Girlfriend Getaways Are a Hot Niche for Enterprising Agents
by Judy Jacobs

Women-only travel sparks more interest than almost any other travel niche, according to agents who have made it a specialty.

“The minute that I say I do women-only trips, people start asking me questions and immediately ask if I have a business card,” said Linda Tatten, owner of Travel by Tatten in Marlborough, Mass.

“They talk about how their dad passed away and travel might be good for their mom, or they have a sister who wants to travel. Women whose husbands have passed away get very emotional. I’ve never had that response before.”

Focus on women’s tours
Tatten, who’s been a travel agent for 40 years, got involved in the tour business by leading trips to China; she has also handled many student and university groups, among others. In the past few years, she’s started to focus on tours for women.

“I have a passion for doing women’s groups because, first of all, men wouldn’t travel in a group by themselves,” she said. “Women are so social. Whether they’re from different ages or social groups, they come together and can find things to talk about.”

Most of the women range in age from their mid-40s into the 70s; sometimes Tatten has multigenerational participants, such as mothers and younger daughters. She’s currently putting together a Celebrity cruise through the Greek Islands out of Rome for next May and a fall foliage cruise on Royal Caribbean from Boston to Halifax for October.

She leads all of the groups herself.  “I’m the Mom. I take care of everything, and I bring chocolate. It is my tour, so I’m there all of the time,” she said.

Women’s Travel Connection
Another retail travel seller that is tapping the women-only market is Vision 2000 Travel in Victoria, British Columbia. The firm has created what it calls the Women’s Travel Connection to serve the niche market.

Over the past three years, Vision 2000 has done a variety of trips, including one to Croatia last year. It currently has a full group scheduled for a Northern India trip in October, as well as cruises booked for May and November 2014.

“The women are a mixed group,” said Michael van Straubenzee, director of cruises and vacations, western Canada. “ Many are single, and some are married to guys who don’t want to travel. They tend to be over 45.”

“Women are decision makers and 40-plus women are the adventurous ones these days,” he said. “They’re more adventurous than men. They want to learn more. We try to have learning involved – cooking classes, history or photography.”

The learning component is also evidenced in who the agency chooses as escorts. It has had a chef lead tours, and the trip to Croatia was led by a local photographer. WTC’s last trip to China and one to Tuscany were escorted by a business coach.

Worldly Women travel club
Another Canadian agency, Renaissance Travel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is serving the women-only niche with its newly created Worldly Women travel club.  

Club members, of which there are currently about 150, pay a $30 membership fee and in return receive the club’s newsletters, a chance to  participate in its trips and a $30 coupon to use at the agency’s travel store,

In April, Worldly Women went on its first trip to New York City. Twenty women between the ages of 40 and 68 took in the Broadway show Mama Mia, did the Sex in the City Tour, sampled a variety of restaurants and had a great time, according to Ron Pradinuk, the company’s president.

In the works are a Rome and Tuscany tour and a September cruise from New York to Quebec City.  The agency is also planning to put together a spring European chocolate and wine tour led by a local woman who is publishing a book on chocolate.

Tour operator assistance
Creating and leading a group tour can be more time-consuming and complex than some agents would like to take on. Those agents can turn to a tour operator to help them out.

One of these, Women Traveling the World, was launched three years ago by Jennifer Vander Lind, a former travel agent, travel agency manager and destination manager for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

During her career, Lind often met women who wanted to travel but whose husbands didn’t want to go along. This became the inspiration for Women Traveling the World. The company offers from six to eight trips a year to domestic and international destinations, ranging from Thailand to Tuscany. This spring, she operated weekend trips to Napa Valley and Charleston, S.C.

“We try not to offer what everyone else is offering,” she said. “We try to do a different itinerary or offer different excursions [than other companies] or experiences that are local to that area, so they are unique. It might be a cooking class in Tuscany or traditional spa treatments in Thailand.”

Although 80% to 90% of the women who go on her tours come alone, she occasionally gets friends traveling together or mothers and daughters. On an upcoming trip to Africa, she has a group of eight women traveling together. She also customizes tours for groups who want to travel together.

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Tip of the Day
Remember that your travels, too, are part of this important aspect of provenance. Hard-copy photo albums or visuals on a smart phone can be part of the sales process where your photos, selfies, and home-made videos show where you've been and what you've done.
 
Steve Gillick
President, Talking Travel
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