Each year, on March 8th, the United Nations celebrates International Women’s Day to recognise the progress that has been made to increase global equality, celebrate acts of courage and call for further change to advance the progress of women throughout the world.

At Elegant Resorts we are proud to share this celebration and we are taking time to highlight some of the extraordinary women working in the luxury travel industry and our affiliate brands. On a day dedicated to highlighting the strength of women and their success, we have selected just a few of the pioneers, heroines and stars of our industry.

Barbara Catchpole

We couldn’t discuss the positive impact of women in luxury travel without mentioning our pioneering co-founder, Barbara Catchpole. A true expert on luxury travel, Barbara continues to travel extensively and remains a source of inspiration. Barbara made headlines in 2006 when she survived a 640ft fall while trekking the Inca Trail in Peru. Testament to her strength and determination she recovered to enjoy an active life, exploring the enviable portfolio of luxury resorts she brought to Elegant Resorts, including an annual visit to renowned spa resort Chiva-Som. To have created a luxury travel company now celebrating its 30th year is an outstanding achievement, Barbara is a key element of the company’s proud heritage and her personal accomplishments more than match all she’s attained in the business world.

Chiva Som
Chiva-Som International Health Resort

Selma Day

Each month Elegant Resorts is featured in Mayfair Times magazine, as their preferred luxury travel partner, and we always look forward to reading the varied, rich and informative array of articles and insights provided by editor and founder Selma Day. Living, working and socialising in the heart of Mayfair ensues Selma has the inside track on London’s leafy and luxurious district. An avid traveller, Selma deigns to leave Mayfair to source the best luxury travel spots for her high-end neighbours, while her work at Mayfair Times extends beyond the typical fashion and arts scene to lend itself to charitable causes, including the Mayfair Times Community Awards, which Elegant Resorts was immensely proud to sponsor this year. We recently interviewed Selma to discuss her illustrious life in travel, and her experience of travelling on the Orient Express.

Selma Day, Venice-Simplon Orient-Express
Selma Day, editor of the Mayfair Times. Venice-Simplon Orient-Express

Susan Harmsworth

The beauty industry is awash with bold claims and big promises. There appears to be a new ‘super ingredient’ each week and a tireless tirade of trends that feel like hollow fads, more concerned with selling products than improving wellbeing. Susan Harmsworth MBE changed the game when she launched ESPA, a true British super brand, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Susan’s Harmsworth’s grandmother was a herbalist, her mother is a doctor and Susan herself has extensive experience in health and beauty journalism, managing luxury spas and gathering in depth training of alternative, holistic and effective therapies. Recently, ESPA rebranded to realign with the principles of mindfulness, wellbeing and detoxification, in keeping with Susan’s own vision to create a beauty and spa brand of substance for modern living. ESPA has grown from Susan’s personal vision to a leading wellness brand, with 300 spas in 55 countries. Enjoy an ESPA treatment at many of Elegant Resorts five-star properties, including: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental New York.

Vitality Spa at Mandarin Oriental New York
Vitality Spa at Mandarin Oriental New York

Sabrina Naggar and Emily Cohen

Friends Sabrina and Emily were already successful in diverse fields before joining forces to create a brand that has revolutionised children’s sun safety. Sunuva is a one-of-a-kind clothing brand, stylish but safety conscious. The product of a joint family holiday, when both Sabrina and Emily faced every parent’s nightmare of trying to battle suncream onto unwilling children, Sunuva clothing is made from the highest quality UPF 50+ fabric which blocks more than 97% of the sun’s most harmful rays. One of the few clothing and swimwear brands to be endorsed by the British Skincare Foundation, Emily and Sabrina have not only come to the aid of fellow parents but have created a product that genuinely protects children’s skin, without ruining their style! Sabrina and Emily are the epitome of ‘busy working mums’ and their brand continues to grow, as the preferred choice of many celebrity parents including Holly Willoughby, Gwyneth Paltrow and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Royal approval, scientific endorsements and celebrity fans see Sunuva going from strength to strength, so much so that Sabrina and Emily bowed to demand and created an adult range of glamorous resort wear because grown-ups felt left out! It is heart-warming to watch two entrepreneurial female minds enjoy such success, proving that one of the best business model is a mother’s intuition.

Emily and Sabrina, Sunuva founders
Emily and Sabrina, Sunuva founders

Christina Franco

Despite the many, illusive glass ceilings that have been shattered in the name of equality, there are still some ‘firsts’ waiting to be claimed by women such as first female president and first Secretary General of the UN. In the case of the incomparable explorer Christina Franco, however, it isn’t so much a glass ceiling as a mighty glacier. When Christina discovered there had never been a woman who’d completed a solo trek to The North Pole, she made the promise to herself, and history, that she would achieve the feat. Between gruelling training sessions and nerve-shredding expeditions Christina works with London’s prestigious private member’s club, South Kensington Club to develop their unique Voyager programme, where she educates and empowers members to take on their own personal challenges. As a partner of SKC, we are supporting Christina’s awe-inspiring efforts and we look forward to following her venerable voyages as she breaks new ground for women and explorers everywhere.


We’ve been very fortunate to have interviewed and worked with some of the luxury travel industry’s most successful, remarkable and inspiring women who are truly international, entrepreneurial and accomplished. Read our interviews with Liz Biden, known as ‘The Queen of Africa, wildlife campaigner and ‘Born Free’ actress Virginia McKenna and interior design icon Kelly Hoppen for further International Women’s Day inspiration.

Feeling inspired?

Please call one of our expert Travel Consultants on 01244 897 578 or visit elegantresorts.co.uk