By Bejay Browne
CYPRUS ranks in the top three destinations for a new and growing breed of global tourist – the solo traveller – according to a study by tourism professionals, and Paphos is making it a top priority to attract as many as possible.
According to research from award winning holiday specialists Mercury Holidays, Malta tops the list of holiday hotspots for individual travellers, followed by Cyprus and then Madeira.
According to agents, bookings for solo holidays have seen an 18 per cent increase overall, and the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study also found that solo travel was following an upward trend.
The study was conducted in January and February 2015 in 25 countries, involving 13,603 travellers, aged 18 years and above.
One in five have travelled on their own on their most recent leisure trip, it found, and that in 2015, there has been an increase in the number of women who choose to travel alone.
The study also discovered that most individuals have specific destinations, but are spontaneous about their itineraries.
Personal guided tours are also increasingly popular among solo travellers, according to the findings. The number of solo travellers that seek this type of travel arrangement has increased almost three times, compared to 2013.
There are a number of holiday specialists which currently offer deals for single travellers, including Mercury Holidays. A number of Cyprus hotels which have waived the single supplement, feature on the company’s website.
Commenting on the findings, Martin Bugeja, Founder and Chairman of Mercury Holidays said: “Whilst there’s a general tendency to perceive single travellers as being young and single, the evidence actually shows that they’re more likely to be married or in a long-term relationship.
“A lot of people will no doubt be surprised at this trend, but what we’ve come to find is that you can’t easily categorise single travellers.
“For instance, our research discovered that women were more likely to travel abroad independently than men, and people of all ages have booked a holiday with us through one of our single deals.”
And Cyprus aims to grab a chunk of this growing market, Nasos Hadjigeorgiou, the head of the Paphos regional board of tourism told the Sunday Mail. He said that individual travellers are considered a top priority, as they represent a very important segment of the tourism market.
“We are actively targeting individual travellers as they are generally not travelling on an all-inclusive basis, they don’t fly in on package deals, and they are good for the economy as they spend money outside their hotels.”
He noted: “We have seen a good increase in solo travellers in the markets which have direct flights these include the UK, Germany and other central European countries.”
Hadjigeorgiou said that many solo travellers are ‘explorers’ and that Paphos had much to offer to satisfy their needs.
“There are many experiences to enjoy here such as land excursions to all different areas of the Paphos district, as well as different themes such as wine tours, religious and city tours and archaeological interests. Many of these can be undertaken by public bus or by travel service providers.”
The tourism head said that although the organisation doesn’t have exact numbers, indications from various online booking platforms, and feedback from both agents and hoteliers, suggests that many of these customers are individual travellers.
“Hotels which are trying to have a good customer mix and are offering more to individual travellers are on the right track for the future. There are a number of very good hotels doing excellent offers for individual travellers in Paphos,” Hadjigeorgiou said.
He noted that their profile was mostly the age group of 35 to 55 years old. “It’s a misconception that all independent travellers are retired, although obviously these do make up a proportion of this market.”
The King Evelthon in Paphos has been operational for the last two years and features on the Mercury website, as having offers for solo travellers.
George Tsokkos, the marketing manager of Tsokkos Hotels and Resorts in Cyprus, said that the group is offering special deals for individual travellers. They have 27 hotels on the island; two are in Paphos and the remainder are in and around Ayia Napa and Protaras.
“We are actively encouraging solo travellers to visit our hotels by offering special terms for tour operators to avoid the single supplement surcharge. On arrival we also try to upgrade most rooms, it isn’t right to charge a single traveller the same as a couple and it doesn’t make sense.”
He added: “Our individual guests in Paphos are mostly retired and repeat customers. Younger solo travellers in their 30’s and 40’s are increasing and mostly in Ayia Napa and Protaras.”
Ashley Goddard, resident manager of the Thanos Hotel group’s five star Almyra and Annabelle Hotels, said that during the winter months especially, numbers of long stay guest’s increase and many of these are individual travellers.
The hotels also feature on the Mercury website section for solo travellers,
He said that some independent travellers continue to visit the hotels after their partner has died, as they feel safe and enjoy it.
Goddard said that the hotel group also welcome younger solo travellers who usually stay for a shorter period of time. They may be married and have families, but are travelling alone.
“This includes sports based tourism such as golf, triathlon or cycling, they stay from 5 days up to 2 weeks and are busy when they are here,” he said.
He noted that the hotels also have younger clientele who may be on ‘escape breaks’ and book specific programmes through providers for Pilates/yoga/personal training or dietician breaks.
Travelling on your own doesn’t mean you’ll be lonely, in fact in can be a good way to meet new people according to Paphos resident Nicky Marsh, 42, who enjoys independent travel.
The ex Emirates cabin crew member said that she has always had the travel bug and for 15 years has holidayed in a number of destinations alone.
“My first holiday was in Mexico and I did have a moment where I questioned what I had done, but I would say that I’m an explorer. As long as you have common sense, you’ll be fine. You don’t wear expensive jewellery and carry around an expensive camera which screams tourist in a poverty stricken area and you’ll be fine, I’ve never had a bad experience.”
Marsh has travelled to Mexico, Borneo, Brazil, Spain, Thailand, India and other destinations on her own, and said that solo travel is a great way to meet people.
“I find if you’re warm and friendly, you will receive the same back. We’re all just people after all.”
She added: “I usually book the first night and then see what happens. If you’re nervous about travelling on your own, it’s good to book a specific break. I have done this in the past, such as learning to do Thai massages in Thailand, or a Yoga holiday, this way you can also meet like- minded people,” she said.
Betty Thorne, a retiree from the UK, has holidayed alone in Paphos since her husband passed away a decade ago, and has stayed at the same apartment complex twice a year. She said that she feels lucky to have found a wonderful place to holiday on her own and plans to take the plunge and visit Africa next year.
“I needed a break after my husband died, and I came to Paphos. I was made to feel very welcome by everyone, and I come back every year. Now I’m considering travelling on my own to a gorilla sanctuary in Africa, something I would never have thought of before. Travelling to Cyprus alone has helped my confidence and you’re never too old to explore.”