Solo travel is a growing niche for travel agents as tour operators add solo options in response to burgeoning consumer demand.
Travel Market Report spoke with a pair of Ensemble travel agents who have increased their business by building solo group trips.
Jennie Mechanic, owner of The Travel Mechanic in Aiken, S.C., organized several group vacations after her neighbors told her they wanted to travel alone.
Suzanne Taskowitz, of International Travel Group in Key Largo, Fla., has focused on planning and leading women-only small group vacations.
How do you get started?
“That’s the beauty of living in a private community – the singles group gets bigger each year. In the past one of my group cruises would have been considered the ‘old ladies’ cruise,’ but it’s not that anymore. Our average age is probably 55.” – Mechanic
“I had several women approach me and say they love to travel, but have no one to travel with. I could relate to what they were saying because my husband won’t fly internationally.” – Taskowitz
What kinds of trips interest your clients?
“People are going on birding trips, African safaris and river cruises. A lot of tour companies are now addressing the singles market. We’re seeing it from G Adventures and some of the more upscale tour companies offer the option. They’re recognizing the opportunity of this viable market segment that’s not just old women playing mahjong.” – Mechanic
“I find that people love to travel with others who are like-minded, but women travel differently than men. Women like to meander and men like to be more focused. I always plan to immerse ourselves in the area. We always take public transportation, for instance, and shop at local markets.” – Taskowitz
How did you transition from booking solo trips to group trips?
“I will call the president of a local group and give a little talk about single travel. I show them some of the offers and options out there as an informational presentation. Instead of being the old fashioned order takers, we’ve really gone and sought out the group business.” – Mechanic
“Eventually we will rent an apartment outside of Paris for two to four weeks, and really live like the locals to absorb the culture of the area. My solo group maximum is a dozen travelers. This makes it very intimate and relaxing. And my clients like it that I’m there to escort them because a lot of women aren’t very seasoned travelers. A lot of my women are easily intimidated when they’re out of their comfort zone, but I have confidence when I travel.” – Taskowitz
What’s your advice for getting into this market?
“We have a singles group in our community, and I also present at a lot of consumer events. I really attribute our growth to that.” – Mechanic
“Down here in Key Largo I’m the only travel agency and I’m in a storefront, but I have clients from across the country. When the travel season starts we get good publicity. You want your clients to have a wonderful experience and come back ready to take on their responsibilities. In a way, it is very therapeutic for solo vacationers to travel.” – Taskowitz