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Solo On The Rough Road
The lone woman traveller is no longer an aberration. She is part of a growing and adventurous tribe
Photo Credit : Courtesy: Cox & Kings
Priyanka Naik is a communications professional. When she travels solo, she says she only takes the first step and simply lets herself go. Her solo travelling journey has been adventurous. She says she has met many solo travellers around the globe, but hardly any Indian women travellers among them.
Naik says she did have misgivings about journeying all by herself in the beginning, but doesn’t give it a second thought today. She says she always has her travelling shoes on. “The concern about safety is not specific to Indian women,” says she, “it is everywhere.”
The travel site Trip Advisor, conducted a survey on the increasing trend among Indian women to travel solo in 2015. The report revealed that 41 per cent of Indian women travelled alone, compared to 37 per cent in 2014. The report was compiled on the basis of the responses of 1,300 women across India.
Over the last few years, more and more Indian women have shown interest in travelling alone. In the days ahead, more are likely to travel solo within India as the number that perceive domestic travel as unsafe, has dropped substantially. In the Trip Advisor survey, only 11 per cent of the respondents had perceived solo travel within India as unsafe in 2015, compared to 33 per cent in 2014.
The travel portal, HolidayIQ’s survey on Indian women travellers, suggests that solo Indian women travellers spend 15 per cent more money on vacation, than their male counterparts.
The report also underscores the fact that women spend 20 per cent more time researching a prospective holiday location and take longer trips with bigger holiday budgets. The solo woman traveller, therefore, is a growing segment in the travel and tourism industry.
“The market size of solo women travellers is two per cent of the overall market,” says Karan Anand, Head, Relationships, Cox & Kings. The women travellers segment is still a niche part of tourism in India, drawing travellers from metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Growing By The Day
Of late, though, the industry has witnessed a growing trend among women travellers from Tier I & Tier II cities, like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Pune to travel solo. The size of the market is likely to expand, as increasing economic and social independence, enables Indian women to travel more, both solo and in groups.
Solo travelling among women is extremely popular in the 18 years to 24 years age-group and the 24 years to 36 years age group.
“There has also been an increase in the number of women travellers, who have crossed 60 and are travelling solo in recent years,” says Ankur Bhatia, director, Amadeus India. The travel and hospitality industry has been quick to recognise the trend and has jumped into the fray with women-specific travel packages. While popular Indian destinations, like Kerala, Goa, Pondicherry, Jaipur, Shimla, Corbett, and Coorg still remain favourites, women travellers have now also begun to explore off-beat and exotic destinations.
Big Budget Spenders
According to a Visa Global Travel Intentions Study 2015, prepared by Millward Brown, almost half the solo travellers were professionals and executives and they came from Asia – specifically China and India. Solo travel has more than doubled among both affluent and first-time travellers.
Among the affluent, the propensity to travel solo jumped 32 per cent in 2015, from 14 per cent earlier. That year, travelling solo became a trend among first-time travellers, whose numbers grew by 37 per cent, from 16 per cent earlier.
Chetan Gupta, general secretary of the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India says the market for women travellers was growing. He points out that women were travelling both solo and in groups. These women spend anything between Rs 45,000 and Rs 50,000 as domestic tourists. When wanderlust takes them overseas, they end up spending anything between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1.3 lakh.
Nikhil Ganju, country manager, Trip Advisor India says, “It is encouraging to see Indian women taking charge of the entire travel process, from planning all the way to making that decision and purchasing the holiday. Last year, our survey showed that almost 70 per cent contributed financially towards their travel, while 75 per cent were an equal partner in the co-planning and booking process with their companion. I believe this is only set to grow in the future.”
“India has been a host to single women travellers from various countries for years. For the first-time, it is also the preferred destination,” says Ankur Bhatia, adding, “A majority of solo-women travellers in India travel only within India, where as India has seen a dip in international women travellers, owing to a perception about safety.”
Women travellers are now an increasingly important segment of the Indian travel market, for both leisure and business travel. A key contributor to this trend is the flexibility and access to information, with travel companies introducing specially-designed women-specific packages, keeping in mind their interest, choices and preferences.