Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Solo Travel, a Market Ripe with Opportunity

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Solo travel is a market ripe with opportunities with the industry just starting to get on board with special product and pricing.  The facts are clear. There are a lot more singles in the USA. Why? With the divorce rate hitting 53% and people living longer, which means more widows and widowers, people are spending more of their lives single. And then there are those who, though part of a couple, choose to go it alone because a partner doesn’t want an exotic trip, can’t get away at the desired dates, or needs a last minute break from a stressful job. In a Visa Global Travel Intentions Survey, in 2015 24 percent of people had traveled alone on their most recent overseas leisure vacation, up from 15 percent in 2013. With first time travelers, the numbers are even bigger – 37% in 2015 compared with 16 percent in 2013.

With these growing numbers, the travel industry is starting to take notice, and do something about it. Afar magazine devoted an entire issue to the topic and described companies that are getting on the “singles” bandwagon. Following Norwegian Cruises lead of offering studios and social lounges for solo guests without charging extra fees, small river cruise lines including Viking and AmaWaterways also got on board. Overseas Adventure Travel offers 50 no supplement tours and perks like roommate matching, making a serious statement about a commitment to single travel. And it has paid off – 40 percent of their guests come alone.

With a hint of whimsy, Four Seasons Safari Lodge in Tanzania has a Lone Ranger package that features working safaris and game drives with other solo travelers .

Probably the area where more hotels are catering to solos is in dining, with everything from a dinner -for -one menu and more communal style tables to special seating complete with reading material on request.

There’s so much more, though, that could be offered. How about hotel rooms designed for singles much as the cruise lines are doing? Or designating a month of traditionally low occupancy “solo” month where the supplement is waived? If you know of any other novel ideas, love to hear from you. Write me, Escalera@kwepr.com.

Solo Travelers, an Evolving Market

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The phenomenon of solo travelers has evolved. It’s no longer just the “single” — unmarried, widowed or divorced. And not only is this market segment growing, but it represents a large, untapped potential.

Solo travelers make up about 23% of all leisure travelers according to the U.S. Travel Association. And almost 40% of total travelers replied they would take a vacation by themselves if they had the opportunity, in a survey by MMGY Global.  So who is this new vacationer who is going alone? Men and women. With work schedules more demanding than ever, couples are having a harder time coordinating travel schedules. And in this age of special interest travel, often one member of a couple wants to go on perhaps a wellness holiday or go trekking in Bhutan and the other prefers to go golfing. With the tremendous number of tour offerings, finding a group, a price point and departure that suits, is easier than ever. And then there’s the traditional market of solo travelers — the unmarried, the widowed or divorced. With people marrying later, more getting divorced, and living longer, the numbers in these categories have soared.

All of this has major implications for hotels. As we all know, single supplements are a sore point among this group. What can be done? Why can’t hotels build more single rooms or I can see the potential in a hotel chain just with studio rooms — 3.5 or 4 star? Then there are new challenges in restaurants. As reported in an article in the Wall Street Journal, “ Your Dream Vacation: a Table for One and a Selfie”, Jason Moskal, vice president of lifestyle brands for InterContinental Hotels group and Hotel Indigo said the number of solo guests has risen by a double digit rate in the past 18 months. He said staffers are paying more attention to being up to date on local hot spots since independent travelers count more on the concierge desk.  How about dining? Solo travelers are no longer resigned to just ordering room service because they don’t want to go into a fine restaurant alone. So there also needs to be sensitivity training in how to treat a single diner — some like to engage with wait staff, chatting, and others prefer quiet time  .Founding Fathers restaurants in Washington D.C. coaches staff to convey ease to solo diners when they arrive, never pity. “We look for the personality in their eyes — someone who is there to engage will give you those clues,” said Dan Simons, a co-owner. They also sometimes offer free samples of popular appetizers and cocktails, showing they value their business.  Bar seating for restaurant meals works well, a personal favorite of mine as you can choose to engage with a fellow diner or not.

There also needs to be sensitivity to language. The word “single” doesn’t work since, as mentioned, many are not “single” in the traditional sense of the word. Tour operators, too, have made changes in wording of promotional literature. Country Walkers avoids using “romantic” to describe its soft adventure trips and the article reported that Norwegian Cruise Line never uses “single” to describe new studio rooms or private lounges to cater to travelers boarding alone.

Finally, speaking about dining, especially interesting is a recent statistic from Open Table the online restaurant reservation service — dinner reservations for one are the fastest growing party size, up 62% in two years. The most dramatic gains are in Dallas, Miami and Denver.

Photo courtesy of www.cyclicx.com