UK Solo Holidays Market Report 2020
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“Solo travel will be slower to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession than travel with other companions. However long-term prospects are strong, especially in the older segment of the…

UK Solo Holidays Market Report 2020

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Report Summary

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Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Solo Holidays – UK market including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

Solo travel is likely to be slower to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic than travel with other companions. Demand will be affected particularly amongst older singles. Those living in couples who sometimes take solo trips are likely to prioritise ‘main holidays’ with their partner at the present time. Younger solo travellers, however, will feel more confident about travelling alone or on group holidays, and this group can help to lead recovery.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by John Worthington, a leading analyst in the Travel sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Solo travel will be slower to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession than travel with other companions. However long-term prospects are strong, especially in the older segment of the market, due to rapid population growth amongst singles over 55. It is becoming more of a cultural norm for people to take separate ‘me-time’ breaks away from partners and families to pursue individual interests. However, as progress in the broader mainstream travel and hospitality industry, outside of the group holiday sectors remains slow, there is untapped growth potential in this area.
John Worthington
Senior Travel Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

      • Key issues covered in this report
        • COVID-19: Market context (created 29 September 2020)
          • Economic and other assumptions
            • Products covered in this Report
            • Executive Summary

                • Impact of COVID-19 on solo holidays
                  • Figure 1: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on solo holidays, 29 September 2020
                • The market
                  • Solo trips account for an estimated 7% of all holidays
                    • Solo travel will face a slower recovery
                      • Long-term growth prospects are good
                        • Companies and brands
                          • The groups market is increasingly targeting the solo traveller, but the mainstream travel industry still lags behind
                            • COVID-19 touring trends
                              • Luxury for one
                                • The consumer
                                  • Most solo travellers are ‘pure solos’ but one in six joins group holidays
                                    • Figure 2: Holiday companions in the past 5 years, July 2020
                                  • Four in ten solo travellers just want to ‘do their own thing’ and not have to fit in with others
                                    • Figure 3: Reasons for solo travel, July 2020
                                  • Decline of the city break during COVID-19 is likely to impact the solo travel market
                                    • Solo travellers are drawn to special interest/activity holidays
                                      • Figure 4: Solo holiday types versus non-solo holiday types, July 2020
                                    • Discovery (of self and destination) is a key characteristic of solo travel
                                      • Figure 5: Important factors for solo travellers versus non-solo travellers, July 2020
                                    • Single supplement is still the biggest barrier
                                      • Advice, support and social connection are areas of opportunity for travel & tourism brands
                                        • Figure 6: Interest in specialist advice/support for solo travellers, July 2020
                                    • Issues and Insights

                                      • COVID-19 will hit solo travel hard but there are also opportunities
                                        • COVID-19 has intensified the rising trend of social isolation and this can help drive interest in group-based holidays in the future
                                          • Solo ‘freedom’ breaks can enable singles (and those in couples) to celebrate their individual identity
                                          • The Market – Key Takeaways

                                            • Overseas holiday spend is expected not to fully recover from COVID-19 until 2025
                                              • Domestic holiday spend expected to drop by almost half in 2020 despite summer ‘mini-staycation’
                                                • 8 million solo holidays a year pre-COVID-19 but market trend had been flat
                                                  • Younger generation will help lead the recovery of solo travel
                                                    • Adventure tours are likely to recover faster than escorted touring
                                                      • Long-term opportunities in older singles segment
                                                      • Market Size and Forecast

