Courtesy of Tracy Testin
- Many luxury-hospitality businesses have started catering to the market of solo female travelers.
- Women are seeing perks like waived single-supplement fees and specific amenities and trip offerings.
- Even honeymoon resorts that usually seek couples are offering the chance to experience luxury alone.
Three times each year, Tracy Testin, 59, steps back entirely from her hectic life as a luxury-real-estate agent in Malibu, California, and books a trip overseas.
Two of the trips, she told Insider, usually involve hiking or something outdoorsy — like a coast-to-coast walk in the UK — while the other is a pampering adventure she books to make the most of better prices during the holiday season.
“Between American Thanksgiving and December 15 or so, that’s a dead travel time, so it’s the best time to take an expensive trip,” Testin, who estimated that she spent about $8,000 a trip during this time, said.
This year, she visited Egypt to pay homage to Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile.”
Testin might invite a friend to split a room on occasion, but most of the time, she travels alone — an approach she’s taken for more than 35 years.
“I hate asking someone to travel with me — the whole, ‘Where are we going? What are we doing?'” she said. “You’re either in or you’re out. I don’t want to wait for someone.”
When she started traveling alone, she said, the trend was less common and locals were often surprised to see her without a companion. Today, several luxury-travel companies told Insider, she’s one of many looking for adventure on their own.
Simon Lynch, the global sales director at the UK luxury-tour operator Scott Dunn — the average spend per booking is $36,000, the company reported — told Insider inquiries around solo trips had significantly increased in the past three years. Of those that booked solo trips, he added, 60% were women. A representative at Up Norway, which runs high-end trips throughout the Scandinavian country, similarly told Insider that its bookings from solo women travelers were up 40 to 50% compared with 2019. Keri Levitt, the founder of the bespoke-tour operator Morocco by Design, said a full quarter of her bookings now came from women traveling on their own.
The Solo Female Travelers Club, a 190,000-member social network and tour operator, surveys 5,000 women annually on their habits and opinions. Its poll in 2021 found that 65% of respondents were interested in women-only group travel, a rise of two-thirds year over year. Seeing an opportunity to bolster revenues, many companies have started catering to this market.
A Solo Female Travelers Club trip to Iceland.
Courtesy of the Solo Female Travelers Club
Some have started waiving single-supplement fees, a charge imposed on single travelers who take up rooms typically filled by couples — the cruise specialist Avalon Waterways, the museum-tour company Smithsonian Journeys, the wellness resort Body Holiday, and the private-jet operator TCS are among the luxury brands that have jumped on this trend.
Others are offering amenities and trips tailored to solo women travelers, with success. The tour company Trafalgar introduced a women-only set of tours earlier this year, and a rep for the firm said 61% of those who booked the trip said they’re traveling alone. This summer, the Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf in St. Barts started offering a $7,000 “Alonemoon Package” — complete with a deluxe bungalow, private yoga and meditation classes, spa treatments, and a restaurant voucher.
The view from the Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf in St. Barts, which offers the “Alonemoon Package.”
Courtesy of the Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf
Similarly, Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives, a prime honeymoon spot, now runs a solo package that allows one traveler to enjoy all the experiences a couple might — think sunset sailings and sleeping under the stars — starting at $1,800 per villa a night. A Gili Lankanfushi representative told Insider six women traveling alone had booked the package in the past 18 months.
Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives.
Courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi
Michelle Master Orr, a travel advisor who also often travels alone — most recently, she went on a luxury whale safari in Baja California, Mexico — said the uptick in solo women travelers had been driven largely by the constant regulatory changes around borders during the pandemic.
“Solo travelers are not burned with coordinating other people’s schedules, so they are more flexible,” she said.
The emotional fallout from COVID-19 is another factor.
“I’ve met a lot of women who had pandemic divorces or relationship splits,” Sarah Wilson, a 48-year-old writer who’s spent the past several years as a digital nomad, said. “And it’s maybe been a year, and now they’ve sorted out the custody stuff. They’re starting their lives again.”
Wilson added: “Women did a lot of the nurturing during various lockdowns, and so much of the feminine experience is tied down to caring for others.
“I think it’s a wonderful, life-affirming experience to be a woman traveling solo and experience the nurturing care you can get from strangers. It reaffirms your faith in the world.”
Meg Jerrard, a cofounder of the Solo Female Travelers Club, recently started a consulting division of her company to help guide other businesses as they reevaluate their offerings and staff in light of growing demand from solo female travelers.
Meg Jerrard, a cofounder of the Solo Female Travelers Club.
Courtesy of Solo Female Travelers Club
A recent survey conducted by Hospitality ON magazine found women ran just 12.4% of the world’s top 350 travel companies.
“The travel space is male-dominated — yes, there are women in the travel industry, but they often have roles like housekeeping,” Jerrard said.
While Jerrard works to change that, travelers like Testin have no plans to wait around.
“People ask me questions like, ‘Where’s your husband? Or, ‘Why are you alone?'” she said. “I handle it with loving kindness and always said the same thing: ‘I’d rather go on my own than not at all.'”