Solo travel has joined the ranks of niche markets gone mainstream and travel brands should pay attention! The reason so many travellers from different demographics are opting to go it alone is rooted in a profound desire to transform. They want to be stronger, more independent and fulfilled. They’re daring, adventurous, keen on immersive experiences far from home, and they’re looking for travel brands that make them feel included.
Why travel solo?
Too much to see and do, no time to wait around for a travel buddy! One reason solo travellers brave the great unknown in their numbers is that they don’t fancy pandering to the whims of travel partners with different interests, tastes and inclinations. Independence of movement and freedom of choice of what to do, when and how, are extremely important to them because they’ve got a travel bucket list boxes to tick off.
They’re inclined towards authentic interactions with locals, which can be hindered by the company of friends and relatives who’d rather keep to themselves or do on holiday more of the same thing they’re accustomed to doing back home.
The ‘discomfort’ outside their comfort zone helps them learn what stuff they’re really made of.
Opening the mind, discovering flexibility and self-reliance, is very empowering, and makes travel doubly rewarding.
The value of finding oneself on a journey, reaching out to reach within, is a travel cliché particularly important to women travelling solo.
Growing steadily over the last few years, we’re at the point where women are driving the current solo travel trend. We can attribute this to recent social movements around female empowerment and the spotlight on women’s issues, or to the simple fact that more women are economically independent and able to travel. According to TrekkSoft, there’s been a 50% increase in online searches for female solo travel and tours/activities. What are they finding?
Studies indicate that apart from women featuring prominently, both the ever-present Millennials and Baby Boomers with their fatter wallets are riding this solo wave.
..more than 84% of people who go solo on holiday are between the ages of 51 & 70
Their interests range from wellness, relaxation and pampering, off-beaten track adventures favouring hiking, mountain climbing, cycling and horse riding, to food experiences in quaint towns, spiritual upliftment and reflection. They’ll happily do solo road tripping to reach their desired experiences and they’re inclined to stay longer to get a proper taste of the destination and its local communities.
They prefer a less crowded alternative to the major tourist destinations where the locals will likely be a lot friendlier and welcoming. They’ll search for their ideal destination by the experiences that interest them most. Consider what you’ve published online about your travel products: is it enough to satisfy their specific appetites?
In search of solo travel products
They’ll be looking for places to practice their hobbies or learn something new, like a craft, a language, a sport or other physical activity. Some are keen to give back to the local community or contribute to conservation efforts. They may want to attend a festival or trendy event, and use that to kick off the rest of their trip.
The hub and spoke travel option is particularly appealing because the solo traveller can choose a base location from which to explore surrounding areas. That could be your destination and you could act as home base… The way you package and present your offerings within the broader draw card of your entire destination must be inclusive of solo travellers, male and female, of all ages. Kudos to you if you’ve already dropped the single supplement! That’s how to earn your brand a healthy following of loyal solo clients.
Some next generation backpacker hostels offer facilities that invite socialising among guests. In a retreat-style setting with surf camps and art workshops, they bring guests into contact with each other.
Some accommodation suppliers open up entertainment nights to guests and public, with music, dancing and drinks specials, or they lay large communal dinner tables for guests to share meals together, providing opportunities to mingle.
Others offer outdoors activities like gardening and foraging, hikes or urban walking tours for guest groups.
My personal favourites are free dancing lessons and wine-tasting or -pairing sessions held on-site. That just sounds like a party!
Think of offering small group excursions for your guests to explore natural, historical or cultural sites in the vicinity. Markets, local wineries, breweries, coffee roasters and tea rooms, galleries and fashion houses all hold interest. Cookery lessons from locals and street food stalls are a direct route to intimacy with your host community.
If you don’t have the capacity to offer excursions, empower your guests with the information they need to do it on their own, and at the very least help them to access transportation. They might feel vulnerable exploring on their own, so however you can help to make them feel safer will go a long way to marking your brand as their first choice.
Why not arrange for guides to conduct private excursions as a paid service to help guests orientate themselves upon arrival? Show them where is safe to explore and what areas to avoid, where’s good to shop without getting fleeced as a foreigner, what cultural taboos to observe, and what sites to must-see.
Wellness activities like yoga, meditation, reiki, massage and other spa treatments add value for the times your solo guest needs a bit of introverted down-time.
Solo can you go
It’s time to figure out how you can adapt your offerings to accommodate solo travellers because there are entire online communities, blogs and niche tour companies that specialise in solo travel, and mainstream brands are waking up to the trend. They’re talking, writing, social sharing and promoting travel products that are inclusive of solo travellers. Feature images of singles enjoying your experiences as well as families and couples in your website and brochure content.
Promote solo-friendly events on social media, using the existing solo travel communities to spread the word that your brand is solo simpatico. Elicit peer reviews and add these to your base content. Provide plenty of info, info and more info! Solo travellers need thorough knowledge about your destination – for them the key takeaway during the research, decision and preparation stages is to be properly prepared.
Destination marketing serves your purpose and theirs; and it supports your business. Do your part and promote any day tours and activities in your destination. Save prospective clients from having to search around for the same information you technically have better insight into.
Finally, there’s a matter of service.
The personal touch your solo traveller most needs from you is to have contact with them prior to arrival, during their stay, and also afterwards.
They want reassurance that they’re valued and their needs have been acknowledged.
And as excited as everyone is about the female solo travel phenomenon, we’d better treat their male counterparts equally. They are somewhat concerned about safety, they’re also concerned with cost, and they’re definitely just as keen on a transformative travel experience.
There’s no destination the solo trend won’t travel to because there are adventures waiting everywhere, urban and rural. Everywhere has the potential for rewarding, meaningful interactions with local communities; everywhere has wonderful cultural quirks to learn about; everywhere has space for peaceful reflection; everywhere is good for a party. And you can create inclusive opportunities for solo travellers to experience their personal adventures straight from your welcome mat.