Is post-pandemic travel going solo?

If you thought the pandemic meant that we were all sick of isolating, think again. People around the world aren’t just eager to pack their suitcases and hit the road, seas, or skies again, but they’re excited to do it alone.

Along with the broader return to travel, which is predicted to drive the global leisure travel market from $4,405.5 billion in 2021 to $6,347.8 billion in 20271, solo travel could be good news for travel stocks.

Solo travel is on the up

Statistics from every corner point to a rise in demand for solo trips. Data from shows that pre-pandemic, only 14% of travelers were going solo, but by mid-2021 that number had almost doubled to 23%2, while Google trend data showed that solo travel had risen by a massive 761.15%3.

Organized tours and group travel companies report a significant jump in participants joining alone. Compared with pre-pandemic figures, Exodus Travels has seen solo participation increase by 9%; at EF Go Ahead Tours, the number more than doubled; and Road Scholar says that solo travelers’ ranks swelled by 20%4.

Source: “Senior Solo Travel Sees a Boost in 2021” December 8, 2021

What is driving the urge to travel alone?

The jump in popularity for solo travel stems from a number of different factors, but all of them stem from the impact of COVID-19

1.   A desire for “me time”

After months cooped up at home with family members or roommates, vast numbers of people are ready to strike out alone. “Ever since the second wave of Covid-19 ended last year, a lot of travellers have turned towards going solo to satisfy their wanderlust souls,” says Karan Sahdev, director of Travolook, adding “Individuals are seeking some me-time, away from their families, while being able to socialise and create their own tribe.”5

That’s true for those heading out to commune with nature, but it also applies to people joining group tours or booking into organized retreats on their own.

Women in particular are prioritizing opportunities to meet other like-minded women as part of community travel experiences. “[Travelers] tend to share a lot of values and form deep friendships,” says Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder and CEO of boutique travel-planning company Indagare. “Many have found lifelong travel companions because they signed up for a solo trip,” she adds.6

2.   Regaining control and freedom

A survey run by Solo Traveler World in 2021 revealed that most people travel alone because they want to feel free, independent, and in control, all feelings which were negatively impacted by COVID-19.7

Source: “Solo Travel Statistics and Data: 2021 -2022” Last updated February 9, 2022

Solo travel means that you can be more flexible about changing your plans at the last minute, and many still find it stressful to travel with people who might be a vector of infection. Travelers who get away alone are able to set their own hygiene standards.

1.   On a quest for better mental health

Another effect of the pandemic was to leave millions bereaved, traumatized, and in need of time alone to process their experiences. Solo trips often focus on mental health, whether to meditation or wellness retreats, or for solo hiking, biking, or climbing trips to connect with nature.

“I usually travel with a group, and I love the nightlife, but because of COVID-19, I didn’t want to travel with my squad,” said one solo traveler in 2021. “I needed the time alone. I had lost my beloved grandmother, possibly to COVID-19, and I’d been waiting for months for her death certificate. I had friends die, and relationships end. I was going through it.”8

It’s a need that’s reflected in the rise in pilgrimages, which allow time to reflect and explore your spiritual side, regardless of religion. The records of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela’s Pilgrims Reception Office, one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations, shows a growing number of solo pilgrims.9

Dee Dyas, director of the University of York’s Centre for Pilgrimage Studies, agrees, saying “There’s immense unresolved, unsupported grief because of the epidemic. People are desperate; they need to process their lives, find meaning in special places, create positive memories, say their goodbyes.”10

2.   Seizing the moment

Many people didn’t intend to travel alone, but they aren’t willing to put off a planned trip to wait for the right companion, or connect with someone who they don’t think will be a good travel buddy.

Lauren Bates, founder and CEO of Wild Terrains, says that women in particular are no longer about to postpone their much-needed escape just to have a friend or partner to travel with. “If they have a bucket-list trip they want to take, they are booking it now,” she says.11

Solo travel is riding a wave of travel trends

The jump in solo travel also owes a lot to a concatenation of other post-covid travel preferences. For example, the shift to remote work fueled a rise in workations, enabling people to get away alone to work and explore new destinations.

We’re also seeing an increase in demand for more sustainable vacations, where you spend an extended period of time in a different locale, shopping and eating local and merging with the local ecosystem. By traveling alone, people feel better able to become part of the local community.

Even before the pandemic hit, there was a burgeoning trend to avoid over-Instagrammed sites and seek out lesser-known destinations. It’s become a badge of honor to visit somewhere that nobody else knows about. Solo travelers are also giving into the growing thirst for adventure and exotic travel, actualizing the romantic image of heading off alone into the sunset to explore new ground.

Travelers may be striking out alone, but travel stocks are rising together

The rapid growth of solo travel is just one of the many factors driving the return of travel stocks. Investors see the thirst for travel breaking out around them as a sign to seek out travel stocks to buy, whether those are cruise stocks, airline stock, or hotel stocks.

But while the sector as a whole may seem likely to continue to grow, picking the best cruise stocks or other travel stocks is a risky business. That’s why many retail investors are buying a travel ETF like CRUZ, which lets you spread your investment across a number of promising travel stocks with a single purchase so that you can mitigate your exposure to single stock risk while investing across the sector.

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1 “Global leisure travel market — Industry dynamics, market size and opportunity forecast, 2027” January 25, 2022

2 “Global leisure travel market — Industry dynamics, market size and opportunity forecast, 2027” January 25, 2022

3 “8 of the biggest rises in UK holiday trends, according to Google” JUne 3, 2021

4 “More Solo Travelers Choosing Group Tours” November 24, 2021

5 “The trend of solo travel picks up during the pandemic” January 25, 2022

6 “Travel Trends for 2022” March 3, 2022

7 “Solo Travel Statistics and Data: 2021 -2022” Last updated February 9, 2022

8 “20 Solo Trips in 2020: I Traveled Solo During COVID-19” April 12, 2021

9 “Pilgrimages could be the next post-COVID travel trend” July 12, 2021

10  “Pilgrimages could be the next post-COVID travel trend” July 12, 2021

11  “Travel Trends for 2022” March 3, 2022