One in three over-50s are choosing to travel solo, with many of them wanting to try a break that satisfies interests not shared by a partner or friends, says Deborah Stone
You don’t have to be single to travel solo – and increasingly over-50s are leaving friends and family at home for holidays to do exactly what they want without compromise.
One in three over-50s has been on a solo holiday or intends to do so within the next two years, according to mature travel specialist Saga.
Its survey of 12,000 over-50s who chose to travel alone found that 85% loved the freedom and 72% enjoyed meeting like-minded people.
Abta also reveals a 150% rise in solo travel by British holidaymakers in the past seven years, while a recent Abta conference noted the over-50s market is lucrative – they hold 76% of the UK’s wealth – and is growing fast.
More women travel alone, says Saga, at 39% compared to 26% of men; and they’re attracted by the destination and cultural experience.
Robert Goodwin, director of product and purchasing at Saga Holidays, says: “In the past, people may have felt self-conscious if they were single or choosing to travel alone. This is thankfully no longer the case. In fact, more people are actively choosing not to bring along friends or a spouse, instead opting for an immersive experience alone without having to worry about anyone else.”
Silver Travel Advisor, the online reviews website aimed at mature travellers, says: “For 55% of people, holidaying alone was a necessity as they didn’t have anyone to travel with. But 35% are choosing to travel by themselves because they enjoy it, or have different interests to their partner or companion, and a further 10% go it alone because work commitments kept their partner or companion at home.”
Travelling solo needn’t mean enjoying experiences alone either. Family and friends can holiday together then pursue their own interests – a travel trend some companies are already cottoning on to. Here are a few ideas to suggest to your clients.
Wellness holidays are growing more than twice as fast as general tourism, according to last November’s Global Awareness Institute report.
Yoga fits neatly into this category, especially when combined with a walking holiday, says Ramblers Walking Holidays’ agency sales manager Paco Gonzalez: “We have found that combining wellbeing with walking is a growing trend, as increasing emphasis is being placed on the health benefits of walking, plus there is the chance for clients to experience some ‘me time’ and replenish diminished energy or to simply reflect on life.
“We ensure each Ramblers Walking Holiday is graded, making it easier for agents to guide clients, especially more mature travellers, to the right holiday for them by seeing the amount of walking and the terrain that will be undertaken each day.”
New for 2019 is Ramblers’ Alpine Activity Adventure in Switzerland, with electric bikes, barefoot alpine walks and daily yoga and Pilates in the evenings.
Book it: Seven-night Alpine Activity Adventure from £1,885pp, two sharing, or £2,080 single room, including flights, transfers, half board, local guest card, hotel’s spa facilities, experienced leader and local transport. Departs June 6, July 11, August 5 and September 12, 2019. ramblersholidays.co.uk
While a trail holiday with a different base each night is for dedicated riders, staying at an American dude ranch offers several options – making it perfect for couples or groups where some want to ride every day but others don’t.
“Lots of mature travellers go on ranch holidays, either solo travellers or as couples, and there is more to do than just horse riding,” says a spokesman for Inspiring Travel Company (ITC), which packages holidays to ranches including White Stallion Ranch in Arizona.
The family-owned, traditional ranch is popular with older solo travellers, says ITC, thanks to high standards of service and food.
Besides riding through the desert, activities include swimming, tennis, rock-climbing, cattle-sorting, fat tyre electric bikes and a gym.
Book it: Tailor-made holidays at White Stallion Ranch start from £2,455pp, based on two sharing. inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk
You may count rail enthusiasts among your clients, in which case Ffestiniog Travel has holidays to satisfy the most ardent train-spotter, whether going solo or not.
“Almost 50% of Ffestiniog Travel’s annual escorted tour programme is dedicated to running specialist ‘connoisseur tours’, aimed at those who have a specific passion for railways and steam train travel,” says general manager Maria Cook.
“These tours are very popular among single rail enthusiast travellers, who enjoy the in-depth quality itineraries, expert guidance and private chartered journeys in the company of like-minded railway fans.”
Among Ffestiniog Travel’s three new packages for 2019 is a rail journey around India’s Golden Triangle, including heritage rail journeys, three safaris and visits to the romantic Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, Delhi and more.
Book it: The 18-day Golden Triangle & Ranthambore starts from £4,795pp (two sharing) with a £1,020 single supplement, including flights, transfers and rail journeys and departs October 28, 2019. ffestiniogtravel.com
Riviera Travel has noted the growth in demand from people travelling alone and has a dedicated solo travel programme with holidays such as South Africa For Solo Travellers with no single supplement.
“There has been a real shift in attitude over the past few years, with travellers increasingly choosing to discover the joys of solo travel,” says Will Sarson, head of specialist product at Riviera Travel.
“Following this increased demand, and by taking on valuable feedback, Riviera Travel has more than doubled its solo travel programme in the past year.”
The average age of its solo holidaymakers is 65, with most in their 50s and 60s. Three-quarters are female and this may be because of the security of group travel but also, according to Silver Travel Advisor, the rise in divorce rates.
Riviera Travel says its South Africa trip with Western Cape Winelands tour and tasting appeals to women and men, as well as wildlife watching in Kruger national park and three nights in Cape Town.
“The price point offers exceptional value for money as well, which makes this incredible tour accessible for many budgets, and Riviera Travel also pays commission on the full holiday price.”
Book it: The 16-day South Africa For Solo Travellers costs from £3,069pp, including flights, transfers, hotels, tours and some meals, departing August 7, 2019. rivieratravel.co.uk
Coach holidays in the UK are a quick- fix for many who want a short break alone yet in a sociable group. Silver Travel Advisor reports that one-third of its 2018 survey respondents had been on a coach trip in the past three years, although only 14% had taken one for four days or more.
Mike Bowers, national sales manager at specialist Shearings Holidays, says: “Agents should remember that single travellers aren’t always ‘single’, but enjoy travelling with their friends on holidays that don’t interest their partners. They usually prefer the freedom of having their own room, though, and many of our hotels have plenty of single rooms.”
Shearings has several horticultural theme breaks such as Royal Horticultural Society flower shows, BBC Gardeners’ World Live and gardens in locations including the Cotswolds, the New Forest and Galloway. Among its most popular is Sandringham Flower Show on the royal estate in Norfolk.
Book it: The five-day Sandringham Flower Show holiday starts from £244pp, two sharing, with a single supplement of £20, departing July 22, 2019. The trip has East Midlands pick- ups and includes four nights’ half- board accommodation, the flower show and a day-trip to Norwich. shearingsagent.com
Agents can promote their services as a real selling point when it comes to getting tickets for shows abroad. The Silver Travel Advisor survey of solo holidaymakers highlights this is much easier when an agent organises it.
Nearly 70% preferred to take a package and more than half would opt for an organised tour. Only 31% book everything themselves.
It’s one of the reasons why Kirker’s music festival holidays and cultural breaks are so successful and its Opera & Art in Vienna holiday comes with no single supplement.
“While some agents lack confidence in promoting special interest holidays such as these, the reality is that those who do enjoy enormous loyalty from clients who love the experience – it is one of Kirker’s most successful products for repeat bookings,” says marketing manager Patrick Millar.
“For those who have identified the right clients, a music festival is also an incredibly simple sale, with the itinerary including a comprehensive programme of sightseeing, concerts and talks – no need to hunt for event tickets online – and the price is fixed: Kirker will never offer discounts or incentives to direct booking channels.”
Book it: The four-night Opera & Art In Vienna is from £1,998 with no single supplement and includes flights, some meals, opera tickets, entrance fees and a leader, departing May 10 and June 20, 2019. kirkerholidays.com