Don’t feel like a weirdo for travelling alone. As these solo travel statistics reveal, taking a solo trip is no longer the preserve of the minority.
What do you think is the worst thing about travelling alone?
Is it the occasional loneliness of solo travel or safety concerns? And with no one to share costs, it can be more expensive. Or what about the perils of dining out alone? Maybe it’s that dreaded table for one that gives you the heebie-jeebies.
Yes; these are all downsides of solo travel, but you can take concrete steps to overcome these disadvantages.
For me, the worst thing about solo travel is how other people view it. Reactions to the revelation that you are travelling alone sit on that spectrum from pity to admiration.
But here’s the thing: travelling alone deserves neither a bravery medal nor a shoulder to cry on. Furthermore, solo travel statistics challenge a commonly held perception that this is the preserve of a slightly weird minority.
Interested? Let’s take a closer look.
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Solo Travel Statistics: Data Sources
Before we start, a few words about the provenance of these solo travel statistics and trends.
Typing “solo travel statistics” into Google (other search engines are available) yields over 28 million results. The difficulty with assessing these articles is that often the sources aren’t referenced and where they are, many of the surveys cited are too old or too small to be relevant or representative.
In pulling together these statistics, I have used the biggest and most recent studies available. Where these studies didn’t provide the answer I was looking for, I’ve included a few smaller studies, which are referenced where appropriate.
|Agoda ‘Solo Travel Trends. 2018||10,784 respondents. Global|
|British Airways Global Solo Travel Study. 2018||9,000 respondents from eight countries|
|Klook Solo Travel Survey. 2019||21,000 respondents from across 16 countries|
|Solo Traveler Reader Survey. 2022||1.560 respondents mainly from the USA and Canada|
|Solo Female Travel Trends Survey. 2021||5,000 respondents. Global study. Female solo travellers only.|
Headline Solo Travel Statistics
Key Solo Travel Statistics & Trends in 2023
How many people are travelling alone?
Let’s debunk one myth from the get-go: the majority of people are interested in travelling solo.
76% of those responding to the massive Klook survey indicated that they have taken a solo trip already or are considering it, regardless of age, gender or nationality.
Smaller, more recently published data support this finding.
Who is travelling alone?
Let’s drill down a little further (this is where it gets interesting).
Women are the driving force of the solo travel boom.
In line with other industry reports, 85% of solo travellers registered with Overseas Adventure Travel are women. In China, over ten times more women than men have made a solo trip abroad.
But a solo female traveller is not just a solo female traveller. 80% of solo female travellers also travel with others, be it their spouse, their families or their friends. This indicates that solo travel is just one of a number of travel styles that women adopt.
The rise of the mature solo traveller
In past years, solo travel was propelled by millennials heading off on a gap year prior to starting higher education. However, as the average age of the solo traveller is 47, today’s solo travel market is far from dominated by younger age groups.
Whilst millennials represent the largest proportion of those travelling alone, statistics reveal that mature solo travellers are closing the gap.
58% per cent of millennials worldwide are willing to travel alone, compared to 47% per cent of older generations. Asian solo travellers are more likely to be younger: millennials (41%) and Generation Zers (38%). However, Western solo travellers tend to be older: Baby Boomers (39%) and Generation Xers (24%).
A large 2018 study conducted by Booking.com found that 40% of 55 to 64-year old’s had taken a trip alone in the past year and a further 21% were planning to take one in the future. British Airways reports that more British men and women were over 50 on their first solo trip compared to any other country.
Where are solo travellers visiting?
What are solo travellers’ favourite destinations?
Across both genders, solo travellers favour cosmopolitan cities around the world. According to Agoda’s 2018 booking data, Bangkok was the top destination for Asian solo travellers, whilst London was favoured by Western solo travellers.
Tokyo is a popular choice for both Asian and Western travellers.
Thanks to the Solo Female Travel Trends Survey, there is a wealth of recent data to indicate favourite destinations for female solo travellers.
