Demand for solo travel is soaring. Katie McGonagle reports on how to tap into the trend
When you hear the occasional whisper of an uplift in bookings within a particular market, you might take note of the trend and keep an eye on it in future. But when an entire industry is united in reporting record rises across multiple demographics, it’s time to stop watching and start taking action.
That’s exactly what escorted tour operators are saying about solo travel, which – after years of steady growth – has been super-charged by the upturn in demand post-pandemic.
Touring and adventure aggregator Tourhub and sister brand TourHound, which features more than 700 suppliers worldwide, have seen solo bookings increase to 46% of transactions this year, compared with just over a third in 2022. And it’s not just a numbers game – the data shows that solo travellers are more likely to be repeat bookers, more interested in long-haul or niche tours, and bring in more revenue per passenger than standard bookings.
There’s no doubting that solo travel is on the up, but which destinations are most popular, how can you reach this growing market and what pitfalls should you avoid along the way?
Who's Going Solo?
Solo travellers are a significant market for group tours, with most key trade-facing operators saying they represent anything from a fifth to three-quarters of customers. Some offer solo-specific ranges or dedicated departures, while specialists are aimed exclusively at single travellers.
Women account for most solo bookings across all ages, with Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Exodus Adventure Travels and Explore saying they make up between 66% and 69% of solo travellers.
Saga’s 2023 travel trends report, meanwhile, found women over 50 were twice as likely to want to travel alone than their male counterparts
Joanna Reeve, head of business development and partnerships for Intrepid Travel, says: “More than 65% of our solo travellers are women. Women often choose a small-group adventure because it gives them the safety net of a local guide and a ready-made group of friends. The pandemic spurred people to get out and see the world and not let anything hold them back.”
Where are Solo Travellers Going?
Newmarket Holidays released a Solo Traveller Collection featuring 25 trips. This included 20 classic tours with no-single-supplement departures and five solo-only itineraries, in Sicily, Scotland, Croatia, Kenya and India.
Riviera Travel has expanded its solos programme from 30 dedicated departures this year to 50 in 2024, adding Helsinki, Tallinn & Riga and Ecuador & the Galapagos itineraries.
Wendy Wu Tours added dates for solo tours to Japan, China and the Mekong after posting a 48% increase in solo bookings from January to August compared with the same period in 2019.
Tours to off-the-beaten-track destinations also sell well with this market, especially areas that are challenging to explore independently
Intrepid’s Pakistan Expedition and Jules Verne’s Peaks & Petroglyphs trip to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are among new, solo-friendly trips for 2024.
What's Activities Attract Solos?
Exodus Adventure Travels reports that its walking and culture-focused trips are the biggest hit with single travellers, while Explore says its walking and cycling tours account for 40% of solo traveller bookings.
Many operators offer room-share options with same-sex guests to avoid single supplements, but some are targeting solo travellers by dropping or reducing these surcharges.
Cosmos is waiving single supplements on selected tours in Europe and North America next year for bookings made by 31 July, including the itineraries that are most popular among solos.
With trips tailored to those going it alone, touring is set to benefit from this spike in demand – and if you aren’t tapping into this market already, it’s time to get involved.