Research by Cox & Kings suggests solo travel could be among the first segments to come back as the touring sector starts to recover.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Sue Livsey, senior manager – commercial at Cox & Kings said: “We conducted a survey amongst Cox & Kings clients, to try and get a feel for their attitudes towards travelling in these unusual circumstances.
“One of the questions we asked was in the foreseeable future, who are you going to be travelling with? And our-second most popular category of that was [people] travelling by themselves. So most popular was couples, then travelling by yourself – ahead of families or travelling with friends. That shows the market is very, very robust.”
She said around a quarter of all recent bookings had come from those travelling alone.
“Over the past few weeks, probably about 25% of our bookings have been through solo travellers, both on our solos tours and on our main group tours, where we’ve launched the initiative of having the first three places with no single supplement across a variety of group departure dates.”
Sarah Weetman head of trade sales at Just You, agreed the market was resilient but that rebuilding confidence would be key in getting the industry back up on its feet.
“What hasn’t changed with our customers is their resilience and their sense of adventure […] They want to travel, there’s a hunger there. But I think one of the main things that’s really key in any sector is how we build confidence in our customers,” she said.
“We believe our trade partners can help give customers the confidence to travel. It’s driven by really consistent messaging that we might get from the government. It’s also the airlines – the aviation industry has a huge part to play. Nearly every tour we operate involves a flight, so the first challenge for a solo traveller, or any traveller, is the fact that they are going to get on a plane and go to the airport. So what does that experience feel like?”
When it comes to rebuilding that confidence, Claire Brighton, account director for the Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers (Atas), said agents had an important role to play – and that proactively targeting potential customers was likely to prove key in the coming months.
“I think the thing with solo travellers is, they might not necessarily go to a travel agent automatically. So I think really go out and look for solo travellers. Use your database market in your local community, and use those special interest groups,” she said.
“And don’t treat solo customers with a kind of a pitying expression because they’re choosing to travel solo – they’re not sad about it!”