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Manchester, United Kingdom — 22-25 September 2009

WYSE Archives

Young women seeking adventure and exploration on solo trips

May 15, 2018

It is no secret that millennial and gen Z travellers are shaping the travel industry through their desire for authentic connections, off the beaten track destinations, and immersive cultural experiences. However, a new trend-setting segment within the youth travel industry is kicking their wanderlust into high gear and, as a result, changing the way many travel companies do business. According to the New Horizons IV Survey of more than 57,000 youth and student travellers worldwide, women who travelled solo on their last international trip represent about 30% of all female travellers from North American countries. Of the North American countries included in the survey, Canada had the highest proportion of solo female travellers (34%), followed by the USA (32%) and Mexico (29%).


Often these travellers are choosing active holidays, where they can meet like-minded companions and connect with locals. Many tour operators have taken note and designed trips specifically for solo-travellers and slashed or abandoned the single supplement fee. Intrepid Travel, a WYSE Travel Confederation member, launched trips specifically for women, opening them to cultural experiences that are currently unavailable to mixed groups. Tourism companies, as well as destinations, are looking for new ways to showcase their offerings to young women who are travelling independently.

Popular destinations for solo female travellers

For women from North American countries who were travelling independently, the UK and France featured as popular destinations. This suggests that the language(s) spoken in the destination could be an important factor for women travelling on their own. With other English-speaking destinations such as Ireland, Australia and South Africa not ranking as high as the very top destinations visited, they might do well to consider their appeal to women travelling independently in the future. Ireland ranked in the top 10 only for solo female travellers from the USA, while Australia ranked below continental European destinations such as Italy, Spain, and Germany for travellers from both the USA and Canada. For independent female travellers from Mexico, the USA was the most popular destination.

What are Canadian solo female travellers up to abroad?

The average age of solo female travellers from Canada was 24. Holiday and au pair experiences were the most popular purposes for these Canadian women to travel. Canadian women travelling alone were motivated to explore other cultures (64%) and learn about themselves (64%) as part of a trip. Experiencing everyday life in the destination (60%), increasing knowledge (58%) and interacting with locals (53%) were also strong travel motivations for these women. Having fun with friends from home (9%) was not a strong motivation for independent Canadian female travellers.

Independent Canadian female travellers like to explore a range of activities to experience their travel destination. Walking/hiking/trekking (78%) was the most popular activity reported by independent female travellers from Canada, followed by visiting historical sites (75%), sitting in cafes and restaurants (74%) and living like a local (74%). More traditional tourist activities such as visiting museums (67%), shopping (63%) and hanging out on the beach (58%) were not as popular. Sporting events (19%) and adrenaline activities (24%) were some of the least popular activities for Canadian women travelling on their own.

Age a factor in solo travel happiness

When asked how happy their last trip made them feel, younger Canadian women travelling independently reported being happier than older Canadian women travelling in the same style. The happiness felt by Canadian women travelling independently dropped sharply after age 25. It is not clear what the reasons are for this drop, but it could be that as independent travellers get older, they find it more difficult to meet the right people in destinations that help them to fulfill their travel motivations, which are largely focused on exploring the local culture and self-knowledge.


New Horizons Survey offers a comprehensive look at youth travellers

New Horizons is the only recurring global survey of the youth, student, and educational travel market. The study provides an overview of the youth travel market, which WYSE Travel Confederation and UNWTO estimate to account for 23% of international arrivals. Accounting for more than 300 million trips and USD 280 billion in tourism receipts in 2017, WYSE Travel Confederation’s New Horizons study helps travel agents, suppliers, destination marketers, policymakers and other tourism stakeholders better understand the youth travel market and answer questions like:

  • Where do youth travellers come from and which destinations do they travel to?
  • What are the main purposes and motivations for young people to travel?
  • How do youth plan and book international trips and how much do they spend?
  • What activities are popular for young people in destination?

The New Horizons IV Survey attracted more than 57,000 responses from 188 countries and territories between June and November 2017. Visit our website to read more about youth travel and the forthcoming New Horizons IV report.