Recommend’s annual June issue says “I do” to destination weddings & honeymoons, with most of the features focusing on this market segment, but what about the journey of falling in love with oneself? Solo travel is showing an upward climb in popularity and what better way is there to re-engage with our own souls than by traveling alone to experience other cultures and meet new people, so we decided to put a spin on traditional love and dedicate the monthly Travel Talk column to this growing market segment.
According to travel agents surveyed for Recommend’s Travel Trends Survey, whose findings were published in the May issue, solo travel is gaining traction, with more clients than in previous years requesting this type of travel. Leigh Barnes, regional director for North America for Intrepid Group, has also seen a growth for this segment.
“We have seen 24 percent growth in solo trip bookings in 2017, with 40 percent growth in solo travel over the past five years. We estimate that 50 percent of our 150,000 annual travelers are solo.” He adds that, “Results of a recent survey commissioned by Intrepid Travel confirmed the increasing popularity of solo travel. The survey of 2,000 American travelers, conducted by OnePoll, showed that four in 10 Americans have traveled solo, and 75 percent feel it is easier to do so than it was 10 years ago.”
Insight Vacations has also seen an uptick in solo traveling. “The solo travel [market] has been a steady booking flow, and more and more people are enjoying the independent travel,” says Jon Grutzner, U.S.A. president of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold.
Why & Who
Reasons for traveling sans companion as reported by Intrepid’s survey include no pressure to do certain activities, it’s easier to meet new people, and their friends don’t have the same time off. In Recommend’s survey, agents note that their clients are booking solo trips because they want a totally relaxing vacation where they can do whatever they desire and un-plug from their life, while others note divorce as the reason guests are traveling solo. Grutzner adds, “It’s a great way of meeting people and making new friends. That’s what’s great about these trips. If you want your time alone, you certainly can be. We have solo travelers who have been on their 10th trip with us.”
According to Barnes, 70 percent of their solo travelers are female. Jacob Marek, founder and chief explorer for IntroverTravels, agrees saying that, “I find that the majority of solo clients tend to be women, citing safety as their number one concern. Many of these clients are also very career-focused and have limited time, so their budgets are a bit higher and several have told me that they no longer ‘wait around’ for their friends to commit.”
Top Destinations & How to Book
“There are plenty of great destinations for solo travelers,” points out Marek. “From a business perspective, though, I find it best for travel advisors to focus on destinations that can seem challenging for an individual to do online themselves or with a guide book. I focus on places that are farther away, more challenging to plan on one’s own, and where there is a higher probability for error—places where solo travelers find comfort in hiring a travel agent. Some destinations that are perfect for solo travelers include Eastern Europe and Iceland, South America (Patagonia and Peru come up in discussion a lot), and Southeast Asia.”
Though solo travelers are taking these trips alone, there’s no need for them to be isolated. Marek suggests travel agents “encourage their solo clients to find ways to incorporate social elements into their trip. Some perfect small-group activities include cooking classes, bicycle or horseback tours, and hot air balloon rides. Individually, these types of activities could be prohibitively expensive, but they’re a great way to have an incredible experience and socialize a bit, too.”
Marek points out that agents need to put themselves in their client’s shoes, “even if you’re not a solo traveler yourself. You’ll want to consider ways to make the trip feel personal for them and add in elements of socialization. And because solo travelers often struggle with getting themselves in the photo, I would also suggest doing a Flytographer session or finding a local photographer. It’s a great way for solo travelers to get some envy-worthy photos of them in action, without the classic ‘forearm-in-selfie shot.’”
Insight Vacations: insightvacations.com/us/special-offers/solo-traveler-savings
Intrepid Travel: intrepidtravel.com/us/about/solo-travel