America’s fastest growing tourism segment are traveling more than ever, even when they have to go alone. In fact, 25% of them are planning a trip on their own. It’s just one of the key insights in our new (and free) ‘Future of U.S. Millennial Travel’ Report.
Travel may have been viewed as a luxury by previous generations, but Millennials see it more as a necessity.
According to our new Future of U.S. Millennial Travel report, the free 70-page resource packed with myth-busting revelations and blueprints for capturing America’s fastest growing tourism demographic, a third of U.S. Millennial travelers say they are likely to visit a foreign country in the next 24 months.
And this generation of connected travelers doesn’t shy away from the idea of going it alone; in fact, 25% of those polled in our study said they plan to take a trip on their own in the next 12 to 24 months.
A quick look at recent Google search trends reveals that the number of searches for the terms “solo travel” hit a peak in the first week of January 2018—almost 55% higher than the same week the previous year, and the highest ever.
Traveling alone offers complete freedom. A solo traveler gets to choose where to go, what to see and when to see it.
Scroll through Instagram and you’re likely to come across a photo of a lone Millennial taking in the view from a mountaintop. Or standing in a bamboo forest. Or taking a selfie in front of an iconic city landmark at the crack of dawn.
SOLO TRAVEL ISN’T NEW. BUT IT’S GROWING
Traveling alone isn’t a recent trend, either. In 2014, the accommodation site Booking.com unveiled its first Solo Travel Report. The research surveyed both Millennials and Gen-Xers in the U.S. and in international destinations including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany.
Its big revelation was that it’s not just young American dudes who set out on the road alone. In fact, compared to those from other countries examined in the report, American women rank first in solo travel and are most likely to take three trips or more in a given year.
Hotels are taking notice. In the past few years, more and more brands—Hamilton Crowne Plaza in D.C., Ellis Hotel in Atlanta, Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver, Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh and many others—have jumped on the bandwagon by offering Women Only floors, which provide an extra layer of security along with amenities like extra dress hangers, minibars stocked with smoothies, complimentary nylons and use of a flat iron.
Paul Hennessy, CMO at Booking.com, notes that this is not a trend, but the new normal. “Our research suggests that female solo travel is a phenomenon that is here to stay,” he says.
RISE OF THE MILLENNIAL TRAVEL OPERATORS
Contiki is just one of many travel companies with a long-established laser-focus on the solo traveler aged 18 to 25. The company’s philosophy (preceded by a hashtag, of course) can best be summed up by Instagram-ready quotes like “just say yes” and “have no regrets.” Its approach to travel resonates with empowered, confident, curious Millennials, who are more likely to count their wealth in experiences and memories than by the balance of their bank accounts.
Millennials are exploring at sea, too. Just a few years ago, cruise lines penalized solo travelers with a single supplement fee. Today they’re pursuing them with staterooms and common areas specifically designed for the single cruiser, as well as amenities Millennials expect (fast WiFi) and might desire (like skydiving, zip-lining and other high-adrenaline shipboard adventures). This, of course, includes late-night dance parties.
Next year, one cruise company plans to launch the first Millennial-targeted cruise line called U by Uniworld. According to The New York Times, the high-end river cruise line is repurposing existing ships and refinishing them with black exteriors, sleek design with communal spaces, deck-top lounges and DJ sessions.
SO WHAT MATTERS TO SOLO MILLENNIAL TRAVELERS?
Our research shows that the two most important factors for Solo Millennial travelers when choosing a vacation destination are similar to those of Millennial travelers in general with Safety (56%) and Cost (51%) at the top of the list, followed by Quality of Natural Environment/ Scenery and English Spoken. Last year, Topdeck Travel, which organizes group travel for those aged 18- to 30-something, surveyed 31,000 people under 40 from 134 different countries. They found that instead of Europe, more of those people had been to Australia and New Zealand—two countries known for their natural scenery and where English is the primary language.
Our study shows that those with higher incomes place greater importance on several factors compared to lower income earners. The most notable priorities for higher-income respondents are Quality and Variety of Shopping (41% vs. 19%), Close to Beach (44% vs. 21%) and Number of Fun Attractions (47% vs. 28%).
It’s clear that travel is a top priority for Millennials, but how are they doing it? How do they afford it?
Simply, they’re willing to budget for trips—and going solo is one way to do that. They also spend most of their money on experiences rather than on material things. According to our research, Fun Attractions, Dining and Learning New Things (90%, 89% and 88% respectively) top the list of preferences for Solo Millennial travelers while on vacation, followed by Sightseeing (87%). Participating in a Once-in-a-Lifetime Activity and Volunteering are the most desired future activities they would like to try.
If they have to go solo to get out there, so be it. Because #YOLO. After all, the entire trip will be, WiFi willing, shared with everyone anyway. Increasingly, companionship on the road is as rewarding virtually as it is physically.
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