09 April 2019

The Rise of Solo Female Travel: Who, What & Why?

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Have you ever searched the term ‘solo female travel’ in Google? You are not alone.

In fact, Google Trends has seen it triple in the past five years, reflecting an increased interest in the topic. Among the many articles and blogs sharing travel tips, destination advice and first-hand experiences, there’re also a large number of reports, surveys and studies on solo female travel.

In general, most results indicate a significant rise in solo travel. The Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA), for example, found in its 2018 holiday habit report, that one in six British holidaymakers travelled alone in the past year – twice as many as 2011 – whilst the travel agency Klook has predicted ‘solo travel’ the number one travel trend for 2019.

What is more, solo travel seems to be especially popular among women. In fact, we could even call it a female trend with women accounting for nearly two thirds of solo travellers, according to a study carried out by online travel company, 101 Singles Holidays. Other research, such as Solo Traveler’s 2018 reader survey, suggests an even bigger gender gap with solo female travellers outnumbering males by 75% to 25%.

What all these surveys and trend reports have in common, however, is that they indicate a shift within the travel industry, highlighting the importance for travel companies to focus on this booming market segment. To shed more light on the topic of solo female travel, we’ve decided to take a look at who these women are, why they travel and what they are looking for.

solo female traveller tasting local cuisine in Laos with Buffalo Tours

Who are the solo female travellers? 

When thinking of solo female travellers, who do you see? A twenty-something backpacker partying on Koh Phangan, or do you picture a woman in her fifties trekking along the Great Wall of China?

We thought so.

Whilst solo female travel is increasing across generations, 101 Singles Holidays’ analysis unveiled that women over 50 make up the largest number of solo holidaymakers in the UK. Similar results were concluded by several other platforms; Solo Travelers’ survey shows that 30% of solo travellers are between 55 and 64 years old (another 30% are 65+), whilst online travel expert, Agoda, discovered that the highest number of Western solo travellers are among ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Generation X’. And the lists continue.

In an interview with Lonely Planet, Cathy Winston of 101 Singles Holiday explains: “In previous generations, this group [women over 50] might have been reluctant to travel alone, but single, divorced and widowed women are now more empowered, confident and financially independent than ever before. And they are being more adventurous, with Sri Lanka, India and Peru among the most popular destinations.”

Indeed, Asia is a perennial destination among travellers venturing out alone. Besides ABTA, whose research shows that 22% of Brits travelling on their own visited the continent last year, Agoda’s survey lists Tokyo, Bangkok – check out our essential guide to solo travel in Thailand – and Singapore among the top ten destinations for Western solo travellers in 2018.

For more solo travel inspiration, read our recent blog post on best destinations in Asia to explore on your own.

mature solo woman travelling solo by train in Asia with Buffalo Tours

Why are so many people travelling solo?  

It has been shown that there are a variety of reasons why people decide to head out on their own – time to relax, escaping the routine and exploring new cultures are among the top motivators. ABTA, on the other hand, noted that the main motive for both women and men was the opportunity to do what they want without having to compromise, which, for solo female travellers, was followed by taking time out, exploring new destinations and meeting new people.

Studies suggest that one of the main contributing factors to the rise in solo travel over the last decade is the availability of wi-fi, travel apps and the exponential influence of social media. Whether you need to quickly translate a phrase into Khmer, book a room in Singapore, look up train times to Chiang Mai or post a Bali beach photo on Instagram, improved technology has certainly made it easier for independent travellers to explore the world whilst staying connected with friends and family back home. In fact, a ‘Solo Travel Report’ by Booking.com found that social media plays an empowering role for women travelling alone. Among the 500 American women in the survey, more than half claim that social media makes them feel safer and more confident when exploring the world on their own.

solo female traveller enjoying sunrise in Bagan Myanmar with Buffalo Tours

What are the priorities of solo female travellers?

As travel journalist Cathy Winston pointed out, women now are more adventurous than ever – a trend that’s confirmed by numerous adventure tour companies in an article by Conde Nast Traveller. In addition to active travel, another upward solo travel trend is bespoke travel experiences. According to Visa’s Global Travel Intentions Study 2015, the demand for tailor-made guided tours among lone wanderers tripled in only two years.

Whilst safety is still the number one concern for women heading out on their own, a survey by Ampersand Travel identified several other aspects important to solo female travellers, including women’s rights, culture, scenery and adventure. By measuring these factors against a list of countries, the travel company created a Wander Women Index of the best 70 solo female travel destinations, with Japan leading the ranking and several other Asian destinations – Indonesia, Thailand and China – in the top 20.

solo female travelling in Penang Malaysia on a tailormade tour with Buffalo Tours

What can we do to better accommodate solo female travellers?

Even though safety tips and insider destination advice are undoubtedly helpful, another important approach to create a more comfortable environment for solo female travellers is to craft a wider array of female-focused activities. This is not to say that travel companies should restrict products to wellness, shopping or other stereotypically feminine interests, but, instead, should reflect the needs of the modern female traveller.

As research shows, many women nowadays are looking for adventure travel experiences. Why not offer products led by a female guide or taught by a woman instructor? As part of our Women in Travel theme, Buffalo Tours created a range of experiences geared specifically towards female travellers, including surf lessons in Bali with a female instructor and a personal session with henna tattooist Ms Ann in Kuala Lumpur.

solo female travelling and hiking in China with Buffalo Tours

With this range of activities, Buffalo Tours is also committed to involve local women. From weaving bamboo baskets with local women in rural Cambodia to learning the ancient Chinese art of fan painting with a female master in Xi’an, these opportunities not only enable travellers to gain a different perspective and first-hand insight into different cultures but sustainably support the livelihood of local communities.

If you’re interested in any of these and many more solo female travel experiences, reach out to Buffalo Tours and let our experts help craft your tailor-made solo trip to Asia. For more insight into women working in the travel industry, read our interview with four of Buffalo Tours’ leading ladies.

 

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