                                                        • Solo travel will face a slower recovery
                                                          • Figure 7: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on solo holidays, 29 September 2020
                                                        • Overall holiday market
                                                          • Overseas trips expected to be down 75% in 2020 with a tough winter ahead
                                                            • Figure 8: Forecast volume and value* of overseas holidays taken by UK residents, 2015-25 (prepared on 1 October 2020)**
                                                          • Domestic holidays saw a summer ‘mini-staycation’ spike but rising infections are likely to postpone recovery
                                                              • Figure 9: Forecast volume and value* of domestic holidays taken by British residents, 2015-25 (prepared on 1 October 2020)**
                                                            • Solo travel accounts for an estimated 7% of all holidays
                                                              • Cautious older solos will delay recovery
                                                                • COVID-19 recession could affect demand amongst single consumers
                                                                  • Couples are likely to de-prioritise ‘extra’ solo breaks…
                                                                    • But offer possible opportunities…
                                                                      • Millennial solos can help to boost recovery in group adventure travel
                                                                        • A long-lasting ‘COVID-19/Brexit recession’ could create another solo staycation trend
                                                                          • Figure 10: Expenditure on overseas and domestic holidays taken by adult singles*, 2005-10
                                                                        • Long-term demographic & cultural factors favour solo travel growth…
                                                                          • …But the higher costs of solo travel remain a consumer barrier
                                                                            • Market drivers and assumptions
                                                                              • Figure 11: Key drivers affecting Mintel’s total holiday market forecast, 2015-25 (prepared on 1 October 2020)
                                                                            • Forecast methodology
                                                                            • Market Drivers

                                                                              • Whilst marriage has remained static, cohabitation and divorce have seen large increases
                                                                                • Figure 12: Marital status of population aged 16+, England and Wales, 2002-19
                                                                              • Almost four in ten adults do not live as part of a couple
                                                                                • Figure 13: Living arrangements of population aged 16+, England and Wales, 2002-19
                                                                              • The over-50s singles population is growing fast
                                                                                • Figure 14: Those not living in a couple aged 16+, by age, England and Wales, 2002-19
                                                                              • Single-living is expected to rise twice as fast as other arrangements over the next two decades
                                                                                  • Figure 15: One-person households, by age, UK, 2007-19
                                                                                • Social isolation trend has been intensified by COVID-19…
                                                                                  • …Likely to stimulate future demand for ‘social travel’ amongst singles
                                                                                    • Self-partnered breaks, solo-moons and consciously-uncoupled holidays
                                                                                      • Freedom travel, divorce holidays and female adventurers
                                                                                        • Single-living premium is a barrier to solo travel growth
                                                                                          • Figure 16: Financial situation, by marital status and for single-person households, July 2020
                                                                                      • Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

                                                                                        • Group touring & adventure brands see growing opportunities in solo market despite COVID-19 impact
                                                                                          • Pre-COVID-19 touring & adventure trends
                                                                                            • High-spending single professionals driving new solo luxury trend
                                                                                              • Decline of the student backpacker and rise of the young professional flashpacker
                                                                                              • Solo Holiday Companies

                                                                                                • Few mainstream travel companies specifically target solos
                                                                                                  • Groups sector continues to take the lead
                                                                                                    • Key trends in group holidays sector
                                                                                                      • Saga Holidays
                                                                                                        • Singles holiday specialists
                                                                                                          • Escorted tour operators
                                                                                                            • Adventure operators
                                                                                                              • Special interest group holidays
                                                                                                                • Figure 17: Latest reported turnover of selected tour operators of relevance to the solo holiday market
                                                                                                              • Touring & adventure intermediaries attracting a high proportion of solo travellers
                                                                                                                • TourHound
                                                                                                                  • Responsible Travel
                                                                                                                    • Not In The Guidebooks
                                                                                                                      • Cactus Language
                                                                                                                      • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                        • Most group operators have suspended tours until 2021…
                                                                                                                          • …But some have re-launched limited programmes for solos and others
                                                                                                                            • Escorted tour brands are developing new solo-only products
                                                                                                                              • Solo luxury
                                                                                                                                • Divorce holidays
                                                                                                                                  • Demise of STA and launch of Syte points to changing nature of youth travel
                                                                                                                                  • The Consumer – Key Takeaways

