Tourism: Has the solo travel boom come to Africa?
With solo travel a major 2017 trend, Tourism Update explores whether or not it has taken a hold in Southern and Eastern Africa.According to TripAdvisor, of millennials who travel, 17% embarked on their first solo trip in 2016.
However, solo travel is also being undertaken by baby boomers, females and Asian travellers. Nicole Kow, marketing at Trekksoft (online booking software for tours, activities and rentals) says solo female travel is one of the fastest growing segments.
“Women are driving the solo travel boom. In 2014, Booking.com found that 72% of American women embarked on a solo adventure and usually take three or more trips a year.
Meanwhile, other reports have found a 230% increase in the number of women-only travel companies in 2016.” Thus far, Europe has led the way as the top destination for solo travellers, but this trend may also be coming to Southern and Eastern Africa.
Andrew Camp, Inbound Sales Manager: North America of Thompsons Africa, says: “The solo travel trend is absolutely applicable to the Southern African context. In the last two years we have seen an increase in solo requests coming through from the North American market. Millennials are becoming more adventurous and starting to travel younger. As a result, we get a lot of FIT requests on group escorted tours.” He adds that they also see solo requests from retired or widowed travellers.
“While we do get queries regarding the safety of travelling solo, this has become less of a deterrent as terror attacks have increased in other top travel destinations.”
Rodney Du Preez, Commercial Optimisation Manager at Go2Africa, says solo travel in Southern and Eastern Africa is not a new trend. “As long as there are single, adventurous people with a strong desire to explore Africa, it will continue to be a superb destination for solo travellers.”
Henk Graaff, MD SW Africa, agrees. “We haven’t necessarily seen a spike, but solo travellers have always come to Africa. This increase in solo travellers might be a good opportunity for the industry to target a niche market,”Thompsons Africa is already incorporating this. Says Camp: “We have promotions for our North American clients where we allow for a single supplement waiver on certain departures.” He adds that they also aim their escorted tours at solo travellers. “These include offers such as a three-day tour at the Victoria Falls, a 15-day tour around South Africa, and a four- to six-day Garden Route tour.”
Martin Weist, CEO of Tourvest Destination Management, says it also has plans to extend solo travel offers, as it is a growing segment.Du Preez explains that the offers available to solo travellers in Southern and Eastern Africa depend entirely on their budget. “A tailor-made trip for someone travelling alone can become rather costly, but is definitely not impossible. However, scheduled overland tours are often more popular among solo travellers, as they are usually more affordable, while still offering Africa’s top safari and beach experiences.”
He says examples of top-selling solo tours at the moment include:
• Cape Town to Victoria Falls – which includes many of Namibia and Botswana’s premier sites.
• East Africa Safari – Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Zanzibar.
• Gorilla trekking in Uganda and game parks safari in the Maasai Mara.
Camp adds that transformative travel is a big driver for solo travellers in Africa. “Solo travellers want to get to know local people and become involved in eco-tourism initiatives.
When you travel solo you are more able to immerse yourself in giving back to the community.”Graaff says solo travellers are often younger and willing to stay in budget accommodation. “They opt for overland backpacker options. They are also interested in adventure tours.”Camp suggests that the best way to tap into the market is to ensure that any offer could appeal to a solo traveller. “We need to adapt the way we think. It is not necessarily about aiming at them as a specific market, but rather ensuring that we don’t exclude them.”