Selling to Women: Insights From a Gutsy Colleague
by Nick Verrastro /

A decade after launching her pioneering firm Gutsy Women Travel, tour industry veteran April Merenda made a surprising decision this spring. She partnered her niche operation with one of the world’s largest tour firms – Trafalgar Tours.

Among its other benefits, the deal allows Gutsy Women Travel to rely on the much deeper resources of Trafalgar Tours, Merenda told Travel Market Report. The need for those resources became apparent to Merenda when she was in Egypt earlier this year.

The Egypt experience
Merenda, who is president of Gutsy Women Travel, was in Cairo with a group of travelers in January, when political unrest rocked the nation. “I witnessed firsthand the deep resources that a tour company like Trafalgar can bring to bear – they secured private chartered flights and got their customers out,” she said.

“It was incumbent on me to protect my brand and to ensure that I would be prepared” for future incidents, she said. “The only way for a small business like mine to do that is to partner with someone with the strength and financial acumen like Trafalgar and its parent, The Travel Corporation.”

Gutsy Women's group of 17 travelers returned home from Egypt safely last winter, but they had to be airlifted out by the State Department. “For the most part, the women were very understanding. We were lucky in that it all happened at the end of the trip, so they got to see everything.”

For women, security is key
“The incident opened my eyes to this global economy and changing world. Security is the number one factor with women when they travel – value and security,” Merenda said.
 
“We have to be prepared for tsunamis that may not involve weather, but financial and political events. You need to continue to travel. The human being has that natural quest to explore and experience the world. Developing strong partnerships [with a company like Trafalgar] will enable people to do this.”

Extended market reach
The partnership with Trafalgar also expands Gutsy Women’s market reach to English-speaking countries outside the U.S., while imbuing its product with the excitement of women meeting like-minded women from around the world, Merenda said.

For Trafalgar, the alliance opens the door to a niche with serious growth potential.

The right price
Until now, Merenda’s strategy for Gutsy Women Travel has been based in slow, deliberate growth. That has allowed the company to stay focused on delivering unique experiences, tailor-made for like-minded women and offered at a price point that delivers value without catering to price shoppers.

“Our price point attracts a nice mix of like-minded women,” she told Travel Market Report. “We offer a guaranteed share, which appeals to the 25% of our clients who want a traveling companion – more to meet new people than to save money. We also make the single supplement affordable – priced so they are not being penalized.”

‘The market is there’
The potential market for women’s travel is large. Seventy-five percent of all travel decisions are made by women, and 40% of women ages 40 and older are single, divorced or widowed, up from 20% a decade ago, according to Merenda.

“But the market is not just for the divorced or the single women – 50% of Gutsy Women’s market is married. More and more couples are two-income households. Many times, women’s husbands don’t have the same vacations as they do,” she pointed out.

“Also, women increasingly are professionals and in business; that means increasing numbers of business travelers are women, and they can extend their business trips. So the market is there.”

Security is the number one factor with women when they travel – value and security.
 
April Merenda, Gutsy Women Travel