Catering to the Independent Travel Market

Catering to the Independent Travel Market

These tour operators and cruise lines target independent travelers looking to share their experiences with others By: Meagan Drillinger
Singles and solo travelers can mix and mingle with like-minded travelers. // © 2015 iStock
Singles and solo travelers can mix and mingle with like-minded travelers. // © 2015 iStock

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The Details

Abercrombie & Kent

Cosmos Tours

G Adventures

Intrepid Travel

Singles Cruise

Going solo on a vacation doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go it alone. While some travelers who hit the road on their own are looking for some “me time,” many single explorers want to travel with a group but can’t find companions with whom to share the journey. There are several tour and cruise operators that will accommodate these types of clients, who are looking for the best opportunities to mix and mingle with other like-minded travelers.

“There are different programs that work with the single traveler, such as G Adventures and Intrepid Travel,” said Andre Bowen, a Houston-based travel agent with Travel Leaders. “They are based on single occupancy, but you will be sharing a room with another traveler of the same sex. They generally travel in small groups of no more than 15, and you get more of an adventure and cultural perspective.”

These are good options for solo travelers who swing more adventurous. Intrepid Travel, a tour operator geared toward small-group travel to exotic locations around the world, offers itineraries in more than 100 countries, and tours are capped at around 10 travelers per group. In Intrepid’s off-the-beaten path destinations, clients are encouraged to “go local.” Public transportation is always preferred over a coach bus, along with homestay accommodations or other forms of local hotels.

Some of Intrepid’s most popular tours for solo travelers include Best of Morocco, Classic Rajasthan, Best of Turkey and Mexico Unplugged.

G Adventures is another great adventure tour operator focused on cultural immersion and the individual experience. Its destinations span the globe, from the jungles of Ecuador to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. Like Intrepid, G Adventures’ groups are small, and clients are encouraged to travel like locals whenever possible — for example, taking overnight trains in Vietnam or public buses between Amazonian cities.

“G Adventures is great for hard-core trekking, as well as other less rigorous journeys,” said Lisa Pinczewski-Sweet of Tempe, Ariz.-based Your Travel Center, a branch of Tzell Travel Group. “It offers travelers a true local experience. G Adventures also does not charge any sort of single traveler supplement on its tours, though all accommodations in hotels are booked on a twin-share basis, where solo travelers are paired to share a room together.”

For discerning independent travelers with a little extra income at their disposal, Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) is the way to go. About a quarter of A&K clients are single travelers looking for a higher level of luxury service. With A&K, these clients have the opportunity to travel with like-minded companions, all while knowing that at the end of the day they will return to the privacy of their own bedroom at an upscale hotel.

“A&K is for the well-traveled single traveler, and it offers higher-end small-group tours. It either reduces a tour’s single supplement by as much as 75 percent or waives the supplement entirely,” Pinczewski-Sweet said.

Burbank, Calif.-based Annette Geisler of Senator Travel/Travel Leaders recommends Cosmos Tours for budget-minded single travelers.

“With these tours, clients can socialize with fellow travelers if they feel the need,” she said. “They might also feel safer in a group if they go to countries that they are not familiar with. Another great advantage is that Cosmos offers reservations on a guaranteed share basis. It charges the basic price and matches up singles of the same gender. If no other traveler has booked the guaranteed share, Cosmos will absorb the single room supplement.”

But though this demographic may be traveling alone, solo doesn’t necessarily mean single.

The majority of A&K’s solo travelers, who are often drawn to iconic destinations such as Antarctica and India or to experiences such as an African safari, are surprisingly not single, according to Phil Otterson, president of A&K USA.

“They choose to travel solo for a number of reasons,” he said. “Perhaps their significant other doesn’t share their enthusiasm for a particular destination, or their interest in photography, or they simply can’t get away from work. These guests prefer to travel on their own, accompanied by A&K’s expert local guides and other like-minded travelers.”

Solo cruisers have a wealth of options at their disposal, and river cruising is a particularly great option for these clients.

“Singles can socialize if they feel the need, plus the group factor gives them a feeling of greater security,” Geisler said. “Female single travelers appreciate the safe environment while traveling alone. It is a plus that cruise lines such as Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways and Tauck waive the single supplement on most of their cruises and even offer specific welcome receptions for their single passengers.”

Singles Cruise is a cruise line dedicated specifically to trips for singles. Each cruise includes a full itinerary of social events where guests can get to know one another, from cocktail parties and “singles mingle dining” to theme nights, dance lessons and karaoke parties. Singles Cruise has a robust social community, as well, where cruisers can meet other travelers via online message boards and private social media groups before the ship departs.