Embracing solo adventures: the rising trend of solo travel among Gen Z

Discover the unique opportunities available for travel agencies to serve the expanding market of solo travellers.

Man standing on a bridge, smiling with his arms in the air, carrying a camera around his neck
Man standing on a bridge, smiling with his arms in the air, carrying a camera around his neck

Veronica Freni

16 May 2024

5 min read

 

Solo travel is no longer the road less travelled; now, it’s a bustling highway of self-discovery and exploration. In recent years, more and more people have taken the plunge into solo adventures. This has been fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic; as the world retreated into isolation, restrictions only caused the yearning for travel to intensify, particularly among those craving solo escapades.

Despite its growing popularity, solo travel remains a relatively unexplored territory. Together with my students at the Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences – who I love to share my passion for market research with – we decided to delve into the perceptions of solo travel among Gen Z. Here are our main insights and opportunities for travel agencies to enhance their solo travel offerings for this generation in 2024.

 

Exploring the shift to solo

In November last year, we conducted a series of 15-minute interviews with 38 individuals in Munich aged between 18 and 26. Participants were a mixture of both current solo travellers and those planning to embark on solo trips at some point in the future. Given the rising travel trend among a younger audience, we wanted to explore their outlook towards solo travelling through motivations and barriers.

 

Drivers for solo travel

Social media platforms have played a pivotal role in popularising solo travel. Influencers and users alike share captivating stories and images, shining the spotlight on solo adventures and inspiring others to embark on their own. Social media has not only normalised solo travel but also increased awareness, making it seem more accessible and desirable now than ever.

With over 92 million likes for solo travel related content on TikTok, the hashtag #solotravel has seen a tenfold increase in the last three years. The same is true for Instagram, with the hashtag now yielding a total of 9.5 million posts. Creators such as Worldofwlust, Vivianyunn, and Beardedtravels have set out to show the reality of travelling alone, by sharing their ‘top tips’, ‘truths about travelling alone’ but also the locations they have felt safe while solo, itineraries, and things they wish they knew as a first-time traveller.

 

 

Other creators are keen to promote ‘main character energy’; cultivating the confidence, charisma and self-assuredness associated with any protagonist by posting content such as ‘3 reasons you should book that trip’, and ‘why solo travel will change your life’. But across all comes an element of embracing the unknown and taking confidence and lessons from their own experiences.

 

 

Yet the appetite for freedom extends beyond social media. We also see an uplift in the number of people searching for ‘Solo Travel’ on Google, doubling in 2023 compared to 2018. Skyscanner also carried out a survey in 2023 which showed 54% intended to ‘go it alone’ last year, as more people are assessing and deciding whether to act on their craving for something more.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also sparked the desire among solo travellers, with many eager to explore new horizons after feeling as though they ‘missed out’ during key years. Potential solo travellers have expressed a heightened interest in solo travel post-pandemic, seeking to fulfil their wanderlust after periods of extended isolation.

 

The role of gender in solo travel

While both genders are motivated by similar factors, a difference in dynamics mean women face unique safety concerns when travelling alone. Safety hazards and cultural differences pose significant challenges for female solo travellers.

Despite these concerns, women won’t be put off travelling alone. Research shows over half of solo travellers are female (64%); and 59% of those females who have been on a solo trip said they’d go again. Travel companies such as Road Scholar, REI and VBT Bicycling have all seen a spike in the number of female traveller’s post-pandemic, highlighting the need for tailored guidance in this space.

 

Key take-aways for travel agencies

There is definitely a role to play for travel agencies in supporting solo travellers. See here our recommendations:

  1. Specialised expertise: Travel agencies should invest in expertise tailored to solo travellers, offering personalized guidance and support. Potential solo travellers want to hear from an expert who has already travelled solo in the relevant country and can provide valuable advice. The Soloist has tapped into this need, as a specialised concierge service specifically for solo travellers. Set up by Jen Tenzer who sought her own solo adventure after burning out in her career, they consult one-on-one at every stage of travel planning; preparing itineraries, offering ongoing support (even after departure) and following up with a post-trip debrief as well as ongoing travel tips.
  2. Planned routes and cultural experiences: Provide curated routes and immersive cultural experiences, catering to solo travellers’ preferences for authentic encounters. Exodus, for instance, have a dedicated area on their site for solo travellers. They offer guided group tours with ‘local experts’ whose knowledge enhances the experience and sets their adventures apart by taking you to places “only a local would know how to find”. Marketed as an ideal arrangement for those that want to travel solo, but not completely alone.
  3. Preliminary programs: Offer information packages that help to educate travellers about local cultures, languages and safety measures, alleviating anxiety and boosting their confidence.
  4. Emergency support packages: Provide comprehensive support packages, including emergency assistance and essential information about the destination, especially for female travellers. Working with solo travellers will require you to place a greater emphasis on travel safety. Helping your clients choose safe itineraries and accommodations will help them feel more confident with going alone.
  5. Collaboration with influencers: Increase collaboration with influencers to promote solo travel, showcasing the benefits, recommendations and unique experiences it can offer. Travel agency Globe India recently partnered up with Instagrammer Sampadayadavv to show her point of view on her first solo trip, and how “convenient it was to leave all the planning and bookings to a reliable travel agency”’, gaining over 535k views and 30k likes.
  6. Use digital platforms: To connect other solo travellers, facilitate networking and share experiences, in turn fostering a sense of community. As one of the interviewees during the study mentioned: “There should be a function to live-connect with other solo travellers in the destination to meet up.”

 

Solo travel is more than just a journey; it’s a transformative experience that empowers individuals to discover themselves and the world around them. As the popularity of solo travel continues to rise, travel agencies have a unique opportunity to cater to this growing market segment.

 

Want to know how trends in travel can help you re-write the wheel for those searching for (solo) guidance? Check out this blog by Scott Lee on shifting from carefree travel to caring more.

 

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