Business Insight: Don’t overlook solo travellers - 3 things you should know
This business column is written by Dr Erica Wilson, Associate Professor in Tourism at the School of Business and Tourism, Southern Cross University.
The Gold Coast is widely known and marketed as a family-fun destination, and for good reason. With its theme parks, resort life, and sun-sand-sea reputation, the city is in high demand by families.
Yet there are other types of visitors to the Gold Coast, so it’s important to understand how and why tourists differ. For example, travellers can be differentiated by their country or region, by demographic factors such as age and gender, or by motivations and activity preference including why they travel and for what purpose.
One ‘niche’ group I have been studying for some time is solo travellers. These are the tourists – both women and men – who travel alone. Often times this is by choice, sometimes it’s by circumstance. People may travel on their own for business or leisure. The web-based company Solo Travel has noted that around one in four people want to travel solo in the next year. And according to research by Booking.com, Australia is the number one destination for solo travellers.
So, why do they do it? For my own research, I spoke with 40 women solo travellers, and the reasons for going it alone are varied: for adventure, a sense of independence or empowerment, because they prefer their own company, or sometimes because they simply can’t find someone else to go with (or that they would want to go with)! Paradoxically, travelling on one’s own can also be a great way to meet other people.
Three things to know about solo travellers:
- They don’t want to pay for two: It is still surprisingly difficult to book a single room in a hotel or on a cruise ship, and to not be charged the same as a twin/double/family room (the ‘single supplement’). With increasing numbers of solo travellers, the pricing mechanisms need to change, too.
- They want to be welcomed, not ostracised: No doubt we’ve all had that awkward experience of the restaurant hiding us in the back because we’re eating on our own, or of feeling like the odd one out when surrounded by families and couples. Make your solo travellers feel welcome from the start, and you will earn their trust, and their money.
- Understand your solo female travellers: First of all, recognise that you do have solo female customers. At a particular capital city hotel, I have twice had the experience of being welcomed on the in-room screen as ‘Mr Wilson’! Research shows that the majority taking solo journeys are women, so understand their need for safety, independence and meeting others. It’s more than just hairdryers.
This article originally appeared in the Business Insight section of the Gold Coast Bulletin newspaper on Saturday June 9 2018.