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Where the Boys Aren’t

Selling ‘girlfriend getaways’

Girls just want to have fun. And shop.
And enjoy a relaxing massage. The popularity of estrogen extravaganzas
is good news for your travel agency:
girls-only vacations pack in big commissions.

Lauren Allen had a lot on her plate. The 27-year-old Magnolia, Texas, administrative assistant had just begun a new job—and was going through a painful divorce. Combined with caring for two small children, Allen longed for an escape.

So escape she did—to Boston, with over a dozen of her girlfriends, where they danced, went sight-seeing—some even got tattoos. “Being with friends, laughing, drinking and dancing was exactly what I needed,” Allen says. “The best time I had was back at the hotel room, with 15 of us all in one room in our PJs, laughing so much we cried.”

Girlfriend getaways: Get used to ‘em
Allen is part of a growing group of female travelers who book “girlfriend getaways,” leisure vacations free of the men and children in their lives. An American Automobile Association survey found that in the past three years, 24% of American women went on a women-only vacation, and 39% plan on a girlfriend getaway in the near future.

Given these numbers, you can expect girlfriend getaways to join the ranks of honeymoons, family vacations and all-men fishing trips as a leisure travel prototype. Especially because these experiences can be so rewarding, women say.

“Time away from your daily responsibilities benefits you, your spouse and your friends,” says Jean Harrison, 28, an aviation technician in Boston who has been on several girlfriend getaways.

A niche market
Underlining this new travel trend has been a 230% increase in the number of travel agencies specializing in girlfriend getaways, according to Marybeth Bond, author of 50 Best Girlfriends Getaways Worldwide.

This increase isn’t surprising, since not only is there more demand for girls-only travel, but women who go on girlfriend getaways are likely to be repeat customers. Lisa Barry, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom of four from Springfield, Illinois, makes spa retreats with her girlfriends an annual tradition. She also has a yearly “date” in Chicago with her best girlfriends.

Girls just wanna have fun … and shop … and knit
Within this niche market are even more specific niches. Diana Ford, owner of The Shopping Company in St. Louis, Missouri, plans shopping tours to London, New York City and Scottsdale, Arizona. There are also agencies that focus on girls-only adventure escapes, wine-tasting and knitting.

There’s even a tour organized specifically for “Sex and the City” fans.

But the pay off can be just as rich for mainstream travel agencies marketing girlfriend getaway packages. After all, the same women who book girls-only vacations will also plan family reunions, romantic getaways and other trips.

“The key is to let your customers know that you offer a wide array of options, from cruises to city retreats to specialized trips,” advises Carolyn Cauceglia, vice president of strategic sales, including the cruise and specialty sectors, for Amadeus North America.

What women really want
However you market girlfriend getaways, the important thing is to recognize that this trend is here to stay. A weekend with the girls is seen as a “necessity” by more and more women, the AAA study found.

“A girls weekend is a nice way to de-stress and escape my everyday, hectic life,” explains Cara Cormier, 30, a web developer from Richmond, Rhode Island. “It’s amazing how little ‘me time’ we have these days.”

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