Paul was 65 years old when his wife died unexpectedly. About the same time, Fran, also in her 60s, lost her husband. Both had been happily married, raised children and retired in good economic shape. Both had longtime friends in their communities.
But how they faced this traumatic time in their lives was quite different.
Fran continued with an active social life, volunteered at the library and visited as often as possible with her daughters. Within six months, she obtained her passport, and along with her single and married women friends, enthusiastically jumped on every group travel tour heading out of town. Within five years, she had visited much of North America and taken each of her daughters to an international destination.
In contrast, Paul immediately went into a depression. He lost touch with his married friends, and although in close touch with his adult children, he rarely visited them. Five years later, he was still in grief counseling. Sadly, it was Paul, also a travel-lover, who needed a group travel program in his life.
A Dilemma for Bank Directors
Sound familiar? Although Fran and Paul are real people, it would be a respectable bet that every experienced bank travel director is familiar with a Fran and a Paul.
What’s a bank director to do when an avid traveler like Paul drops out of sight after losing his spouse and suddenly becomes uncomfortable in mixed company? We’ve all heard about successful girl getaways where women flock together on shopping excursions, spa treatments and even adventures at dude ranches.
“Women, including widows, are often so adventurous,” said Pam Shyne, director of YesNorth Travel at Northway Bank in New Hampshire. “They’ll do just about anything and chat with anyone. I think it’s harder for men.”
So although a men’s getaway might have been a solution for Paul to come out of his shell, would he have gone on such a trip if it were offered? Is it possible for bank directors to sell trips designed exclusively for men?
“We tried to do it a few years ago to celebrate Father’s Day,” said Diana Thorson, director of Premier Club at Merchants Bank in Winona, Minnesota. “We wanted to go to a baseball game, and sons and grandsons were invited. But it didn’t fly. You hear about young guys doing group stuff all the time together, but I just sense that at this age, men aren’t comfortable.”
Thorson admitted that she makes an extra effort to reach out to the “Pauls” in her group. “I have one man that I’m working on. He and his wife were big travelers with us. I have another man who lost his wife this spring, and he has come on one of our trips since,” she said.
“However, unlike women who are alone, I feel the need to call men and gently remind them we’re still here and invite them personally.”
Christine Detrick spent 30 years as a bank travel director and now leads Custom Made Destinations out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Although she never hosted a men-only trip, she has designed many excursions that were especially attractive to men.
“With men like Paul in mind, we have had many behind-the-scenes tours from a company that makes fishing equipment, boat motors and even guided tours through the locker rooms and trophy rooms and more at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma,” she said.
“Sports and all things sports are big time here as they are in so many places. These trips were big hits with all the guys, and a few women typically came along. Train excursions are also really popular with men. I’ve had lots of success with single men, including widowers, traveling with me. But I do agree that much rests on the club director’s shoulders when it comes to assuring and encouraging these men. Indeed, the club director has to make those friendly phone calls to keep them updated and emphasize the fact that there will be other single guys.
“More than anything, you have to make sure that they know they are welcome,” she said. “Personal contact with any grieving club member is always a way to keep the door open for their participation.”
Although all-men getaways may not currently be a viable option for bank travel programs, an invitation to be on an advisory board to help plan future trips and events would be especially effective in engaging single men. Once they become comfortable with other group members around the board table and know they have a voice in picking and planning travel, folks like Paul can feel more at ease on a group tour.