Solo travel has joined the ranks of niche markets gone mainstream and travel brands would do well to pay close attention. Travellers from a variety of demographics are opting increasingly to go it alone – their reasons are rooted in a profound desire to transform themselves into someone stronger, more independent and more fulfilled. They’re daring, adventurous and interested in an immersive experience far from home, and they’re looking for travel brands that make them feel included.
Why they travel solo
Too much to see and do, no time to lose waiting around for a travel buddy! There are a few reasons solo travellers brave the great unknown in their numbers. For one thing, they don’t fancy pandering to the whims of travel partners with different interests, tastes and inclinations. Independence of movement and freedom of choice as to what, when and how to do it, are extremely important to them because they’ve got boxes to tick off their travel bucket list.
They’re inclined towards more authentic interactions with locals, which can be hindered if they’re accompanied by friends or relatives who prefer to keep to themselves and simply do on holiday more of the same thing they’re accustomed to doing back home.
They want the ‘discomfort’ outside their comfort zone because that’s where they learn what stuff they’re really made of.
Discovering self-reliance, flexibility and their own open-mindedness is empowering, making travel doubly rewarding.
Loads of travel clichés preach the value of finding oneself on a journey, reaching out to reach within. This is particularly important to women travelling solo.
The trend has been growing steadily over the last few years and we’re at the point where women are driving the current solo travel boom. Whether we attribute this to recent social movements around the empowerment of women and the spotlight on women’s issues, or if it simply boils down to the fact that more women are economically independent and able to travel, they are certainly keen to make their presence felt in tourism. According to TrekkSoft, there’s been a 50% increase in online searches for female solo travel and tours/activities. What are they finding?
Studies are indicating that apart from women featuring prominently, there are other demographics riding this wave. Millennials are ever-present but guess what? Baby Boomers with their fatter wallets are solo travelling too.
..more than 84% of people who go solo on holiday are between the ages of 51 & 70
What they seem to want ranges 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 do longer stays in order to get a proper taste of the destination and its local communities.
They generally prefer a less crowded alternative to the major tourist destinations where the locals are likely to be a lot friendlier and welcoming of visitors.
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 appetite for information?
In search of solo travel products
They’ll be looking at places where they can practice their hobbies or learn how to do something new – could be a craft, a language, a sport or other physical activity. It could be they want to give something back to the local community and contribute to the conservation of their environment. They may want to check out a festival or trendy event, and choose to use that as a kick-off point for the rest of their trip.
The hub and spoke travel option is particularly appealing because it enables the solo traveller to choose a location as a base from which to explore the 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 this solo traveller, male and female, of all ages.
Check out what some next generation backpacker hostels are doing: they’re offering style, cool amenities that invite socialising among guests and zero single supplement.
Some offer a retreat-style setting and activities like surf camps and art workshops, which bring guests into contact with each other, if they’re keen to engage with fellow travellers.
That’s right up the solo traveller’s alley – opportunity to meet and share experiences with other (solo) travellers, making friends along the way.
Some accommodation suppliers make provision for solo travellers to mingle by opening up entertainment nights to guest and public, with music, dancing and drinks specials. Others offer outdoors activities such as gardening and foraging, hikes or urban walking tours for guest groups. My favourites are the option of a large communal dinner table for all guests to share a meal together, in-house dancing lessons and free wine-tasting or pairing session held on-premises. That just sounds like a party!
Think of having small group excursions open to interested guests to explore natural, historical or cultural sites in your 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, ensure you’re the one empowering your guests with the information they need to do it on their own, and make provision for shuttle services at the very least. Remember they might feel rather vulnerable travelling on their own, so whatever you can do 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 go exploring and what areas to avoid, where’s good to go shopping without getting fleeced for being a foreigner, what cultural taboos to observe, apart from having the must-see’s pointed out.
Other value-adds to consider include wellness activities like yoga, meditation, reiki, massage and other spa treatments.
In essence, you want to be seen to offer such variety of options to solo travellers as to provide opportunities for both their introverted and extroverted moods or impulses.
And if you can soften the penalty that is the single supplement surcharge, you’ll earn your brand a healthy following of loyal solo clients.
Solo can you go
Figure out how you can adapt your offerings to accommodate the solo traveller because there are entire online communities, blogs and niche tour companies that specialise in solo travel, and a growing number of mainstream brands waking up to the trend. They’re talking and writing, social sharing and promoting, seeking out and selling travel products that are inclusive of solo travellers. Your website and brochure as your primary sales tools must feature images of singles enjoying your experiences as well as families and couples. You’d do well to create solo events and promote them on social media, making use of the existing solo travel communities to spread the word that your brand is solo simpatico.
Elicit some peer reviews and add these to your base content. On that score, info info and more info! Solo travellers need to know about your destination what you and the locals know, because if they do nothing else during the research, decision and preparation stages, they will need information for peace of mind, to be properly prepared.
Destination marketing serves your purpose and supports your business; so do your part and market those day tour options and activities available in your destination for good measure. Remember, it saves your prospective client from having to search around for the same information that helps describe the full experience your brand can ultimately offer an introduction to.
Finally, there’s a matter of service.
The kind of personal attention and TLC the solo traveller needs from you is to have someone from your company make contact with them prior to arrival, during their stay, and also afterwards.
This serves to reassure them that they’re valued and their needs have been acknowledged.
And as excited as everyone is about the women solo travel phenomenon, we should ensure we treat their male counterparts equally, because they’re somewhat concerned about safety, they’re also concerned with cost, and they’re definitely as concerned with the transformative travel experience.
There’s no destination in the world that’s exempt from the solo travel trend because there’s an adventure to be had just about anywhere, both urban and rural. Everywhere has the potential for rewarding and meaningful interactions with local communities; everywhere has wonderful cultural quirks worth learning about; everywhere has a space for peaceful introspection; everywhere has the time and place to host a party. And you have the means to create opportunities for the solo traveller to experience their personal adventures straight from the welcome mat of your own travel product.