Boost your solo sales with advice from the experts, writes Katie McGonagle
There’s no one type of solo traveller, but there’s one thing they generally have in common. No matter how confident they are about embarking on their own personal odyssey, the same doubts crop up: how will I get around, who will I eat dinner with and what if something goes wrong?
By combining their appetite for adventure with the safety net of a group, escorted tours offer the answer to exactly these questions. So you can steer the conversation towards the advantages of solo travel and inspire clients to embrace their trip of a lifetime.
Skip the stereotypes
The stigma that once existed around solo travel is fading away, so make sure you’re ahead of the game. Gary King, head of trade sales at Wendy Wu Tours, says: “Solo travel is booming at Wendy Wu and is undoubtedly one of the most significant travel trends of the past two years.
There are so many preconceptions – you have to be single, you have to be confident, you’ll be lonely – but they’re all untrue. “For many, solo travel is the new norm. Many people are in relationships but have different interests when it comes to travel.”
Don’t limit by age
While many people assume young, thrill-seeking backpackers are those living it up on far-flung adventures, often it’s mature travellers with the means to splash out on big-ticket tours. “The solo traveller has less to do with age and more to do with mindset,” says Cassie Stickland, product manager at Titan Travel (part of Saga Travel).
“This audience is more likely to travel farther afield and want to fulfil their long-held travel dreams. Solo travellers are interested in getting the most from their trip. They want to see and do more, so an excursion is of more value than an afternoon with a spot of lunch and a nice scenic view.”
Stress value for money
Travelling solo can come at quite a mark-up, as guides, transport and added extras mount up, so sharing the cost across a group can mean substantial savings – even if single supplements still apply.
“Solo guests benefit from the economies of scale that an escorted touring operator delivers,” says Brad Bennetts, head of sales and business development for APT and Travelmarvel. “By developing strong and long-term supplier relationships, experiences are contracted at more competitive rates. We also create exclusive, ‘money can’t buy’ opportunities that would be impossible to recreate outside a tour.”
Ask about the group
Clients on a regular departure may want reassurance that they won’t be the only single traveller in the group. “If there is flexibility on departure dates, ask if a particular tour has more solo travellers booked on than others,” says Ben Colbridge, head of commercial for Exodus Adventure Travels. “They won’t disclose specific details, but customers will be able to pick accordingly.”
Emphasise the upsides
Travelling solo is often more sociable than spending a whole trip chatting to the same companion. Adam Kemp, managing director of Just You, says: “Our holidays are all about ‘solo adventures together’, meaning that although you are a solo traveller, you will be with a great group of like-minded people who have a shared interest in the destination, the culture and the communities visited.
“We have just launched a trade portal where agents can access holiday information, marketing collateral and social media assets. We also host joint customer events with partners that highlight the benefits of travelling with a solo holidays expert.”
Find your target audience
“We are seeing the solo market grow massively, not only from customers who are single or widowed, but also customers who take a holiday with their partner or family, but then also choose to holiday on their own,” says Paul Hardwick, director of retail for Fred Olsen Travel, which was named Atas Ambassador at Travel Weekly’s Agent Achievement Awards 2023.
“We segmented our database and pulled [together] every customer who had previously travelled on their own to create a dedicated database to market to. We send specific solo touring offers to customers through emails, mailers and offers in our windows. We also always promote solo holidays at shows and create events in-store or at a local venue.”
In the know
Mark Henderson, head of product, Incredible Journeys
“When I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on my first solo tour with G Adventures, I didn’t know what to expect – but I went on to have one of the best holiday experiences I have ever had.
I loved travelling with people from all over the world, with different backgrounds, but all with the same love for travel. If you have the opportunity, go on a solo tour to experience it for yourself.”
Louise Dowsett, regular solo traveller with Wendy Wu Tours
“I was approaching my 40th birthday and wanted to do a tour, but I was worried about going too far-flung by myself. So I contacted Hays Travel, and a home-based agent recommended a solo tour to Vietnam and Cambodia with Wendy Wu Tours.
It’s an adrenaline rush, as you’re going into the unknown, but you know you’re going to be looked after, and you can share experiences and learn so much from each other. Age has no boundaries – I love travelling with older people as it makes me think I could be like them.”
PICTURES: Contiki; Exodus Adventure Travels/Ornella Giordano