Felicity Long
Felicity Long

I’ve often been amused by the notion that women’s travel is niche travel. That’s a pretty big niche. After all, we represent half the planet, make most of the travel decisions and represent the majority of the retail travel industry. 

What’s more, we are present across client types, traveling with our families, our female friends and even solo.

Related: WTTC Summit closes with a commitment to empower women in travel

Since we are clearly living in an era when women are making themselves heard in a wide variety of arenas, it occurred to me to wonder whether we will be strong drivers of a rebound in travel to Europe.

Who better to turn to for insight than Phyllis Stoller, president and founder of the Women’s Travel Group, a 2015 Travel Weekly Silver Magellan Award winner and longtime proponent of women-only travel?

Not surprisingly, Stoller was bullish on our role in European travel recovery. Based on her knowledge of her clients, the 29-year veteran advisor made a few generalizations about her reasons for optimism.

“First of all, women are the majority of international travelers. Senior women were the first in the Peace Corps, in the military and in the junior year abroad or $5 a day tour [segments],” she said.

In other words, the notion of being at the forefront of trends and movements is not a new one for many women, according to Stoller, who said that, even before the pandemic, senior women in particular seem to feel an urgency to get out there while they are still fit, recognizing that their opportunity for active travel is limited.

“Senior women have seen friends die from non-Covid illness and want to use this time,” she said, adding that Covid has only strengthened that resolve.

Many of her clients are single and have been living in pandemic-imposed isolation, Stoller said, noting: “Senior women were vaccinated early on and have less concern about technical issues like privacy related to the vaccine passport.”

Of course, not all of Stoller’s clients are seniors. In fact, they represent a mix of ages. Most fall in the 45-plus age range, but that range drops to 35 to 45 for less expensive and shorter trips. 

Group are multiethnic, multipolitical -- which Stoller described as “interesting” -- and hail from around the country and Canada. They represent a variety of professions, including teachers, judges and even travel writers, and many are still working. 

“An 80-year-old doctor with a 35-year-old nurse on a trip makes for fascinating conversations,” she said. 

She also has a whopping 90% repeat traveler rate, although she said newbies are always made to feel welcome and typically bond with other travelers quickly.

While Europe is lagging behind Mexico and a few other destinations for this summer, Stoller has sold out an Italy Cooking and Sightseeing for December, with a long waitlist. 

Interestingly, what I always think of as the standard big three -- Italy, England and France -- are still the most popular, with travelers for the most part looking ahead to 2022.

She is not currently booking Greece or Croatia, despite the willingness of those destinations to accommodate vaccinated travelers, speculating that just rolling out the welcome mat is not necessarily enough to woo travelers who might have their hearts set on going somewhere else.

“I don't think the headlines about [countries] opening are enough to change where women want to go,” she said. “They are looking ahead a few more months to where they really want.”

One off-the-beaten-track exception is Albania, which attracted her more well-traveled clients and has sold out.

To accommodate a new appreciation for social distancing, “We changed trips to include time in the countryside,” she said, adding: “Our clients seem happy to spend extra days solo in the city portion of trips.”

As a last piece of practical advice, Stoller reminds her clients that in addition to abiding by the entry requirements for European destinations, travelers from the U.S. should fill out the Federal Attestation Form, which is required at check-in before returning home.

The latest rules require that passengers obtain negative Covid tests within 72 hours of the return flight, although, as always, check for changing CDC guidelines and stay abreast of State Department advisories and the EU’s requirements and protocols.

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