Whether it’s turning a business trip into an opportunity to explore a new (or familiar) area, or jumping at the chance to recharge their batteries in peace, more and more travellers are deciding to go solo.
With Hostelworld finding an increase of 42% in solo bookings between 2015 and 2017, and Pinterest seeing searches for solo adventures skyrocket with a 593% increase, it’s clear that solo travel is a trend not to be ignored. That’s why this month, we’ve decided to look into why travellers are venturing out alone, what they look for from accommodation, and which hotels are getting their solo offerings right.
Why are people travelling solo?
When many think of solo travellers, the picture of a perpetually single person or a widower comes to mind, travelling alone because they don’t have anyone to go with them, the poor dear. While that image may have its place in the Hollywood archives, it no longer reflects the state of solo travel, as Black Tomato’s Tom Marchant explains to Skift.
“Solo travel has moved away from pre-conceived notions of the lonely and awkward. Clients are looking to step out for a moment and experience things at their own pace to gain a deep sense of place and focus on well-being or creative projects.” — Tom Marchant, Skift
We’ve spoken before about the rise of bleisure travel and the tendency for business travellers to extend their trips to include more leisure time, often on their own rather than having their loved ones join them. And while bleisure and solo travel are certainly closely tied, travelling for business is not the only contributing factor. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by YouGov, 46% of respondents who had travelled alone in the past, or were considering doing so in the future, said that the freedom to choose without needing to take others’ opinions into consideration was their main motivation.
There can be a wide range of reasons for your guests to be travelling on their own, and, as Travel Tripper points out, knowing what has inspired their trip can help you to make sure that their stays with you meet their expectations.
“Are they seeking solitude and a rare opportunity to recharge the batteries? Or are they eager to explore, meet new people, and throw themselves into new experiences? You can easily find this information out with pre-stay emails or questionnaires using hotel-specific survey tools.” — Steffan Berelowitz, Travel Tripper
What are solo travellers looking for from accommodation?
So, you can expect more solo travellers arriving at your booking button, but are your offers going to see them following through, or falling off your website?
Knowing why travellers are going solo is the first step to accommodating them at your property. The next is to understand what it is that solo travellers look for when booking their accommodation. In their ‘Solo Travel Trends Report’, Just You and Solo Traveler found that travellers would ideally like to see no single supplements, more single rooms, special rates for solo travellers, and welcome receptions when they arrive at a hotel.
When it comes to single supplements, many properties are well behind the curve — still charging excess fees for guests who are travelling without a companion in order to make up the deficit that they expect from solo visitors compared to their coupled counterparts. But, as Jean Carmela points out in her article for World Travel Market, this is a dated mindset.
“Solo travellers should no longer feel as if they are being charged simply for not having a travel companion. Travel brands need to stop the traditional expectation of solo travellers not spending as much as two or more.” — Jean Carmela, World Travel Market
Another important area that solo travellers look at when choosing accommodation is safety and security. No one wants something to go wrong when they’re travelling, but those who are on their own may be particularly vulnerable if things do go wrong, since there is no one beside to assist, or even to commiserate. This is why security features at any property are particularly important to solo travellers, as Travel Tripper also explains.
“When choosing their accommodation, a 24/7 manned reception desk and secure on-site parking were the most important security features. Other priorities included staying on floors with guest access only, and having the door to their room located inside the hotel or facing away from the road if outside.” — Steffan Berelowitz, Travel Tripper
Once a solo traveller has found a property that is affordable and secure, the next port of call will often be to investigate the social opportunities that the property can provide. Just because guests are travelling solo does not mean that they always want to be alone, after all, as Condé Nast Traveller points out.
“Travelling alone can be lonely when you’re not a student backpacker as hotels aren’t the easiest places to make friends, hostels can be a little rough around the edges and Airbnbs can be isolating as guests often find themselves in residential neighbourhoods rather than city centres. The solution is co-living – essentially a form of modern commune for young professionals – which is generating a following both among locals and out-of-towners.” — Jenny Southan, Condé Nast Traveller
Where Condé Nast describe co-living as a commune, many hotels and serviced apartments are embracing co-living areas in their properties to encourage guests, both solo and otherwise, to interact, adding a more social aspect to their stays, George Westwell, director of five-star luxury serviced apartment company, Cheval Residences, explains in an interview with GuestRevu.
“You might walk in the front door into a communal area, and you might be staying for two nights in the hotel to your left where you’ve got a smaller room, or you might be staying for two weeks in an apartment to your right which is twice the size of the hotel room. You see these combinations of different grades of room depending on length of stay, communal areas to socialise and meet in, and work areas where you can sit down and work. This hybrid or combination of facilities are increasingly coming together under one roof.” — George Westwell, GuestRevu
See the full Solo Travel Trends Report >>
Read a summary of the Solo Travel Trends Report at Solo Traveler >>
Read the full article at World Travel Market >>
Read the full article at Travel Tripper >>
Read the full article at Condé Nast Traveller >>
Read the full interview with George Westwell at GuestRevu >>
How can you get the balance right at your property?
Embracing solo travellers doesn’t mean that you need a revamp, or have to throw out your existing offerings and start from scratch. Knowing what your solo guests are looking for can help you to refine the experiences that you provide to them, and change doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re considering embracing solo travellers at your property, the first step that Little Hotelier suggests taking is to update your website to make it appeal more to those who won’t have their loved ones joining them on their travels.
“Update your website to appeal to solo travelers. Make sure that all of the photos that you display aren’t groups of people having fun together, or families making memories. Add a few vivid, happy photographs of solo guests enjoying your grounds or exploring the local area.” — Little Hotelier
From there, you can start considering your single supplements, your security, whether to encompass co-living, and more. And, when you’re looking for some inspiration of ways that you could be embracing your lone travellers, where better to look than to those who are getting their solo guest experiences right — and Travel + Leisure has put together the perfect list for you.
“If you’re looking to explore the world with no travel companion other than your fabulous self, you may think the surcharges, sympathetic looks, and stink-eyed waiters sneering, "Table for one?" are a sheer inevitability. Happily, that’s not the case. These celebrated hotels make solo travelers feel engaged, comfortable, and catered to, rather than up-charged.” — Sandra Ramani, Travel + Leisure
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