When it comes to seeing the world, more and more people are seeing it solo, and travel companies are rolling out tools and tours to accommodate them.
Some are adding spaces for solo travelers to existing trips. Others are offering more affordable rooms and packages. This year also marked the first ever Solo Travel Awards, designed to recognize companies that effectively serve solo travelers.
From budget to luxury brands, rental companies to hotels, a number of industry groups have reported double-digit upticks in solo travel over the last few years. Historically, major companies have not catered to solo vacationers the way they do people traveling with partners or spouses and children, but increasingly there are exceptions.
More than half the people taking trips with Intrepid Travel, about 75,000 people a year, are now going solo. Last year, the company, which has its head office in Australia and specializes in small-group travel, offered its first solo-traveler-only trips.
Their popularity led the company to introduce half a dozen new solo-only departures this year, including to Bali (nine days from $1,010), Peru (nine days from $2,200), Morocco (15 days from $1,220), Vietnam (10 days from $1,215), India’s Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur (eight days from $709) and Mexico (nine days from $1,781).
The Morocco trip, for example, includes a tour of the Fez medina, a camel trek through the Sahara, and stops at the Todra Gorge area and the village of Aroumd in the High Atlas Mountains, with a night in a Berber house. Solo-traveler-only tours reflect what the company is seeing among its own customers, as well as the results of research that it has commissioned, which show an interest in solo vacations. Intrepid says the average trip has about 10 people. There’s an itinerary, but also free time for travelers to be by themselves.
Overseas Adventure Travel, which caters to people older than age 50 through small-group itineraries, has long offered solo spaces on its trips, but demand has been so high that in November the company announced that it was adding an additional 2,000 solo slots to its 2018 inventory.
About 27 percent of people traveling with the company in 2010 were solo travelers. By 2017, that number had risen to 46 percent, and the company estimates that by next year, about half of its travelers will be solo.
Abercrombie and Kent, the high-end adventure tour company, said it has been attracting more solo luxury travelers, with that number increasing by more than 15 percent over the last two years. Earlier this year, in response to growing demand, it offered discounts for solo travelers across all of its product lines, more than 40 journeys in every continent, for the first time.
In addition to new tours and slots being made available, the tips and vacation planning site Solo Trekker 4 U has introduced a Solo Travel Pricing Tracker to help travelers find solo-friendly itineraries. Tracker searches Solo Trekker’s database of more than 900 travel providers for options without fees known as single supplements, or with lower supplements or other deals for people traveling alone. In test searches, Tracker didn’t always pull up what was requested, but it’s a welcome tool and handy for discovering companies that specialize in solo travel or have relevant offerings.
After all, it’s not necessarily easy to find companies that consider the wants and needs of people traveling solo. For instance, solo travelers have long had to pay a single supplement if they wanted their own room; the fees can be so hefty that they make certain trips unaffordable for some people. Tour companies and cruise lines have sometimes lowered or waived their supplements, but historically that’s been when it’s convenient for them, not the solo traveler. It’s also common practice for travel companies to match solo travelers who want to avoid supplements with like-minded roommates. But rooming with a stranger is hardly every traveler’s idea of a vacation.
There are, however, some companies that routinely offer solo spaces with low or no supplements on certain trips. For example, Road Scholar, which specializes in educational tours, has trips in 2018 and 2019 that offer solo travelers their own rooms with no supplemental charge.