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18 Aug, 2003

Women-Only Travel on the Rise

A recent issue of the Canadian Tourism Monthly magazine reported on two growing trends: Hard Outdoor Adventure and Women-Only Travel. Yep, you heard right — Women-Only Travel.


Next time you “take a weekend with the boys” you may find some unexpected company at your getaway location. Gender specific tours and travel packages are no longer just for men; women-only travel is catching on, and quickly!

With names like Chicks with Picks, Menopausal Tours or Call of the Wild, women-only travel is certainly not afraid to break from the norm. In fact, this is one of the main attractions: GoNomad Tours, one of many tour operators offering women-specific travel options describes the program as “the ultimate girls’ night out”, or “a sleepover party that includes adventure, good food, and even a massage!”

Gender-specific travel has grown in popularity at an astounding rate. In North America the number of women-only tour operators has risen by 230 percent in the past six years.

“Women now are more adventurous;’ adds Debra Ross of the Women’s Travel Network. “There are simply more single women, by choice, out there looking for people to share experiences with.”

“This is a growing niche market, especially among seniors, that many operators have not yet started to market;’ states Lynn Flury of Tourism Saskatchewan. Tours of this type offer women a way to take the holiday they want, and on their own timeline, because the majority of participants are single women.

Trips being offered run the gamut, from easy shopping trips, vineyard tours in Niagara to kayaking and mountain biking tours. The Adventure Travel Society, a Colorado based industry group, reports that 65 percent of all adventure travel trips are now booked by women.

“Business travel is increasingly common now for women. They are more comfortable travelling alone, and this gives them the opportunity to get exactly what they want;’ says Flury. The friendly and comforting atmosphere shared among women on these trips is one of the primary reasons for their popularity. “Once a woman takes just one trip, and experiences the warmth, comfort and the strong bonds that are forged, she will usually come again;’ adds Ross.

The summer of 2003 will see Nova Scotia play host to a Women’s Travel media marketplace and familiarization tour. The “fam” is only offered to female members of the media, and should provide a showcase for women’s travel in Canada.



One niche product of great interest to many Canadian outfitters and destinations is the hard outdoor adventure product. U.S. and Canadian markets for hard outdoor adventure were one of a series of activity-based market segments identified in the Canadian Tourism Commission’s new TAMS (Travel Activities and Motivation Survey) analysis.

In order to be classified as a Hard Outdoor Adventure Enthusiast, travellers must have taken a trip to experience adventure and excitement in the previous two years and must have participated in at least one high energy outdoor activity while on a trip (one of: mountain biking, rock climbing, white water rafting, scuba diving, dog sledding, ice climbing, hang gliding, bungee jumping, or heli-skiing.)

Some key findings from the Hard Outdoor Adventure reports:

  • There are approximately 15.7 million hard outdoor adventure enthusiasts in the U.S. and 1.6 million in Canada.
  • Among travellers with recent leisure travel experience in Canada, there were 1.3 million Canadians and 3.2 million Americans. Relative to other travel segments, a smaller proportion of American hard outdoor adventure enthusiasts have been to Canada than would be expected based on their market size so there is certainly room for growth.
  • Their relative youth, affluence and gender (largely male) characterize the Canadian and American Hard Outdoor Enthusiast markets for Canada.
  • Canadian hard outdoor enthusiasts are most likely to originate from Ontario, BC and Alberta and are under-represented among Quebeckers (relative to their population).
  • The U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean and to a lesser extent, Europe, are all strong competitors for leisure trips among Americans and Canadians
  • Outdoor activities with the greatest appeal to these tourists are those pursued during the warm weather months -mountain biking, hiking/ backpacking, wildlife viewing, fishing, canoeing/kayaking, rock climbing, scuba diving and white water rafting. About half of Canadian and two- fifths of American hard adventurers are also skiers.
  • Canadian hard outdoor enthusiasts have relatively narrow tourism interests relative to the comparatively wide-ranging interests of the corresponding American group. Fifty percent of American hard outdoor adventurers were also heritage enthusiasts and 45 percent were visual arts enthusiasts.
  • Different packaging and marketing strategies may be required on each side of the border to reach these outdoor-oriented tourists, based on differences in interests and overlap with other activity segments.
  • Canadian enthusiasts rated Canada significantly higher than the average Canadian. American hard outdoor adventurers however did not rate Canada as a destination for outdoor activities and as a place to experience adventure and excitement any higher than did the average American traveller. More effort may be required to bolster Canada’s image on these types of attributes.
  • Retention of the Hard Outdoor Adventure Enthusiast segment will become increasingly difficult as .the Canadian population becomes more highly urbanized, and most particularly, older. Also, the American population is expected to grow at a faster rate in southern states so it will become increasingly important to reach farther-away market segments.

While the actual rate of growth of this segment is expected to be positive over the next 25 years, it is going to grow at a substantially slower rate than it would have if the population structure were to remain the same. The industry may have to provide outdoor products with varying levels of physical exertion so that nature-based tourism businesses can continue to attract the energetic younger markets but also attract older travellers who may retain their interest in the outdoors but will require gentler outdoor experiences. .

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