Solo travel is on a roll.
Half of all G Adventure customers are solo travellers, the small group specialist says. Travel Department has said some of its solo trips sell out nine months in advance. At Sunway, solo bookings are up 40pc on last year.
“It’s easy for people now,” says Mary Denton of Sunway. “Years ago, if people said they were going on holidays on their own, you might have said, ‘Really?’ But now it’s a thing... there’s no stigma attached to it.”
We all know the stereotypes of backpackers or singles holidaying for romance. These still exist, of course — but the growth seems to be in spaces in between. Solo travellers can be any age, single or in relationships, and travelling for all kinds of reasons. They may have different hobbies or holiday allowances to partners, for example.
The growth also appears largely driven by women. They account for 57pc of Sunway’s solo holiday bookings. Tropical Sky has even seen solo bookings rise to exotic destinations like the Maldives.
“We do have some regulars who go every year alone and meet friends,” a spokesperson says. “And they are mostly women travellers.”
Social media influencers have certainly played a huge role here, but the travel industry is changing too.
Traditionally, travel has been geared toward couples and families (cruise companies used to refer to solos as ‘spoilage’, because they meant losing half a cabin). Today, sharing still dominates, but there are more solo rooms, cabins and restaurant seating options (stools at bars, for example).
Some stays are entirely focused on solos — Crete’s Mistral Hotel offers “sociable stays for solo travellers”, while Belfast-based solo travel specialist Friendship Travel owns a 10-room villa in Portugal’s Algarve, called Casa Rosa.
Then there’s the boom in escorted group tours.
These allow solos to do their own thing within the comfort of a group. They can be adventurous, sailing to places like the Galápagos; based on hobbies like swimming, cooking or photography; or holidays closer to home.
Uwalk.ie, a new brand from Navan Travel, has a ‘Travel Solo But Not Alone’ programme for walking holidays.
“It’s really suitable for solo travellers who want to feel more security on their journey,” says owner Martin Skelly.
Holidaymakers can book group departure dates, join meet-and-greets, and walk by themselves or with others. Recent group Camino trips guided by Roz Purcell “sold out in 11 minutes” he says — mostly to solo travellers.
Friendship Travel, meanwhile, says it has seen an increase of 9pc in bookings compared to pre-pandemic figures, and describes its group trips as “a great way to learn how to build self-confidence, be comfortable in your own company, and become more resourceful”.
Its solo holidaymakers are also accompanied by a dedicated host.
One thing to think about before booking a group trip as a solo traveller is how comfortable you are sharing a room. On most escorted trips, solo occupancy of rooms can still cost extra.
“Many of our travellers enjoy [sharing] as it means they have an instant friend on the trip,” says Leah Whitfield of G Adventures. Others prefer to [share] with people they know, or to pay for their own space.
Supplements vary a lot, but can range from €80 on a seven-night, €1,399 escorted tour of Austria, in Sunway’s case, to €389 for your own room over the course of a seven-day, €1,189 (ex flights) hiking tour of Greece with G Adventures.
On seven-night trips in Europe, the company says its MOR (My Own Room) option is, "on average, 35pc percent of the original per person cost on top, but it varies from 20pc to 50pc”.