Guys out for more than weekends

By Published on .

Guys live for their vacations.

From a weekend in Las Vegas to fly-fishing in Canada, trips to a fantasy baseball camp or a luxury cruise on a $315,000-a-week yacht, male-oriented travel has become an eclectic mix of destinations serving adventure- and pamper-seeking souls alike.

Interest is growing in "guys' kinds of vacations," says Peter Yesawich, chairman-CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, an Orlando agency specializing in travel and tourism. But not just stereotypically male getaways-and not for the expected reasons.

Destination spas and resorts are reporting increases in male visits, he says.

Loews Hotels is taking a distinctly metrosexualized approached with its national "Metro Man" promotion, which offers fine dining, etiquette and wine lessons, and consultations with a personal shopper. The "deluxe" edition includes waxing, a facial and dental bleachings.

bringing life back in balance

Increasingly, men aged 25-44 are seeking adventure travel and spa outings alike not as much to test their limits as to relieve stress, improve their health or "pursue bringing life back in balance," Mr. Yesawich says.

A surprise to this veteran travel researcher is how males are tying vacations to family experiences. "There's a yearning on the part of all adults for more family-oriented time," he says.

From serving the extreme traveler to the security-conscious family man, today's getaways suit a variety of travelers, says Bruce Wallin, executive managing editor with Robb Report. The magazine "For the luxury lifestyle" has profiled, and run ads for, helicopter skiing launched from a 200-foot yacht off British Columbia, custom global itineraries delivered from aboard chartered jets, and golfing in Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic. Golfer Greg Norman for $315,000 a week charters his 228-foot yacht, Aussie Rules, which includes a 42-foot fishing boat, tenders, wave runners and surfboards.

"Some people may throw the kids in the car and drive across the country," Mr. Wallin says. "Others throw the kids in a chartered jet for a week in Africa."

corporate planning

Junkets remain desirable among individuals and corporate planners, says a spokeswoman with Abercrombie & Kent, which owns the Private Retreats chain of exclusive resorts. Abercrombie has run advertising junkets and corporate incentive travel to sites ranging from the Colorado River to African safaris.

There's a maxim in the adult travel market that says, "The woman proposes, the man disposes." Meaning: With couples, it's typically the woman's decision that drives the vacation, and the man agrees. Destinations, like South Florida, typically try to offer a blend to suit different guests' desires, says Bruce Turkel, executive creative director with Turkel, a Coconut Grove, Fla., ad shop. Working for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mr. Turkel's agency has sought both men and women with ads in Details, Maxim, GQ and Sports Illustrated.

In Miami, Tinsley Advertising promotes the Monroe County Tourist Development Council and its Florida Keys & Key West brand with ads designed to pique a variety of outdoorsy interests, says Creative Director Russ Slaughter.

The ads often feature men in need of a Keys getaway. One ad, targeting the business executive and travel planner, shows an executive in business suit and swim fins holding a sign that reads, "Bring your other suit." Another shows a fisherman on the bow of a boat, with the headline: "Your fly is down and you couldn't be happier." Another promotes the family experience, with a father and daughter holding hands, and fishing rods, on a dock. The ads are running in Saltwater Fisherman and Southern Living. The venue depends on the target.

'sometimes they're dad'

"Sometimes men are men," Mr. Slaughter says, "and sometimes they're dad."

Fishing is fine, but apparently some affluent males dig speed. Skip Barber Racing School has been a lure for upstart racers as well as wealthy business owners, professionals and "lifetime hobbyists" with the discretionary time and income to afford $1,000 for a weekend racing course, says Andrew Torres, manager-consumer marketing.

"These are fun, but they're expensive," he notes, adding that this "hobby" can easily run $30,000 a year.

In fact, sponsorships with DaimlerChrysler's Dodge, BFGoodrich Tires and Shell Oil Co.'s Quaker State motor oil help keep the consumer cost down, he says. A grandstand of past drivers keeps the buzz alive, and word-of-mouth is Skip Barber's strongest marketing support. Though the school's in-house marketing department creates many of the ads, some come from boutique Creative Partners in Stamford, Conn., and run in Sports Illustrated, AutoWeek, Road & Track and Car & Driver.

Cross-promotions with flying and pilot associations pull strongly for the company. Pilots and drivers both are studious and dexterous, Mr. Torres says. Besides, "Speed is speed and both cost money."

Come 2005, Skip Barber likely will have a booth at the Adventures in Travel Expo, an annual event held at New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. With 3,000 travel trade attendees, 22,000 consumers and scores of exhibitors, the inaugural show last January made promoters bullish on American consumers' desire for experiential travel, says Jim Cohen, executive director of the expo.

More than hyping with brochures and posters, National Geographic Adventure held a training course for digital photography at the Adventures in Travel Expo. Outfitters set up rock climbing walls, kayaking sessions or scuba dives-on site.

"People want to touch and feel the experience," says Mr. Cohen, 39, a Manhattanite prone to mountain biking outside the city on the weekends. "The nature of the show is people who come, want to get involved. Life's an adventure. A lot of people look at it that way."

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