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Go it alone: solo trips on the rise as travellers opt for ‘me time’

The Guardian logo The Guardian 09/10/2018 Antonia Wilson
Solo traveller in Dolomites, Italy © Getty Solo traveller in Dolomites, Italy

Solo travel is on the rise as a growing number of holidaymakers opt for trips that allow them to “do what they want”. Around 15% of travellers took a trip on their own in the last year, according to the Association of British Travel Agents’ (Abta) 2018 holiday habits report. The figure is up from 12% last year and 6% in 2011.

The age range that showed the biggest increase was that of 35-44 year olds, with more than 16% taking a trip alone: the figure for 2017 was just 5%. Having the opportunity to do whatever they wanted was the most common reason given by three-quarters of people surveyed in all age groups, while taking time out and meeting new people have become less important, according to the report.

The upward trend over the last decade is attributed to improved technology and a growing number of apps (alongside social media) that enable travellers to navigate the world with more ease and confidence alone: from instant language translation, free global messaging and other roaming options, to apps that connect people with other solo travellers or local hosts for dinner, tours or a bed for the night.

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“Going on holiday by yourself means you don’t have to compromise on your choice of destination, your itinerary or the activities you take part in,” said Mark Tanzer, chief executive for Abta. “Travel companies have responded to demand by offering a range of options for people booking by themselves.”

Tour operators that have increased the number of trips targeted specifically at solo travellers include Intrepid Travel, which doubled its offering of independent trips this year and says “solos” now represent 50% of its customers. Its small group tours for solo travellers aim to offer a “ready-made group of friends”. 

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Independent travellers also make up half of adventure tour operator Explore’s customers – which prompted it to scrap its single occupancy fees on more than 60 of its group trips running in June. Other travel companies offering tours for independent travel and group trips include G Adventures, STA and Saga.

Abta reported that, overall, the number of British people taking a holiday remained high, with 86% of respondents taking a holiday at home or abroad in the 12 months to August 2018 (it was 87% in 2017). Package holidays saw a minor drop, though remain a popular choice for holidays abroad (49%, down from 51% last year). City breaks were still the most popular type of trip: 48% of those surveyed having taken one this year, closely followed by beach holidays (40%).

Meanwhile, VisitBritain revealed that its 2020 target of 40 million inbound visitors will be met two years early. It now expects 40.9 million people to visit in 2018 (up from 39.9 million in 2017).

Despite the positive figures from Abta, the British tourist authority chairman Steve Ridgway’s response had a note of caution, in light of Brexit:

“We face a number of significant challenges – the most important, the UK’s departure from the European Union. While we address the initial fluctuations in currency and EU worker concerns, we soon will need to deal with the longer-term realities. We want to ensure that the future relationship keeps our borders as frictionless as possible for visitors, our aviation as connected as ever and our economic stability on track – because tourism depends on this.”

Gallery: Best solo travel destinations in Europe [StarsInsider]


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