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What are those single trip

  • Author:Adela Lin
  • Release on :2016-07-12


Vacations have long gone hand-in-hand with company: family bonding, honeymoons, babymoons, bands of oats-sowing college backpackers. Yet today, more and more travelers are going solo — and they’re not who you might expect them to be.

Some 24 percent of people traveled alone on their most recent overseas leisure vacation, up from 15 percent in 2013, according to the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, which was conducted across 25 countries by Millward Brown, a market research organization. Among first-time travelers, solo travel is even more popular, jumping to 37 percent, up from 16 percent in 2013. And while the stereotypical solo traveler has traditionally been single and looking, a solo traveler these days is just as likely, if not more likely, to be married or in a committed relationship.

As the numbers creep up, more travel brands are paying attention. Take Solos Holidays, one of the oldest and largest companies in Britain offering guided getaways for solo travelers. The company has been around since 1982, but a few weeks ago it introduced an American arm, Solos Vacations, that’s beginning to offer escorted trips (to Italy and Britain so far) through Solosvacations.com. (Guided tours in general are becoming more popular among solo travelers, according to Visa’s research, up almost threefold compared with 2013.)

Who exactly are these solo travelers?

Many are unattached, of course. “I was amazed to find that over half of American adults are single,” said Andrew Williams, the managing director of Solos Holidays. He was referring to research about the percentage of American adults who have never been married being at a historic high. (In 2012 one-in-five adults (25 and older) had never been married, according to analysis of census data by Pew Research Center, compared with about one-in-ten adults in 1960.) “It’s clearly a shift in the same direction that we’ve seen in the U.K.,” he added. “Perhaps you’re a little further ahead than we are in that regard.”

At the same time, plenty of solo travelers are in committed relationships. There are those who travel by themselves because their partner’s job prevents them from taking simultaneous getaways. Some have a yen for a particular activity, like golf, that isn’t shared by their partner. Others are caregivers for a disabled spouse or partner and take the occasional solo trip when a family member is able to help out at home.

“Many people seem to think that solo travelers are single people, with many or most looking for love,” said Priscilla O’Reilly, a spokeswoman for Overseas Adventure Travel, which caters to baby boomers and seniors. “That’s not the case with our travelers.” Plenty of people who book with the company — where more than 40 percent of travelers are solo, up from 35 percent in 2013 and 27 percent in 2007 — do so without their spouse or partner. “If a spouse or partner can’t leave work, has a conflict, or is disinterested in a destination that his or her partner is pining to see, the partners have no qualms about heading off on their own,” said Ms. O’Reilly. Most of them are women, she added, “and, some of them admit that after having taken care of spouses and kids for so many years, it’s nice to have an experience on one’s own without worrying, ‘Is Fred having a good time?’ ”

Indeed, of Americans 45 and older who have traveled solo, some 53 percent are married while 39 percent are single or divorced, according to AARP.

These changing demographics and lifestyles mean that the climate for solo travel is (slowly) improving. Some fees are being dropped, and more packages and deals are being marketed to people who plan to vacation on their own.

Cruise companies are not only adding more cabins dedicated to solo travelers, some are also doing away with single supplements (surcharges that can be anywhere from 10 to 100 percent or more of the standard rate). In March, Tom Harper River Journeys, a river cruise company based near Boston, said that in 2016 it would introduce a ship with supplement-free staterooms and French balconies for solo travelers. A few weeks earlier, the Majestic Line, a small-ship cruising company based in Britain, announced that next year two of the seven en-suite cabins on a new ship will be for solo travelers and won’t have single supplements. And Holland America, based in Seattle, plans to add 12 new ocean-view cabins for solo travelers next year on its forthcoming ship, the MS Koningsdam.

Meanwhile, companies that do require single supplements are dropping some of them here and there. In March, Zegrahm Expeditions eliminated the single supplement on three of its 2015 trips: a circumnavigation of the Black Sea; a visit to India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives; and a circumnavigation of South Georgia Island. Another operator, Tauck, did away with the single supplements on category 1 cabins on its European river cruises for 2015.

One doesn’t have to set sail to score a solo bargain, however. In April, the on-demand car service Uber sent customers an email before a San Francisco Giants game that said, “If you’re headed to today’s game solo, or even with one friend, opt for uberPOOL. UberPOOL will match you with a rider going to a similar destination, and get you there for $7 or less.” (UberPOOL is available in a few major cities including New York.)

It’s becoming par for the course for online travel agents and review sites like Orbitz and TripAdvisor to include search filters for singles and solo travel. Hotels have yet to make many strides, though a few, including the Westin New York Grand Central, have gotten creative. In July the hotel offered what was seemingly the first getaway package from a major American hotel brand directed at solo female travelers without children. It included a consultation about healthful eating with the hotel’s executive chef and discounted yoga classes. The hotel’s website described it as “a memorable experience for guests traveling with friends or recharging on their own.”

Cath Cole, 42, who runs a fund-raising consultancy in Britain and has been on several trips with Solos Vacations to places as varied as Turkey and Northampton, England, first traveled solo with the company to shake off work stress with a week in the sun in the Dominican Republic.

“I was single at the time and none of my friends could get away,” she said. “Being self-employed, I often get holiday time at late notice and many of my friends can’t be flexible, so whether I’m in a relationship or not, I still consider Solos. It’s not the dating scene everyone who hasn’t been thinks it is. Sure, some people get together, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about independent travelers, not dating holidays.” (Solos Vacations attendees can be as young as 25, Mr. Williams said, but on average are about 55.)

Ms. Cole is one of countless women who travel by themselves. At Overseas Adventure Travel, for instance, 80 percent of solo travelers are women.

“Looking back, the one thing I wish I’d known was not to be so nervous the first time,” Ms. Cole said. “The best part is definitely the people you meet, even the ones you don’t stay in touch with, because they are what make the holiday. I’ve become Facebook friends with a number of them and still meet up with one or two of the ones I clicked with the best.”

Like Ms. Cole, many solo travelers enjoy their trips enough to strike out on their own again. More than 80 percent of people 45 and older who have taken a solo trip plan to take another within the next 12 months, according to AARP. And among affluent travelers, solo travel has more than doubled, research from Visa shows.

One recent morning, Mr. Williams of Solos Holidays received a letter from two solo travelers who met on one of his company’s trips. They wrote to tell him that they were planning to get married.

“So I’ve lost two customers,” he said.

Then again, if reports about spouses traveling solo once in a while are to be believed — maybe not.

 

 


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