Ahead of ABTA’s first Solo Travel Conference, we find out from Phil Harper at Lonely Planet why solo travel is growing and the importance of this market for travel businesses.
There’s no question about it, solo travel is more popular than ever. Every few months, we see new facts and figures demonstrating the growth in numbers of those choosing to travel alone. While it’s sometimes easy to scoff at statistics, the data does seem to bear the headlines out. More people of all ages, but particularly women and the over 50s, are choosing to head off to explore the world without a partner or travel companion.
The reason for this? Probably a number of things. Demographics are changing. Our population is older and more active than ever before. More people are single – whether divorced, widowed or just through personal choice – and have more disposable income and a desire to travel. It’s also more socially acceptable to travel as a single person, and travellers have more flexibility and opportunity to combine it with business trips abroad. Plus, the influence of Instagram on millennial travel is often cited, but what about the impact of social media on older generations, seeing their peers enjoying the freedom to travel and wanting to experience that for themselves?
Travel is also more accessible than ever before. Tour companies have broadened what they do, many tapping into this market and catering specifically to solo travellers with a desire to explore more of the world. For more confident travellers who want to go independently, the rise of budget airlines, low cost accommodation providers and growth of travel tech and the sharing economy make planning and embarking on a trip abroad easier than it ever has been. If you want to go to Rome on your own, you can book a flight, find an apartment, meet a local tour guide and plot your whole trip without leaving your home.
This is a boon for solo travellers, who have not always been such a focus for the travel industry. When Lonely Planet launched its new book, The Solo Travel Handbook, in January, we surveyed over 4,000 members of our global travel community. Over one in three of those said that they had felt disadvantaged by choosing to travel alone, be that through higher costs for things like travel insurance and accommodation, or for poor service in restaurants or other places.
At Lonely Planet, we’ve always believed that travel should be open to all, and made it our mission to serve travellers no matter what their background or budget. Whether a short break or longer journey, a group tour or travelling independently, the lack of a travel companion shouldn’t stop you embarking on your dream trip. Today’s solo traveller is just as likely to be a wealthy professional looking to spend money on a great experience as someone scrimping on the backpacker trail, while even those are just as likely to travel in a higher spending family group in the future.
While tour operators have long embraced solo travellers, it’s refreshing to see many other travel companies starting to do the same. Our survey also showed that 80% of our community have travelled solo at some point in life, and the same proportion plan to in the future, so it’s a trend that’s never been more relevant. Ultimately, we’re all solo travellers now.
ABTA’s Solo Travel Conference will be held in London on 21 June. To find out more, view the agenda and register, visit our events section.