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Going It Alone: The Rise of the Solo Travellers

Charlotte Gannon • January 29, 2024

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Travel trends for 2024 highlight the desire to travellers to immerse themselves in the culture of their destinations. But are travellers heading into the great unknown alone?

The number of people Googling ‘Solo Travel’ had doubled in 2023 compared to 2018. #solotravel has also seen a tenfold increase in the last three years on TikTok; while on Instagram the hashtag #solotravel has over 7.9 million posts . A 2023 Skyscanner survey found that 54% of respondents intended to ‘go it alone’ last year.

The solo travel market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1% between 2023 and 2030, the largest growth segment in the global leisure travel market.

So is this trend here to stay and if so how can tour, activity and experience operators make sure they are ready to offer ‘tickets for one’?

Solo travel trends from Google

The Emergence of Solo Travellers

Following the pandemic searches and bookings for solo travel have been increasing across the globe. Travellers are taking exploration seriously with 74% of travellers citing ‘I want to see the world and I don’t want to wait for others’ as the main reason for solo travel in 2022.

The pandemic may have had a role to play in the increase of solo travel with almost half of people surveyed saying that they want to make up for lost time. The New York Times found tour operators were seeing a 300% increase in solo travel bookings over couple or group tours after travel restrictions eased in 2021.

The Association of British Travel Agents said that in 2023 travellers had ‘ an appetite to go it alone ’ and tour operators such as Tourhub reported that solo bookings accounted for 46% of their business in 2023.

Why Tour Operators Should Pay Attention to Solo Travellers

Solo travellers present an exciting opportunity for tour, activity and experience operators with 9 out of 10 solo travellers preferring to take tours all, or some, of the time in 2022-2023. More than half the travellers surveyed also expressed a desire to take two or more solo trips in 2024.

One of the main motivations for solo travellers is to experience and immerse themselves in new cultures ( 47% ). Tour and activity operators can capitalise on this by offering guided tours, insights into cultural traditions and helping travellers uncover hidden gems.

A number of tour and experience operators are already reacting to this emerging trend . Operators have optimised websites to highlight the best tours for independent travellers, released ‘solo traveller’ tour collections and created off the beaten path solo-only tours (a popular theme among this traveller group).

Solo travellers are also a great group to target for off-season bookings helping you to avoid booking dips. 65% of solo bookers prefer to travel outside of peak travel windows to avoid crowds and where possible to keep costs down.

Solo travellers are opting for longer trips

How Can Operators be Ready for Solo Travellers

In 2023, 57% of solo travellers said they want to travel ‘to do what they want, when they want’. Tour operators should ensure they are offering last minute and flexible bookings to cater to travellers who aren’t following a strict schedule.

Tours and experiences may have included solo-traveller supplements for options that were intended for two or more travellers. Where possible, solo traveller pricing options without additional supplements should be added to portfolios in a bid to attract potential customers. Skift highlights that solo travellers are spending more for tours and activities but are adverse to single-traveller supplements.

IcelandAir is one example of how tour and experience operators are focusing marketing efforts on solo travellers. Along with boasting about the country’s abundance of experiences: Northern Lights, thermal pools, whale watching and the cultural Reykjavík; they also focus on the country’s record as the safest place in the world . With women being the largest demographic of solo travellers and their main concern being safety , IcelandAir have successfully used customer behaviours to tie into their marketing strategy.

Operators should optimise content for tours and activities intended for solo travellers. Including images of solo travellers making friends, adding information that addresses solo travellers concerns in descriptions and where possible add a selection of longer multi-day tours to their portfolio as they are popular with these travellers.

Conclusion

Solo travel is a trend that appears to be here to stay with travellers wanting to explore the world. Experiences that offer flexibility, inclusivity and cultural exploration are going to remain popular with solo travellers for the year ahead.

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