“Single people always got the dodgy room.”
That’s how Liesa Bissett, product and operations director, at Just You - The Solo Travel Specialist, describes the all-too-frequent treatment of solo travelers. What’s more, passengers traveling on their own often have to pay a premium for a second-class experience.
“What we’re offering is the opportunity to be treated like the cream of the crop, not settle for second best,” Bissett said. UK-based Bissett was in Toronto for the launch of the new Just You products for the 2020 season.
The company was established 15 years ago in Britain, winning awards and popularity there before its acquisition by Canada-based G Adventures. Canada is the first international market for Just You, and has enjoyed triple-digit growth since its arrival.
“Our ambition is to make Just You global brand leaders in solo travel,” declared Bissett, confirming the company’s plans to expand into the U.S. in the coming year.
As Nick Roberti, national sales manager for Canada, for Just You - The Solo Travel Specialist, explains to advisors and agency partners, “Today, if you’re not serving solo travelers, you’re missing out on one of the biggest, growing niches in the travel market.”
Solo travel opportunity by the numbers
The statistics Roberti shared are eye-popping:
- 52% of adults in Canada (and the U.S. is similar) are single, separated, widowed or divorced.
- 40% of Baby Boomers have taken a solo trip in 2018.
- Just You’s research shows 85% of solo travelers are over 55, and even more are women.
- Over 80% of singles plan on taking two or more trips in the coming year – with over 20% planning on more than a whopping four trips in the next 12-month period.
That’s a phenomenal opportunity for travel advisors. But more than 60% of solo travelers book all the elements of their travel independently – even though over half are interested in an escorted tour for destinations they aren’t confident to book themselves.
Solo travel is different from a single traveler experience
Just You’s approach solves the pain points solo travelers have identified. This niche group of travel consumers is looking for single rooms/rates, and things like communal tables to facilitate social interaction.
“Everything we do is for the solo traveler,” says Roberti, beginning with a very unique pricing model of “no single supplement, but you still get your own room.”
Or as Bissett puts it, “Our solo groups allow you to travel together … but in comfort and privacy, where you can relax and enjoy other solo travelers when you wish, and have quiet time alone when you feel like it.”
Merit Travel’s Tracey Fletcher, senior director of product management and marketing, agrees: “Solo travel continues to increase in popularity. They want the freedom and flexibility to travel on their own but also want the safety, convenience and intimacy of a small group. Just You continues to offer new and exciting programs that our clients are looking for.”
Colton Chia, director of partnerships, at TPI Canada, values Just You’s niche expertise: “They create their itineraries specifically for solo travelers, and focus exclusively on understanding this client profile and what is important to them. This works well with our strategy to encourage highly specialized travel advisors.”
Redefining and selling to the solo traveler
“Solo travel doesn’t mean ‘single’ or ‘independent’ travel,” explained Roberti. “Just You’s tagline is ‘Solo Adventures Together,’ which really paints a picture. Many of our travelers are actually not single. They just might have different travel dreams or available time than their spouse, so they join us on tour with other like-minded solo travelers, and have the comfort of their own room at the end of the night.”
“We are so used to couples and families. But solo travel is about ‘me time,’ and ‘down time,’ for anyone who wants to get away on their own,” said Bissett. “It’s really about independent exploration, taking time to be away on our own, meeting new individuals, even if we are coupled and grouped back at home.”
“That’s where the future of travel lives,” claimed Roberti, who added, “We feel the trade has not been representing solo travel, and it’s really time.”
Just You helps advisors become Solo Travel Specialists, offering webinars about starting Solo Travel Clubs and helping advisors identify existing clients who may be interested in solo travel.
The company held two fams for Canadian travel advisors to experience specialized solo travel in 2019, to Italy and South Africa. Two more are planned in the summer of 2020, one to Croatia, and the other to Spain.
With 150 worldwide itineraries, Europe is Just You’s top-selling continent, and six of the seven new itineraries for 2020 add to their European collection, from Greece, Spain, Istanbul (“Turkey is back with a vengeance,” says Bissett); and “Ultimate Italy,” including Venice, Florence, Rome, Assisi, Cinque Terre, Siena, Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, and Mallorca. The seventh new itinerary is an intriguing “Uzbekistan and the Silk Route” in central Asia.
“Traveling on a solo tour is not what it used to be,” asserted Bissett, “Everything we do, we frame it for solo travelers, and the price is so competitive for solo travelers. Solo travel is simply one of the most exciting things happening in the industry today.”
“Between the big trends of solo travel and women travelers, there’s a huge opportunity for travel advisors,” said Roberti. “It’s time for them to capitalize on this market.”