Solo tourism could be growth area in a post-pandemic world - Craig Leith

The tourism industry is showing signs of recovery, albeit involving spurts of growth, hiccups, backward steps and a general sense of confusion among both the industry and tourists. What is becoming apparent though is that the wider tourism industry will look significantly different than the pre-Covid days.

Craig Leith, Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader for Hospitality, Tourism & Events at RGU’s School of Creative and Cultural Business

Among all the general upheaval within tourism, there is a particular area which I would hope sees further growth. Even in the halcyon pre-pandemic days, there had been a noticeable growth in solo tourism. Reasons may vary, such as a lack of travel companions, restrictive holiday times, part of a wider solitary lifestyle or a desire for a short-term escape from busy personal or work lives.

I would suggest that a solo tourism experience may help many as they cautiously or impetuously jump back into their pre-pandemic lives. There exist a number of motivations for solo tourism; with two factors being either a desire of solitude or a wish to meet new people.

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As a self-confessed lover of solitude, I have often wondered how I would have coped if my pandemic experience had been one of sharing a home with family, friends, or others. How many have fantasised about a couple of days away from their loved ones in a new city, doing nothing more exciting than strolling aimlessly, or taking a break in order to sit with a drink and to watch others stroll aimlessly? While no doubt thinking loving thoughts about family and housemates who await at home.

Alternatively, consider the person who has spent the pandemic living alone, the joys of working from home and zoom-time gradually losing their appeal as work and personal connections pull apart and lose meaning.

Over time, a feeling of unease grows and a reluctance and fear of how to regrow these previous firm and easy connections. A sense that increased social interaction and simply picking up where we left off can prove overwhelming. I know from speaking to my students that such worries exist – not for all, but for many.

Jumping on a train to London or Paris, or to a small quiet town for a couple of days can allow a period of gentle pottering around, exploring, and provides the opportunity to engage in a few words of idle chat, or a deeper sharing of feelings and life stories with a never to be seen again stranger. The solo tourist largely controls the extent and type of interaction with others.

There is little doubt that the tourism experience for most will remain broadly unchanged – families, couples, and friends relaxing, exploring, talking, arguing and compromising before returning home with shared memories and experiences. I also recognise that setting off on even a short trip alone is a terrifying prospect for many – no matter how much they seek solitude or a gentle reacquaintance to human connection.

However, I strongly believe that solo tourism can be a truly life affirming experience whether you desire nothing but your own solitude and internal thoughts, or wish to open yourself up to serendipitous moments of interaction and companionship.

Craig Leith, Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader for Hospitality, Tourism & Events at RGU’s School of Creative and Cultural Business

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