Go­ing solo

Western Mail - - GETAWAY -

As an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple choose to hol­i­day with­out friends or fam­ily, SARAH MAR­SHALL finds out why es­corted tours are be­com­ing so pop­u­lar

AL­THOUGH cheap flights and im­proved in­fra­struc­ture make desti­na­tions more ac­ces­si­ble than ever, many of us still feel ner­vous about trav­el­ling alone. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by ad­ven­ture travel com­pany Ex­plore, 70% of over 50s ad­mit they reg­u­larly make ex­cuses for not trav­el­ling and tak­ing a trip of a life­time.

One of the eas­i­est ways to al­lay those fears is to travel as a group. To en­cour­age more peo­ple to take the plunge and join an es­corted tour, Ex­plore will be waiv­ing all sin­gle sup­ple­ment fees on 60 of their itin­er­ar­ies if booked be­tween now and July 2.

John Telfer, Ex­plore’s in­terim manag­ing di­rec­tor, who has trav­elled to an im­pres­sive 100 plus coun­tries, ex­plains why group travel is on the rise for solo ex­plor­ers.

What do most peo­ple fear about trav­el­ling alone?

THERE are many rea­sons: there’s the fear of go­ing to a new place, the lan­guage, be­ing alone at meal times and the worry of not know­ing what to do if some­thing goes wrong.

Why should peo­ple con­sider join­ing a group?

PRAC­TI­CALLY 100% of our tour lead­ers are lo­cal so they know the lo­cal cus­toms and are in­te­grated into the lo­cal cul­ture. About half of the peo­ple on our group tours are solo trav­ellers, and tour lead­ers work hard to cre­ate a dy­namic and break down bar­ri­ers in the group. We try to show peo­ple dif­fer­ent sides of a coun­try – a quirky bar down a side street or get­ting up at the crack of dawn to visit a tourist site be­fore other peo­ple. Plus, there’s the op­por­tu­nity to make new friends.

Are solo trav­ellers stung with higher prices?

SIN­GLE room sup­ple­ments can be ex­pen­sive. Even if we didn’t have the sale, if so­los on group trips are happy to share with some­body of the same sex, there’s no ex­tra charge. Some peo­ple love it and keep do­ing it. Along with some of our over­seas op­er­a­tors, we’re shoul­der­ing a big cost for our June of­fer. There’s no such thing as a free lunch or a sin­gle room. The most any­one can save on this of­fer is £975, which is huge.

Are there more fe­male solo trav­ellers?

WE get an aw­ful lot of peo­ple who want to travel but their part­ners don’t want to travel. Sta­tis­tics show that women over the age of 50 are more pre­dis­posed to travel than men. One school of thought sug­gests men are more ad­ven­tur­ous and travel by them­selves more, but I don’t be­lieve that. I think women are gen­er­ally more ad­ven­tur­ous and more

likely to go on our trips.

How have es­corted tours change over the years?

I RE­MEM­BER when I first started trav­el­ling, the thought of go­ing to Morocco was an in­cred­i­bly ex­otic thing to do, whereas now peo­ple will book it with 24 hours’ no­tice. The bar­ri­ers have dropped mas­sively. For peo­ple in their 50s, things that were dif­fi­cult when they were younger are so much eas­ier – they’ve got more time, had their fam­ily – it’s this great op­por­tu­nity. I travel a lot by my­self and I leave my wife at home.

If you went back to when we started 36 years ago, we went to a hand­ful of desti­na­tions – places like Peru and Mex­ico were al­most off the wall in the 1980s. This type of travel has be­come more main­stream, but we’re still try­ing to do the same thing – show peo­ple the real coun­try. Ac­com­mo­da­tion stan­dards have also im­proved.

Which desti­na­tions are pop­u­lar with solo trav­ellers?

SPAIN is very pop­u­lar for sin­gle trav­ellers, but I’m not ac­tu­ally sure why that is. There is a greater pro­por­tion of peo­ple on walk­ing and cy­cling hol­i­days. They want the se­cu­rity of know­ing some­one is tak­ing care of the route and will be able to help if the bikes break.

What’s the best thing about group travel?

THE shar­ing of ex­pe­ri­ences – see­ing the Taj Ma­hal at first light for ex­am­ple.

Trav­el­ling alone shouldn’t mean you miss out on see­ing great sites, such as the Taj Ma­hal in In­dia, left, or Mar­rakech in Morocco, below

Mak­ing new friends is a big plus for trav­el­ling solo

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