Solo travel suddenly got bigger than ever in 2017
The dam bursts for solo travellers.
The classic image of a solo traveller has always been someone away on business. Holidaying alone has long been regarded as a bit of a risky move, especially for certain destinations and especially for women.
Couple these perceptions with the "lonely hearts stigma" solo travellers might find in certain quarters, and it's clear why the industry hasn't really made a lot of efforts to accommodate the individual pleasure traveller.
But over the years this has been changing. The more solo travel options there are, the more solo travellers there are. It wasn't a lack of interest, but rather a lack of opportunity.
A 170% increase in solo bookings since 2016
Over the last year in particular, Airbnb has started making a concerted effort to appeal to solo travellers, and it's paying off in a big way. In cities all over the world, there's been an explosive increase in the number of solo travel bookings, with many destinations seeing an easy twofold increase in the number of solo travel bookings.
- Cancun, Mexico - 170% increase
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - 146% increase
- Cologne, Germany - 142% increase
- Playa del Carmen, Mexico - 141% increase
- Sao Paulo, Brazil - 128% increase
- Johannesburg, South Africa - 125% increase
- Auckland, New Zealand - 114% increase
- Mexico City, Mexico - 106% increase
- Charlotte, USA - 106% increase
- Busan, South Korea - 103% increase
Why it's increased so much
Firstly, Airbnb has always been a great option for solo travellers. For the most part hotels don't offer a lot of single rooms, while Airbnb has no shortage of them. This has always given it an edge. Secondly, in 2017 Airbnb unveiled Trips, calling it the most significant development in the company's history.
This feature lets visitors find "curated experiences" hosted by other members of the Airbnb community. A local tour guide basically.
While it wasn't designed exclusively for solo travellers, Trips may have found the perfect niche in solo travellers, solving a lot of the old problems.
- Safety - A reviewed local guide that people get to know before arrival. The inherent transparency of Airbnb also does a lot to make single travel safer.
- The best of both worlds - A lot of people travel alone simply because they like it. They're not interested in spending a whole trip as part of a group, and would much rather go it alone. However, they don't necessarily want to forego all sense of community. Airbnb Trips strike a fresh balance between individual travel and "on demand" group experiences for the best of both worlds.
- Personal experiences - Airbnb Trips are very specific experiences, like getting involved in urban gardening, going behind the scenes at an opera, and similar. When travelling as a group, everyone will share different interests. As such, sticking together on group travel might inevitably shift towards slightly blander pastimes. Solo travel lets people home in on the specific things that interest them most, and Airbnb Trips can accommodate this.
Survey after survey is showing that solo travel is gradually become a more popular option overall. Airbnb, however, has managed to bring out an unprecedented increase over less than a year.
The relatively unpopularity of solo travel doesn't reflect a lack of interest, but instead a lack of opportunity.
- Tour companies offer solo travellers a range of similarly curated travel experiences, but are still communal at heart, and might not suit those who want more independence on their trips.
- Solo senior tours are doing well, showing that there's no real upper age limit to the interest.
- There are a lot of solo cruise options which might be the closest thing so far to what Airbnb is doing. However, they're obviously only geared towards cruise-lovers.
The unprecedented rise in Airbnb solo bookings over the last year shows that solo travellers are still hungry for more.