Tour Planner Finds Niche Market Success
Phyllis Stoller wanted to take a trip. As she began searching for various groups she could travel with, it was clear to her that something was missing: a market for women travelers. As a result, Stoller created one of the first women’s travel groups in the U.S., The Women’s Travel Club. Now, 18 years later, Stoller operates a business that is the price leader in affordable package tours for women and oversees all of the trips, which are designed by women for women.
Stoller is experienced when it comes to customizing trips to the women’s market. She knows what this rising niche of travelers wants – a no-surprise, inclusive vacation with a group they can get along with. “Women traveling, once they’re comfortable with the price and itinerary, want to know if the group will be small and if they will be accepted into it,” Stoller said. The Women’s Travel Club, based out of Bloomfield, N.J., tries to keep groups to an average of 18 people per trip. Stoller said her average customer is college-educated, working or have had a career, married or single and 45 to 65 years old.
One Hundred Women a Day
Like almost every successful entrepreneur, Stoller needed to start from the ground up and take the necessary steps to find the most important aspect of The Club – its travelers. Stoller began reaching out to people by gathering contacts anywhere she could find them – the neighborhood crime watch, the junior league, friends of friends, churches and more. She made herself a list and, from there, spread the word.
“I made myself a quota,” Stoller said. “I did not leave my desk until I called and contacted 100 women a day.” She set in motion a chain of events that eventually led The Women’s Travel Club to be recognized by people around South Florida. Women began showing interest, believed this was a great idea and wanted to help make it work, Stoller said.
By August 1992, Stoller had already run a couple trips and people were beginning to talk about it.
“I didn’t even know how to give a speech, but in the beginning I gave speeches to anybody who would listen,” Stoller said. “And I listened to my audience. I listened to their concerns and incorporated them into my speeches.” Stoller figured out her skills. She said acquiring skills needed to market towards a group is important; figuring out what one’s particular skills are and making those skills the focal point are tactics she believes works when promoting trips. “If your skills are painting, then try to start a traveling painting group,” Stoller said. “But use your own assets in your marketing and learn to do things. Learn to give a speech, learn to write an article.”
You Can’t Afford Not to Go
Now, Stoller isn’t making 100 calls a day but continues reaching out to travelers by talking to a myriad of people, making keynote speeches and attending events. Today, The Club’s marketing has escalated since it began working with Club ABC, a far-reaching travel company with a strong marketing department and buying power overseas.
From a recent study of various travel companies that cater to women, The Club’s prices are generally 35 percent less than other women’s tours. Trips include international airfare, four-and five-star hotels, sightseeing and regional meals. Membership is $39 a year; travelers have access to all of Club ABC’s trips and services. Because of Club ABC’s purchasing power, The Women’s Travel Club can offer affordable travel packages. Stoller said it’s the price of the trips that makes them so appealing. “I’m very dedicated to this and I feel that one of the benefits of being part of a big company is that you can offer tours to women who normally couldn’t afford them,” Stoller said. “I don’t just want rich women, I want women who love to travel. So I’ve always had my trips more affordable.”
Essentials for a Successful Women’s Trip
Phyllis Stoller, founder of The Women’s Travel Club, shares some pointers from her experience planning women’s travel groups:
- Try not to take more than 25 women.
- Get a vehicle that’s substantially larger than the size of the group.
- Don’t sacrifice hotel quality for location; if you can’t afford to stay at the four-star hotel, find one in a nice residential area – keep the quality in the residential neighborhood.
- Try not to take a hotel that’s enormous – go for a hotel with about 100 rooms and one with a small lobby. Gigantic hotels intimidate women who aren’t used to traveling.
- As the tour leader, introduce yourself and your group to the hotel staff, the guide and anybody else you will be dealing with.
- Meals are important – women are less interested in a three- or four-course lunch – a nice salad, great dessert and you’re done!
- Try to include a visit to a private home and avoid things that are obnoxious to women like belly dancing and makeup lessons.
- Try to have a guide that talks to the group like they have a brain upstairs.
For more information, visit The Women’s Travel Club website, www.womenstravelclub.com, or contact The Club by phone, (800) 480-4448, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
—By Nancy Wolens