As travel has rebounded after the difficult years of lockdown that we all experienced, the solo travel niche, in particular, has ramped up and solo travelers are booking travel again with excitement. Furthermore, lucrative bucket-list trips are a top priority for them.
“Many of the people in my database have been cautious and wary about travel overall until now,” says Sherry Janes, a travel advisor and owner of Sarasota Singles Society, LLC. “With the interruption in travel over the past couple of years, I really didn't know what to expect for 2023 and 2024. However, I find that many are eager to make plans now to travel for longer periods of time and to more remote destinations, like they have in the past.”
Dana Daza, CTC, MCC, DS, owner of Warren Place Travel, and a specialist in selling solo travel, concurs: “Singles are no longer waiting to find a companion to travel with. They’re going by themselves, and booking more since travel opened up after COVID.”
What solo travelers want
When we asked solo travel experts what solo travelers most want in their travel experiences, Cindy L. Chambers, CTC, CIE, VTA, owner/partner of Beyond Group Travel Inc. said: “Solo travelers are no different in wanting the same experiences, with a few differences, including security, safety, and the ability to connect and meet others who are passionate about travel.”
As for trends, Chambers notes that “solo travelers are ready to take the plunge with or without friends. They are more flexible in how they travel, and they are really committed to completing their bucket lists. We are seeing a huge increase in expedition travel via a cruise to remote areas and expedition travel that offers true experiential opportunities.”
Daza is also seeing more singles traveling on bucket-list trips. In her book of business, soft adventure is hot right now, including trips to the Galapagos and the Antarctic. She has also seen that cruises are popular with singles - to everywhere from the Caribbean to Europe and South America, and river cruises. The main reason is that “cruising as a single isn’t scary.”
Dealing with the single supplement
Janes pointed out that the most important thing for travel advisors to keep in mind regarding solo travel is the single supplement that travel vendors charge when individuals wish to book their own space. The single supplement is often 200% of the double occupancy per person fare, making the cost of solo travel prohibitive.
However, travel vendors, and especially cruise lines, are becoming more interested in appealing to this segment of the market by offering sail dates (often in the shoulder seasons) with a reduced single supplement.
Booking singles in groups
Here’s an interesting twist to consider when promoting solo travel: Book individual travelers in groups with other singles. Janes has mastered this niche within a niche.
“There are many travel clubs for singles that specialize in organizing trips for singles and matching them with roommates,” Janes explains. “They serve a purpose as people who travel with these groups either can't afford to travel otherwise or spending money on travel is not a high priority.
“I founded an upgrade event club for singles offering cultural as well as social activities, which attracted many retired professionals who otherwise would not have attended a singles event. At some point, I realized that I had enough people in my database to offer group travel to - what I most desired to do. From there, I built my modest travel business. I typically organize three international trips a year, and sometimes four, if something pops up that I can't resist.”
Janes goes on to explain: “I personally need other people to share the memorable experiences with when traveling to fully enjoy them. For the most part, the people I attracted through my singles event club had recently lost their partner and were seeking people in general to help recreate their lives.
“When I launched my travel business, these people were very responsive because they were accustomed to traveling with their partner and were not comfortable traveling alone. I organize every aspect of our travel to make it as comfortable as possible for them. I send a car to their home to take them to the airport, where I am waiting to accompany them throughout the entire journey.
“The bonding that takes place amongst my group on every trip is amazing. We all share dinner together every evening, and members of my group find other people in the group that want to do the excursions that they're interested in doing. They say that they enjoy traveling with the group because it is less stressful than traveling with a friend who might wish to dine at a different time, prefer different excursions, etc.”
A few more tips
For travel advisors interested in developing a solo travel specialty, the experts we interviewed offered these tips:
1. Understand that the qualifying process is the same whether the travelers are a couple, a solo, or a family. Except solos need more handholding. Be available to answer questions. Give them your cell number. Know that a confident solo traveler is a happy traveler.
2. Offer two or more travel options, so the solo traveler can really make their own decision.
3. Assure solo travelers that they will be taken care of. Arrange transfer drivers to meet them at the airport or take them to their hotel or ship. Remind them that it is easy to meet people, make new friends, dine together, and take shore excursions together with other guests on cruises.
4. Talk in advance about emergency plans. Let them know if their flight is delayed, the airline will put them on the next flight. Provide the phone number for the transfer company, just in case they can’t find each other. Remind them to behave as they would at home, such as if they don’t feel safe walking out alone at night at home, avoid that when traveling as well.
5. Always suggest that solo travelers buy travel insurance.
6. Choose a few vendors as your preferred travel partners. They will come to know the type of travel you book. Regional sales managers will appreciate the repeat business and extend any additional perks they are able to offer.
7. Get out there and experience the travel that you book for clients, so you can provide them with first-hand knowledge. Or short of taking the actual trips, read all you can and connect with your preferred vendors to help train and support you.
The solo travel market is robust and growing. There is money to be made, as well as the fulfillment of knowing that you helped make travel dreams come true for people who might have otherwise been hesitant to travel alone. Might this be your next travel specialty?
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