Travel Market Niches
As a travel writer and film maker, I’ve become increasingly familiar with the “niches” that travel creators use to define themselves, also used by the travel industry to direct its marketing. Each niche is defined by one or more characteristics: married, no kids; married, with kids; mature travel; budget backpacker; digital nomad; destination-specific travel; photography enthusiast. While there is a lot of overlap between categories (today’s Solo Traveler may be part of tomorrow’s Friend Group Travel), the “niching” of the market provides a way for the market to be spoken about, and consumed.
How travel niches hide certain groups
In the UK and Ireland of the 80s and 90s, the travel market was dominated by Package Holidays for summer travel to Spain, or, if you were exotic, Greece. That market was about family travel and its dominance failed to account for or hide other groups, e.g., single women, older people, couples without children, and LGBTQ people.
Celebrating new travel niches: solo female and LGBTQ travel
In recent years, it’s been fantastic to see the flourishing of the Solo Female Travel niche, and I am a proud ally of the Women in Travel Summit. The establishment of the LGBTQ travel segment has gained some momentum and is something I want to see grow more. The travel industry has developed so much and that is to be celebrated.
Solo Male Travel: an ill-defined niche
I am confused by how ill-defined the niche of Solo Male Travel is, when Solo Male Traveler could be a vibrant and marketable category of travel. This is not my pitch for arguing that men are overlooked in society after the growth of identity politics and minorities. Nothing could be further from the truth. I celebrate the increase in Solo Female Travel and LGBTQ Travel as these were categories specifically excluded by both social mores and the travel industry. Men (particularly cisgender straight men) have been a staple, one way or another, of travel opportunities for decades.
However, something is amiss with this Solo Male Travel niche and there are good causes to address and amend it. Let’s write down some parameters for Solo Male Travel. Feel free to add your views in the comments below.
The Solo Male Traveler niche is travel taken by individual men who are taking journeys, staying in temporary accommodation on business or on holidays and using destination facilities like food, beverages and social outlets as well as solo or group adventure activities.
In many cultures, certain Solo Male Travelers are not ‘visible’ because they move with less friction than other groups across borders, visiting sites, entering religious buildings, eating alone in comfort. This is more than almost any other niche. Solo Male Travel ‘invisibility’ is often because of male privilege and itself hides subgroups, such as those from certain racial backgrounds as well as men working with mental or physical health parameters.
Sex & Sexuality: Solo Male Travel is undertaken by male identifying people (cisgender and FTM transgender men) who may be straight, gay, bi or another sexual identity. The Venn diagram of Solo Male Travel therefore incorporates subcategories of straight and LGBTQ men.
Why does Solo Male Travel need its own niche?
A niche benefits from the associated group of people co-identifying particular needs and opportunities, and being aware of certain risks and responsibilities. This in turn permits the travel industry to shape travel opportunities to which that niche is predisposed to maximise both sales AND satisfaction.
6 Issues for Solo Male Travellers
Solo Male Travellers can come up against a variety of issues when traveling alone. There can be specific safety concerns for men walking alone, the risk of social isolation, stereotyping, visa restrictions and the ever present single supplement cost issue. Read my article on 6 issues for solo male travellers here.
Risks & Responsibilities for Solo Male Travel
Solo Male Travelers must maintain situational awareness when traveling overseas. What is a norm at home, may be inappropriate in another culture. By this I mean, rushing in to intervene, or taking too much drink or drugs, or knowing ahead of time how to navigate sexual situations. You can catch up with my 10 Crucial Tips for Solo Male Travel right here.
The niche of Solo Male Travel suffers from a lack of definition. Does it include people travelling for business or only for pleasure? Are such individuals already covered by existing niches, e.g., concert-goer, fishing enthusiast or hill-walker? More fundamentally, does Solo Male Travel include straight and LGBTQ men, or are these sub niches mutually exclusive?
There is an opportunity here for the industry and for content creators like me. If the niche of Solo Female Travel has shown us nothing else (and it really has shone many powerful lights), it is that Solo Female Travel is an overarching category, comfortable with a wide range of sub-categories. If Solo Male Travel can release any residual oppositional forces about who gets to be part of this group, there’s a rich seam of possibilities here and not just for the industry, but for our brothers whoever they might be. At the very least, this niche may help us to recognise the specific challenges that some men face, which positive and well-considered travel experiences and content can help to illuminate and change.