                                                                                                                                    • Group holidays are badly impacted by COVID-19 but Millennial solos could help lead recovery
                                                                                                                                      • Solo travel – a static market but a lucrative and under-served opportunity
                                                                                                                                        • Exploring cities, activity, learning & self-actualisation are key solo travel values
                                                                                                                                          • Solo travellers are self-oriented but more social than those in ‘bubbles’
                                                                                                                                            • Single supplement will remain the biggest post-COVID barrier to solo travel
                                                                                                                                              • Tools and services to support the solo traveller
                                                                                                                                              • Impact of COVID-19 on Holiday Booking and Intentions

                                                                                                                                                • Holiday booking plans fell again in August/September after signs of recovery
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 18: Holiday booking and intentions, August 2019-September 2020
                                                                                                                                              • The Solo Traveller

                                                                                                                                                • One in seven adults takes solo holidays
                                                                                                                                                  • Solo crossover
                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 19: Holiday companions in the past 5 years, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                  • Pure solo has a male bias, ‘group solo’ has a female bias
                                                                                                                                                    • Two thirds of solo travellers are single
                                                                                                                                                      • Financial situation is more polarised for solo travellers
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 20: Solo traveller versus non-solo traveller demographic profiles, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                    • Reasons for Solo Travel

                                                                                                                                                      • Self-oriented reasons versus lack of companions
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 21: Reasons for solo travel, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                      • Solo Holiday Destinations

                                                                                                                                                        • Solo travellers are more likely to go long-haul
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 22: Solo travel destinations versus non-solo travel destinations, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                      • Solo Holiday Types

                                                                                                                                                        • Solo travellers are far less beach-focussed
                                                                                                                                                          • Solos and the city
                                                                                                                                                            • Solo hobbyists
                                                                                                                                                              • 15% of solo travellers take escorted tours
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 23: Solo holiday types versus non-solo holiday types, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                            • Solo Traveller Values

                                                                                                                                                              • Active discoverers
                                                                                                                                                                • A third of solo travellers are seeking ways of meeting new people on holiday
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 24: Important factors for solo travellers versus non-solo travellers, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                              • Solo Holiday Frequency

                                                                                                                                                                • Occasional, Regular & Serious Solos
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 25: Frequency of solo travel, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 26: Solo travel destinations by frequency of travel, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                • Touring, adventure & cruises are especially popular amongst Serious Solos
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 27: Solo holiday types by frequency of travel, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 28: Important solo holiday factors by frequency of travel, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                              • Solo Holidays – Future Intentions

                                                                                                                                                                • 37% of solo travellers are happy to go alone as soon as travel restrictions are lifted…
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 29: Willingness to take solo holidays, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                • …But solo travellers are more hesitant about resuming their trips than other holidaymakers
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 30: When consumers would consider holiday activities, by destination, accommodation and holiday types, June 2020
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 31: Interest in travel party after travel restrictions are lifted, May 2020
                                                                                                                                                                • Male solos are keener to resume travel than females
                                                                                                                                                                  • Solo travellers over 55 are the most risk-averse
                                                                                                                                                                    • Millennial solos are the most likely to join a group holiday at the moment
                                                                                                                                                                      • Group adventure likely to recover faster than escorted tours
                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 32: Interest in taking group holidays as a solo traveller, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                    • Solo Traveller – Preferences & Opportunities

                                                                                                                                                                      • Single supplement still the biggest barrier post-COVID…
                                                                                                                                                                        • …Particularly in the older solos market
                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 33: Interest in having rooms with no single-person supplement charge, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                        • Solo travellers seek support from travel brands
                                                                                                                                                                          • Four in ten female solos would like specialist advice & support
                                                                                                                                                                            • Solo travel can be an area of expertise for agents in the post-COVID-19 world
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 34: Interest in specialist advice/support for solo travellers, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                            • Solos seeking connection
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 35: Interest in connecting with other solo travellers, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                            • High demand for solo-only group tours amongst female Boomers
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 36: Solo Holidays – CHAID – Tree output, July 2020
                                                                                                                                                                          • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                                                                              • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                  • CHAID analysis methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 37: Solo Holidays – CHAID – Table output, July 2020

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