Sadly, COVID affected nearly every industry when it hit in March 2020. But one that was particularly impacted was travel. Millions of people canceled trips, and restrictions put people into isolation. Thankfully that’s turning around now as the world opens up. Now, travel companies destroyed by the pandemic are returning as Americans desperately seek global travel, booking getaways for 2022. But with COVID’s impact on connectivity over the past 18 months, there’s one type of travel that’s particularly booming: solo group travel.
Yes, single households are growing at a faster rate than any other type. Consequently, solo travel is anticipated to increase in 2022 and beyond, which was already a rising trend. In fact, some companies are reporting single bookings up 300 percent. But, those solo travelers want to hit the road with a group.
Modern group travel company FTLO Travel revealed bookings were up 225 percent for 2022, with 82 percent being solo travelers. In addition, a small-group tour company for travelers 50+ Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) saw an increase of 7 percent in the percentage of solo bookings since the start of the pandemic.
The reason? Loneliness and convenience.
According to recent data, 22% of friendships deteriorated due to COVID restrictions. Plus, a Harvard study suggests that 36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults —feel “serious loneliness” from the pandemic. People are craving connection, plus navigating the rules of traveling–vaccination status, PCR tests, masking, etc.–during the pandemic made organized travel more appealing. Tour operators can handle the new logistics and mental load not previously part of the travel booking experience.
In addition to solo group travel, adventure tourism is also expected to grow. The sector is expected to register a year-over-year (YOY) growth of 17% through 2025, while soft adventure travel is growing at 65% YOY. Why? More than a year of isolation and lockdowns has given people time to think about the genuinely essential things, and for many, bucket list travel experiences rank highly.
But people are also looking to meet others that share their passions and experience new things together. They simply aren’t prepared to just wait around for their friends and family to be available. Solo travel removes these barriers, while the group travel aspect allows people to connect with like-minded people.
That’s the unique intersection that group adventure travel company Flash Pack, geared towards solo millennial travelers, provides. Re-entering the marketplace next month with 18 newly curated 2022 itineraries, Flash Pack was among the many in the travel industry struck by COVID. Pre-pandemic, they sent tens of thousands of solo travelers on bucket-list-worthy group adventure trips worldwide until the world and travel suddenly came to a halt. Closing operations last fall, the founders worked around the clock to help its community receive millions of dollars in refunds from previously booked trips and rebuild the business.
This period of hibernation for the business offered the rare chance to step back and reevaluate their offerings. With that reflection period and data pointing to the increased desire for group solo travel and connectivity, the company decided to curate new experiences specifically designed to help make a group of strangers bond together from private islands in Finland to waking up in a field of wildebeest in Tanzania.
“Many people have been unable to connect with new and old friends in the way they previously could. So, now every adventure is meticulously designed to fuel friendship from day one,” Lee Thompson, co-founder of Flash Pack, told Grit Daily. “The epic experiences take people out of their comfort zone and encourage travelers to support each other in a very human way, while boutique hotels and independent restaurants provide an element of exclusivity that creates shared memories.”
Ultimately, it’s clear that travel is going to come back in a big way. But a couple of things will change. First, the need for human connection will be far greater, and many people have also come to the realization over the last year that they can accomplish things on their own that previously might have seemed impossible. A solo group adventure offers the chance to escape from normality and routine and experience this newfound freedom and independence in the most transformative way.
The prediction for the future? According to Thompson, “I don’t think solo travel will just stick around; I think its popularity is going to skyrocket, particularly amongst those in their 30s and 40s.”