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Should I join a gaggle tour alone?


Everyone told me to not travel solo during a pandemic.

Especially to not learn snowboarding, a sport that not all travel insurance policies cover. It didn’t help that I desired to visit a rustic where I do not speak the language.

Administrative matters — reminiscent of Covid tests, vaccination certificates and health declarations — can be painful for a solo traveler, I used to be told. I could also catch Covid or injure myself while snowboarding overseas.

It made sense, but I didn’t know anyone who could go together with me. So I joined a Singapore tour group to South Korea.

I didn’t comprehend it once I booked my trip, but I used to be a part of a trend of solo women travelers who’re joining group tours as tourism finds its feet again.

The Singapore-based agency I traveled with, EU Holidays, said many more solo travelers have joined its trips because it restarted international tours in September.

The numbers are small, but there was a noticeable increase, in accordance with Wong Yew Hoong, director at EU Holidays.

Before the pandemic, he said, solo travelers rarely joined their tours “because they normally plan and travel on their very own,” he told CNBC Travel. Now they’re, and most solo travelers are women, he said.

Global trend

In other parts of the world, this trend began before the pandemic.

The Canadian-based travel agency G Adventures said solo travelers made up 51% of its bookings this 12 months — and 70% of them are female, up barely from 2019.

The solo travel trend has grown exponentially over the past 4 years, in accordance with Melissa DaSilva, North America president of The Travel Corporation’s tour division, TTC Tour Brands. TTC owns travel agencies reminiscent of Trafalgar and Contiki.

“The pandemic has actually spurred interest even further,” she told CNBC, adding that TTC Tour Brands has made more single rooms available and reduced or waived extra fees for single travelers in response to solo travel demand.

The SoFe Traveler Network, which organizes tours for solo female travelers, said bookings have reached about 60% of pre-pandemic levels.

Even married individuals are traveling solo because they’ve different interests from their spouses, said Bruce Poon Tip, owner of Just You, a solo traveler specialist that organizes adult-only tours.

The pandemic made people more determined to tick off their “bucket list” destinations, said Tip, who also founded G Adventures.

“[But] couples don’t necessarily have the identical lists, and in order that they’re traveling individually,” he told CNBC.

In line with Just You’s website, women normally make up around three-quarters of travelers in a solo travel group.

‘Don’t wait’ attitude

Solo travel is usually related to flexibility, and group tours are seen as rigid. So why are female solo travelers signing up for this form of travel?

In my case, I wasn’t alone by selection or because I wanted more freedom. I spent weeks trying to search out friends who would conform to include me.

G Adventures’ Tip said individuals who travel now are “early adopters,” but their friends may not have the identical appetite for risk. That was the case for me — lots of my friends said they were still concerned about Covid.

However it was also difficult to search out someone whose goals and schedule matched mine. I noticed that, even when Covid subsides in the approaching 12 months, I would still find yourself without travel buddies, so now was pretty much as good a time as any.

Don’t wait to tick off your ‘bucket list.’ … Nothing is promised.

Melissa DaSilva

North America president of TTC Tour Brands

DaSilva of TTC Tour Brands described that because the “don’t wait” attitude that many solo tourists have, which she said the pandemic reinforced.

“Don’t wait for a travel companion to wish to go to the identical destination, at the identical time. Don’t wait to tick off your ‘bucket list.’ Don’t wait – nothing is promised,” she said.

I didn’t wish to wait, but I also didn’t wish to navigate pandemic travel alone. So I joined a tour.

CNBC’s Abigail Ng (sixth from left) joined a small group tour from Singapore to South Korea in March 2022.

Courtesy of Shawn Koh

Border regulations, Covid testing and flight cancellations have made it difficult for solo travelers to plan their very own trips, said Megan Arzbaecher, a tour manager with SoFe Travel.

“Confidence in travel dropped dramatically, and until it rebounds, joining a solo group tour takes away all the mystery and worry, because we’re on top of all of the changing restrictions,” she said.

Safety in numbers

Singaporean Nicole Lim will probably be occurring her first group tour as a solo traveler in May. She said safety was a giant consideration.

She desired to go mountaineering, but felt it could be dangerous to do it alone.

“Being in Singapore for therefore long, I have never done a number of mountaineering and camping. I believe it’s higher for me to go and discover a guide and join a gaggle, in order that we are able to all help each other out,” she said.

Before the pandemic, she said she probably would have asked friends to hitch her. But after two years without travel, she didn’t want her plans to be determined by whether she had someone to go together with.

“If that is the case, then I will be delaying my travels and planning in accordance with one other person’s schedule reasonably than mine,” she told CNBC.

After greater than two years of living through the pandemic, some travelers are going solo because they don’t desire to be depending on other people’s schedules.

Michael Duva | Stone | Getty Images

Covid also adds one other dimension to safety concerns, provided that travelers may need medical care or be stuck overseas.

“The travel agency can care for you, like assist you to change [flight] tickets and make some arrangements for you,” said Wong of EU Holidays.

Meeting people, making friends

Nearly all of women who travel independently still need a social experience, said DaSilva of TTC Tours.

Alison Allaire, a Recent Yorker who works in operations at an education company, first joined a gaggle tour as a solo traveler some 10 years ago when nobody was available to travel along with her.

“I believe it’s an amazing social experience, you get to fulfill people from literally all around the world,” she told CNBC.

She has even traveled with a friend whom she first met on a guided tour. “Being on these trips, I’ve made friends that will probably be [my] friends for the remainder of my life,” she said.

Recent Yorker Alison Allaire said she prefers tour groups since it’s easier to make friends compared with traveling by herself.

Courtesy of Alison Allaire

Still, it may be daunting to hitch a tour group alone. Before I left for my trip to South Korea, I wondered if I might make friends and was prepared to have some meals alone.

In spite of everything, traveling with people you have just met is not similar to traveling with family or friends.

“There is a little bit of fear that like, if I do not know anyone there personally, then there is no one to actually look out for me,” said Lim, the Singaporean who signed as much as go mountaineering in Bali in May.

But between two options — staying home or being alone in Bali without help, should she need it — Lim said she would select the latter.

“I’d reasonably don’t have any one,” she said.

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