With more women travelling independently than ever before, tour operators and hotels are sitting up and taking notice of their requirements
A new generation of women is increasingly calling the shots in the travel industry, which is starting to recognise the potential of an emerging market segment that is travelling more frequently for both business and leisure.
Statistics from PATA show that between 2011 and 2012 there was a two per cent rise in female travellers to Cambodia, 4.9 per cent increase to Thailand and 6.9 per cent to Laos. Among the Asia-Pacific countries where statistics are available, Mongolia is the only country to see a decline in female travellers – and just a mere 0.6 per cent drop.
Industry players attribute the exponential growth of female travellers to rising affluence and maturing travel preferences in the region’s advanced economics. Lindy Andrews, CEO of Luxperience, commented in a media release: “The majority of these affluent Asian women travelling are from the wealthier areas of Asia, such as Tokyo, Singapore, Taiwan, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong or Seoul. (For) example, in Singapore 32 per cent of all business travellers are female and Hong Kong has the largest percentage of female business travellers at 36 per cent.”
In particular, a growing number of ladies are embracing independent travel, based on TripAdvisor’s inaugural Women and the World Travel Survey of over 600 female respondents from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia; two in five women (41 per cent) go on leisure trips with other women, while one in three women (36 per cent) travel alone for leisure, with 43 per cent planning at least two solo trips this year.
And despite the recent spate of incidents pinpointing safety concerns for women in India, solo travel is picking up among the country’s female travellers. An online survey conducted by Indian OTA MakeMyTrip revealed that 44 per cent of Indian female travellers have travelled alone for leisure; 70 per cent of solo women travellers have so far travelled only within the country, while 10 per cent had only travelled overseas and 20 per cent had covered both.
The growth of independent female travellers has led to many tour operators specialising or rolling out exclusive programmes targeting this niche segment.
Girls on the Go, an India-based exclusive travel club for women, recorded 110 bookings in 2013, a 20 per cent increase from 2012, said founder Piya Bose. Some 90 per cent of the firm’s business derived from India and the remainder predominantly from Singapore and Malaysia.
While G Adventures does not offer female-only programmes, the Canada-based company will provide private group service as an alternative if a group of females request to travel together, according to spokesperson Casey Mead, who added that around 30 per cent of the firm’s travellers are solo females.
Adele Mitchell, director of Australia-based Inspired Travel, originally started her agency to cater to both male and female travellers, but eight years later some 95 per cent of her clients are female. “We deal with the 35-plus market as females of this age tend to be more curious, and enjoy learning and discovering. Our female clients enjoy travelling alone from their country of origin but joining small groups as part of the tour. This provides security and allows them to meet new people.”
“The security of small group travel with like-minded people” is especially appealing to solo female travellers, pointed out Suzanne Hart, director of She Travels, which offers specially tailored programmes targeted at financially independent women aged between 30 and 60. “We offer female-friendly accommodation options in locations that are deemed safe,” she added.
Sharing similar observations, Bose added: “Women are more likely to explore off-the-beaten-path locations including the Antarctica and Sahara when accompanied by other females. Many of our clients have limited (social) circles or find themselves constrained whether at work or home. Providing the platform to make new friends and share a common travel interest has been key to our success.”
Lyn Taylor’s Adventure Travel goes a step further by having female guides. Founder Lyn Taylor said: “If women are looking for an all-women holiday, then they want a woman to expertly guide them through their holiday, not just organise the trip and send them off on their own. Our business relating to women-only tours has increased by 10 per cent in the past two years and we expect a further two per cent rise in 2014.”
At the same time, the steady increase of women travelling alone has also led to a corresponding hike in demand for single-occupancy rooms.
Between 2011 and 2012, Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) saw growth in single-occupancy travel across the board in terms of both revenue and number of room nights, with the number of sole occupancy room nights jumping from 4,115 to 5,841 while revenue from global solo bookings increased by nearly US$400,000 year on year.
We offer female-friendly accommodation options, along with the security of small group travel with like-minded people, which appeals to the solo female traveller.
Suzanne Hart, Director, She Travels
In its core markets of Australia, Brazil Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Russia, the UK and the US, the surge of female bookings was particularly notable, with a 53 per cent increase in room nights booked by single-occupancy females between 2011 and 2012 (from 973 room nights in 2011 to 1,489 room nights in 2012).
Around Asia, hotels have also jumped on the bandwagon by rolling out services with feminine touches.
Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok has since mid-2013 introduced a Women’s Experience programme, which entails assigning rooms along the corridor for female guests for safety and security reasons and placing a card in their rooms to inform of amenities such as curling iron, yoga mat, makeup remover wipes and razor, shared Patty Lerdwittayaskul, the hotel’s director of marketing communications.
“We experienced an increase of seven per cent in female travellers in 2013 compared with 2012 after introducing the Women’s Experience programme,” she said. “However, in 2014 due to the current political issue we have seen a downturn as the female market has been more sensitive than male market over safety fears.”
Within the region, Singapore’s Naumi Hotel has gone one step further to dedicate an entire floor to female travellers for complete privacy; this floor is accessed via a glass door that can only be opened with a keycard.
Donny Yip, director of sales at Naumi Hotel, said: “We became aware of an increasing trend for women to travel alone and wanted to ensure female travellers a comfortable environment. In the past 12 months alone, our female only floor has experienced an increase in bookings of 20 per cent. The majority of bookings come from Australia, Hong Kong, Europe and South Korea.”
To cater to the female travel market in Asia-Pacific even more effectively, Luxperience’s Andrews urged travel suppliers to consider strategies such as introducing a no-single supplement during shoulder months, including an experiential aspect to products and stepping up engagement on social media channels for a market segment that strongly relies on peer-to-peer recommendation for travel decisions. – Additional reporting by Xinyi Liang-Pholsena
The percentage of women in South-east Asia travelling alone for leisure, based on TripAdvisor’s Women and the World Travel Survey of over 600 female respondents in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia
The expected increase in business trips undertaken by women in Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore by 2030, according to estimates from Amadeus.
The number of room nights booked by single-occupancy females in 2012 among Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s core markets, marking a 53 per cent surge from 2011.
of Indian female travellers who have travelled alone
for leisure, based on
the findings of an
online survey conducted
travellers by Indian