44% of seasoned solo female travellers recommend Europe as the ideal first-time solo travel destination for women. The top countries for those travelling alone for the first time are Spain, the UK, Thailand, Japan, Italy and Australia.
Women who haven’t travelled alone earmarked Italy, Greece, France, Australia and Japan as their ideal first solo travel destinations. However, Americans and Canadians preferred their own countries – Canada or the USA – for a first solo trip.
Overall, 20% of solo female travellers recommend the person’s country of origin as the best destination for a first-time solo trip.
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The rise of the group tour
Taking a group tour is an excellent way for first-timers to test solo travel in a predefined and supported way.
In 2018, 52% of solo travellers said they’d be interested in an escorted holiday (source). But has this interest increased post-pandemic restrictions?
Exodus Travels – one of my favourite small group tour companies – reported a 9% increase in bookings from solo travellers and EF Go Ahead Tours’ individual bookings have more than doubled (source).
12% of solo female travellers joined a small group trip in 2021. Although this is 30% less than in 2020, it is most likely due to the disruption to group trips because of the pandemic.
Cox & Kings, an upmarket tour group company, reports that about 25% of their recent bookings have come from solo travellers. In response to the growing solo travel market, this is one of the few operators that offer places with no single supplement across a number of departures.
Cruising can be a superb solo travel experience.
Research commissioned by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) in 2023 and involving 2,000 adults found that over a third of Brits preferred to travel alone. Furthermore, a cruise was high on these travellers’ wish lists (source).
The reasons for solo travel
We know that vacations give us the opportunity to relax and recharge, escape from routine and explore new cultures. But why do people choose to travel alone?
The reasons tap into both the tangible and intangible benefits of solo travel.
Travellers of both genders want to see more of the world and are not willing to wait for others. They also value the freedom to do what they want when they want.
When solo female travellers were asked a similar question, they too valued the flexibility and freedom of travelling alone (90%) but also welcomed the opportunity to get away from it all (86%). The opportunities to challenge themselves, practice self-care and connect with locals were also strong drivers for solo travel.
These findings are supported by a 2021 survey of 2,359 respondents from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia (source). The main motivation of travellers to travel alone was the willingness to see the world and not to wait for others. Almost half of all respondents were motivated by the feeling of freedom and independence, while over 40 per cent wanted to meet new people.
What are people’s concerns about solo travel?
For women, the number one fear is solo travel safety.
75% of women who have never been on a solo trip worry about their safety. Safety concerns drop to 52% for experienced solo travellers.
However, 74% of female solo travellers are also concerned about changes in travel restrictions, a product of our post-pandemic age
Across both genders, key concerns are getting lost, feeling lonely when travelling alone (with some saying that making new friends on a solo trip is a “must-do”) and the higher cost of travelling solo, largely due to the dreaded single supplements on holiday accommodation.
64% of women say that the higher price of travelling alone is preventing them from taking their first solo trip.
Removing single supplements is the number one request from solo female travellers to the travel industry.
Although a number of small tour group companies have removed the single supplement, the cruise industry has been slow to respond to the growth in solo travel. Single cruise cabins have been in short supply or non-existent, and supplements approaching 100 per cent have penalised those travelling alone.
However, cruise lines are slowly recognising the lucrative solo traveller market, and are designing their ships accordingly.
With the introduction of their stylish single cabins, Norwegian Cruise Line has led the charge, and other operators are following suit. But as welcome as this is, single cruise cabins are not always a good deal, so do your homework before clicking on “Book.”
>>> Get inspiration to travel alone for the first time with these dreamy solo travel quotes.
Defending the Wonderful Weirdness of Solo Travel
Ignore the stereotypes and misconceptions around solo travel. This is a formidable niche within the travel industry and its growth shows no sign of abating. If anything, it is a segment of the travel market that has quickly recovered from the pandemic.
Google searches for the term “solo travel” almost tripled between Jan 2015 and Jan 2020 before plummeting during the Covid pandemic. These searches have quickly regained popularity, hitting a new high in July 2022.
So is solo travel really that weird?