and global public speaker. She combined her love for travel and over 10 years of work as a journalist into the internationally-recognized company Jet Set with Jeannette.


Join us at the second annual Bessie Awards in Kansas City, MO


Women in Travel Summit by Wanderful - logoTravel 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 the Women in Travel Summit (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 7th 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

New in 2020!

Lifetime Achievement Award

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

New in 2020!

Past Awards

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

2019 Social Impact Award presented by AIG Travel: Impact Travel Alliance (Kelley Louise)


View the 2020 Bessie Award finalists and cast your vote!


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 Women in Travel Summit (WITS) 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.

WITS occurs 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 the Women in Travel Summit.

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

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