Dallas-based travel agent Ralph Iantosca didn’t originally intend to get involved with girlfriend getaways. But back in November 2005, he was hunting for a niche that would set him apart from other travel agents. “I wanted to go into a part of the travel industry that was very deserving and underserved,” he recalls. “So I found myself drawn to women’s travel, and working with women-only departures.”

Girlfriend Getaway Resources 

Abercrombie & Kent, GoGirl.Travel’s preferred supplier, features numerous all-female getaways.

At the end of October, they will be offering a tour titled “Highlights of Egypt: Journeys for Women.” This introduction to Egypt visits Cairo's best-known sights and the treasures of the Nile on a four-night cruise aboard Abercrombie & Kent's luxury cruiser MS Sun Boat IV. Exclusive features include a private lesson on the art of belly dancing and a guest lecture by Egyptologist Manal Saad, whose current work involves bridging the gap between Western and Middle Eastern civilizations. Other features include a cooking class, henna painting, a complimentary spa treatment in Cairo and unlimited premium Egyptian wines, beer and soft drinks onboard. The trip starts at $6,995 per person, double occupancy, land/cruise only. Single supplement starts at $1,320 and internal air fees are $510.

In November, Abercrombie & Kent will offer “Wings Over Botswana: Journeys for Women,” which will take travelers into the wilderness of Botswana's remote Okavango Delta, an oasis in an otherwise water-starved land. The trip includes photographic tips from a professional photographer; a cultural tour in Maun that includes an interactive visit with members of a traditional village; game viewing at Chief's Camp in the Mombo Concession of the Moremi Game Reserve, known as the "predator capital" of Botswana; and the chance to view—and interact with—a trio of semi-habituated elephants. Guests can add an optional extension to Cape Town and the winelands, including a unique and rewarding visit to the Amy Biehl Foundation. The trip starts at $6,995 per person, double occupancy, with a single supplement of $350 and internal air fees of $1,364.

And so GoGirl.Travel was born in early 2006. After a while, however, he found the niche was not “very lucrative,” and began looking for ways to expand and increase the company’s revenue. “I realized that the woman I work with probably takes a romantic trip with her significant other, and also does a family trip,” he says. Rather than limiting the agency to girlfriend getaways, he realized, he could keep his deals focused on all facets of a woman’s travel needs: romance travel and family travel, as well as women-only travel.

“We’re in the travel industry, and it’s fun and it’s exciting, but I’m a business owner,” Iantosca says. “I look at this through the eyes of a business owner, so we want to be able to maximize our potential and earn some money. And for the agents who work with me— and work for me— my goal is to keep them here forever and earn a lot of money for them. So if I can teach an agent how to make three times what they make now without extending their clientele, it’s just a much better system: working smarter, not harder.”

The concept and website were both kept low-key until Iantosca could trademark and patent his idea. A full-service agency affiliated with several tour operators, GoGirl.Travel seeks to save women time with their travel planning, and help them find the locations that they and their companions can enjoy. “They spend so many hours on the Internet researching everything,” Iantosca says, “and then they call their girlfriends and friends to find out if they know anything about it, and they’re reading up on it—but they’re really insecure about their decision to book.”

Once the agency collects all the vital information from the client, he continues, they are able to put what he calls “a plan of action” in place for the client. “And the client loves that, because now they have something to look forward to, instead of something they dread, which is taking all the time to look something up.”

Not Cookie-Cutter Travel

GoGirl.Travel started out selling trips with Gutsy Women Travel, but Iantosca and his associates found that their Texas clients wanted something different. “We started to do custom touring,” he remembers, “and now we’re heading in a new direction with Abercrombie & Kent and their women-only journeys.” At the end of October, for example, Abercrombie & Kent will be offering a women-only trip to Egypt that is scheduled to include high tea with former First Lady Gihan El Sadat. They’re also doing women-only safaris for adventure seekers (see sidebar for more information). “There’s really not been a cookie-cutter pattern for women,” Iantosca says, then amends, “There’s never going to be a cookie-cutter pattern for women. That’s what makes it so exciting. They’re not going to do the same old thing.”

As an example, he says, women who want to stay closer to home and enjoy a more relaxing getaway can accompany GoGirl.Travel agent Mary Jo Jennings to a spa in Green Valley, UT. “They’re going to do hiking and [get] facials and all kind of different health programs,” Iantosca says. “We have a bunch of different kinds of programs. But everyone who comes in just wants to take some time off and get away.

“The future of girlfriend getaways will be a solid future for our agency,” Iantosca says. “I realize that all women need a break at certain points. Our country is one of the few countries in the world that have this mentality about women and support women. Our current Presidential election is proof that women can run the world. Regardless of financial times in the United States, it seems travel is not affected. Women are traveling together more than ever. We don't ever see an end to such a necessity.”

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