THE idea of a solo vacation may be daunting or even reckless to some, but for a growing number of globetrotters, it’s the way forward.
According to the TripAdvisor Women’s Travel Survey, solo travel is on the rise, and it is female travelers who are blazing the way., especially in Southeast Asia. But this is not a passing phase. Travel agents polled back in 2013 reported women were far more likely than men to book solo trips.
So what’s motivating these travelers to head off on their own and how is the industry responding?
Why women choose solo travel
Beyond the obvious appeal of greater freedom, there are a number of practical and personal reasons for going solo.
For some, it’s a matter of independence and boosting self-confidence. For others, it’s about a special interest or pursuit. But for many, circumstances and life changes are the catalyst.
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Kristin Addis, a solo traveler and author of the guidebook Conquering Mountains, told Travel Wire Asia about her decision.
“I knew I would have to wait, probably for years, if I didn’t just go at it alone, so I went to Bangkok on a one-way ticket with a carry-on bag, and I have been on the move for almost five years”.
But far from being a last resort, a solo trip can actually offer some unique advantages. “It has led to some amazing stories and adventures that I could only have had on my own,” Addis said.
Weighing risks against rewards
While it is no longer rare or unusual to see a lone female traveler in some areas, one issue still prevails – safety.
“I find local people tend to take me under their wing more. They are often fascinated and sometimes even a bit concerned I’m traveling by myself,” Addis said.
Although the perceived dangers to women are often disputed, many prefer to mitigate potential risks all the same. For this reason, countries with a reputation for being more receptive to people traveling alone are usually favored.
This is echoed in Addis’ own experience: “I think Thailand was a really good starting point because it’s a social place with lots of other travelers, many of whom are also solo.”
Other sources seem to agree. Thailand is highly rated by the Nomad List – a destination checking tool – with Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Lanta and Ko Samui scoring either “good” or “great” for being female-friendly and safe. Bangkok was also ranked top by global solo female travelers in TripAdvisor’s survey.
Changing travel landscape
Solo female travel looks set to remain popular and the industry has certainly embraced it.
Apps are appearing with the lone lady traveler in mind like Tourlina and Safety Map. More solo female travel specialists and activity companies like Adventurous Women are setting up shop. Even insurance companies are responding by offering flexible products to appeal to this demographic.
But while these developments go some way to address the safety concerns surrounding women traveling alone, it does not entirely resolve them.
As a result, the market remains burdened by the problem despite the opportunities it presents. Yet interestingly, this doesn’t appear to be putting female travelers off.