The Growing Market Of The 'Solo Traveller'

What social media conversation can tell us about the rise of solo traveller

Needing a break from office life. Single and looking for love and adventure. Volunteering to restore your spirit. There are plenty of reasons why people might choose to travel alone, and according to recent studies, they are not alone.
The population of ‘solo travellers’ is on the rise. In the recent ABTA Consumer Service Report 2015 on holiday habits, it was reported that nearly one in six people – 15% of the population – have travelled alone.
To get a better idea of how the ‘solo traveller’ trend has progressed, we compared conversation around this topic in Europe from the beginning of 2010 through August 2016. Below we’ve broken our analysis into two timeframes. The first graph shows results from January 2010-August 2015, while the second shows results exclusively between August 2015 – August 2016. As you can see, while the first graph covers a much longer time period, conversation around solo traveling over 2014-2015 is higher by almost 12,000 mentions.

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One similarity of solo travellers is their tendency to turn to social media when they’re planning and when they’re travelling. As is to be expected, a lot of conversation centers around tips about trips locations or suggestions about the best websites for solo travel research. However, there is another rather surprising topic that continues to pop up, as is demonstrated in the example below:

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Safety seems to be a major concern amongst solo travellers, who then, as a result, look for support from other solo travellers, largely over social. Being all alone abroad is not easy after all, and knowing that other people are experiencing the same things can be helpful as well as comforting. In the emotion analysis below, this concern over safety is evidenced further. While the majority of people reported feelings of happiness around their travel experience, 10% of the conversation seems to be related to the fear category:

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From an analysis of user posts, we found the wide majority of solo travellers plan their journey on their own. This could be another means of concern (or fear) if you’re new to solo travel. So why not utilise a travel agency? The lack of information and limited recognition of the solo travel market by the hospitality industry could be a contributor, however, it is appears to be mostly a choice driven by the freedom to book wherever they want, whenever they want without asking anyone.

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Another interesting insight found from analysing user posts is the belief that men are considered to be safer when traveling alone, while women are perceived to be more at risk, and sometimes not “allowed” to travel on their own.

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This leads directly into our the next question: who is the solo traveler? Interestingly, despite the perceived safety risk, 58% of single holidaymakers are women above 35 years old.

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A TripAdvisor survey of more than 9,000 women showed that 74% had already travelled alone or were planning to do so in 2015, while Pinterest reported that pins about female solo travel has risen by 350% between 2014 and 2015.

Twitter hashtags give an interesting insight about female solo travel as well. #EmpowerWomen is in the Top10 list of most mentioned hashtags in posts related to solo travel.

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This hashtag reveals to us that solo travel is not a simple journey, but it means something more for the people who undertake it. A means to claim their own freedom and prove something to themselves. As Seneca said “Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind”. Now the only question is, is hospitality world ready to challenge itself by reaching out to these soulful and independent new travellers?

For more insights about the travel industry, visit our Social Insights Center to read about the sharing economy, European and U.S. Hotel Industries, and much more!

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