One of the trends where I have seen the greatest growth in 2018/19 has been in bespoke luxury solo tours. The market for solo travel has been regularly growing over the last few years, however this has typically been for those seeking small group tours to join. The kind of tour where individuals get to meet like minded travellers, hopefully with similar interests, in which to share their journey. What I am now seeing is individuals who have a high disposal income, typically in their late 30’s to early 50’s, who want to spend a chunk of their income on exciting adventures, but they want to do it without compromise.
We are getting a heightened number of requests from people who are looking to travel to Africa alone, but want to do a personalised tour with a knowledgeable driver/guide. These trips are usually for 3-4 weeks in length staying in mid-range to high quality small lodges, and they are usually during the low season. The traveller also wants to make sure that their time away is maximised with full advantage taken of all the experiences on offer in each destination visited.
Recent clients have explained that at home they lead incredibly busy personal and professional lives for the majority of the year. When planning their holiday they are looking for a complete break and do not want the added pressure of a group tour, where you do not know who is going to be in your group or whether you will get on with them. They look forward to spending time alone, doing just what they choose to do.
Solo travellers looking for a bespoke tour are often well travelled individuals, and it is likely that they will have done a lot of personal research before deciding on a destination. However, using a tour operator with specialist knowledge of the region they are travelling to provides a good sounding board, and ensures that the trip is exactly what they are after. It also provides the added protection that only reputable suppliers are used, adding a bit of reassurance for the traveller who will be alone in a new country, with a guide they have not met before. It is also important for the tour operator to ‘understand’ this type of solo traveller, and really listen to what they want. The chances are they will be paying a high per person rate for their trip, and they will expect it to be exactly what they are after. Putting a solo traveller in a beautiful small lodge with stunning views is great….putting them here if it is regularly occupied by families with small children is not.
In terms of disadvantages the common theme is the thorny issue of single supplement! Those who travel alone often resent having to pay an additional ‘per person’ amount to stay in lodges, as they feel they are being penalised for being single/a solo traveller. However, the other side is that the lodges could be losing money by only letting a room to one person, as they only get half the revenue (on a per person rate) so it is not economically viable.I am starting to see an increase in lodges foregoing single supplement charges, particularly in low season, as it is an incentive to solo travellers to book their lodge, and may be the difference between an empty room or a ‘half filled’ room. My personal opinion, however, is that accommodation providers need to really think about this position for the future as the solo travel market is growing year on year. With an increasing number of solo travellers looking to travel to African countries there needs to be new ways of thinking that suit both the traveller and business owners. It is my belief that lodges should start considering a limited number of smaller rooms at their lodges, which are essentially built for one person. In many places the existing room sizes and pitches are spacious. The same space could be used to form two compact rooms with a single or ¾ bed and a small en-suite. As long as the experience, outside space and facilities offered are the same then this certainly feels like a happy compromise! Unfortunately it isn’t a quick solution, because for many lodges this would involve investment in construction work on existing rooms, which may not be something which lodges are willing to commit to.
So why do African Star Tours have such an interest in this style of travel? Well this one is easy to answer, as the CEO I fall directly into this category of traveller, as do a number of my friends! I absolutely love travelling and exploring new destinations around the world, although unsurprisingly African destinations feature highly on my list. If I find somewhere new that I haven’t visited, and I don’t have any friends/family who are interested in visiting the area, or they simply can’t get the time off work, then this doesn’t deter me, and I will look for other ways to travel there. I am not against small group tours at all, and have enjoyed many different ones over the years, and made great friends on these trips too. However, as I work in the travel industry sometimes I really just want to feel like I am completely on a break. As a confirmed introvert I like to spend time seeing new places without the added pressure of having to socialise with new people everyday, as I can find this draining – at a time when I am trying to recharge my batteries. I am not sure a solo tour is something I could do for 3-4 weeks, but 7-10 days is perfect!
I have recently pulled together two bespoke tours for clients looking to travel in early 2020. They are both completely different tours, visiting different countries, with different expectations. If you are someone that is considering an escorted solo tour in the future then why not check out these itineraries to see what is the art of the possible…..