What do women want? Travel options Feminine: Women traveling alone or with other women make up a growth market.

For a few blustery days in late October, they gathered in Lodi, Calif., from across the United States to show that a woman's place is in the home -- as long as it can be parallel-parked.

Indeed, the first convention of RVing Women, billed as "women's history in the making," was perhaps the only event where one could learn cross-stitchery, self-defense and basic diesel mechanics all in one weekend.


Pat Montague cruised up from Huntington Beach, Calif., in a 24-foot Robin Hood motor home to join 600 sister enthusiasts for the occasion. She credits the 4,000-member club with helping her into the driver's seat after her husband died in 1993.

Women-only travel, long the stuff of bus tours to distant shopping malls, has quickened its pedestrian pace and is moving into the fast lane. Rising incomes, delayed marriage, divorce and longer life spans have produced a burgeoning number of women with the means to see the world, but without husband or family to accompany them.


Now, more than 100 companies are designing trips exclusively for sister travelers, often to locations well off the beaten path.

Outfitters with names such as Woodswomen and Dirt Roads and Damsels are taking women into the wilderness to climb mountains, shoot the rapids, cast fly rods and learn other outdoor skills in a supportive environment.

Other tour operators are focusing on women's art, history, culture, even religion.

These include the coming "Goddess Tour" of Hawaii and the English "Wicca/Druid Spiritual Adventure" offered by women-owned Earthwise Journeys of Portland, Ore.

Women hitting the road alone or in the company of other women accounted for 238 million trips in 1995, according to D.K. Shifflet & Associates, a McLean, Va.-based travel research firm.

Lynne Sorensen, a professor of tourism at Canada College in Redwood City, Calif., has watched the demographic shift transform the face of eco-tourism and adventure travel during the past decade. An adventurer setting out for the rain forest or veld today is most likely to be a college-educated woman over 40 traveling without a mate, Sorensen's research shows.

She said, "They represent an incredibly powerful market segment. And it's only going to grow."

Enter companies specializing in women-only travel.


Although only a fraction of the $440 billion U.S. travel trade, these enterprises are tailoring their products to partnerless women, and winning a growing following among consumers such as 60-year-old Adela Cruz of San Antonio, Texas.

Divorced with grown children, Cruz found herself heading toward retirement and longing to see a bit of the world. An inexperienced traveler, she was leery of going alone or hanging on the sidelines of a conventional group tour. Last year, she worked up the nerve to join nine strangers at Yosemite for a cross-country skiing vacation organized by Groton, Mass.-based Outdoor Vacations for Women Over 40.

Since then, the retired nurse practitioner has attended wilderness survival school, camped in the Grand Canyon, gone scuba diving off Australia's Great Barrier Reef and is planning a trek in Nepal.

Pub Date: 11/24/96