Flying solo: More Singaporean women holidaying alone abroad

Ms Aprilyn Chan abseiling from Table Mountain in South Africa this year.
Photo: Aprilyn Chan

An ongoing note in Ms Sancia Ng's mobile phone serves as a record of where she has been.

The 30-year-old has gone on many solo trips in the past few years, including about 10 to Japan, several to Europe, and jaunts to other countries including the United States, South Korea, Cambodia, Australia and Turkey.

The sales trader in a bank started travelling alone in 2011.

It began on a whim, but these trips have since become annual must-dos and she embarks on at least two of them each year.

"Solo travel is liberating. The solo traveller is alone, but never lonely. Unhindered by itineraries, I love being able to observe people in my own space and at my own pace," she says.

She is among a growing number of female solo travellers here and in Asia.

Like Ms Ng, they are drawn to exploring the world on their own because such trips offer them new experiences, allow them to immerse in local culture and give them opportunities for personal growth.

Locally, data from global homesharing platform Airbnb reveals that the number of outbound Singaporean female solo travellers has doubled from Jan 31 last year to Jan 31 this year.

In contrast, the number of male solo travellers has remained consistent over the years.

Ms Robin Kwok, Airbnb's country manager of South-east Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, says the trend is seen elsewhere in Asia.

Its data shows that women from Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea are among the world's most frequent solo travellers.

Travel planning and booking site TripAdvisor's Women and the World Travel Survey in 2015 - a study it launched in 2014 to gain insight into the market - found that almost half of its South-east Asian respondents said they had travelled alone - "a significant rise" from the 36 per cent from the year before.

The survey's 2014 edition had also found that 75 per cent of the 636 South-east Asian women polled enjoy solo travelling as the experience changes them and makes them feel more confident.

Hotels and tour operators have caught on and are rolling out carrots to reel in the female solo traveller.

At India's The Leela Palace New Delhi, a five-star hotel, solo female travellers are offered a pampering and safe stay under the hotel's Kamal package - specifically tailored for women.

These travellers are attended to by female butlers and housekeepers, and have access to a personal female chef.

They are driven from the airport to the hotel by a female chauffeur and stay on the hotel's exclusive ladies-only floor, which comes with a security guard, also female.

The hotel's spokesman says demand for the package, launched in 2011, has "increased 10-fold" in the past two years and "is growing with each passing month".

Various properties on third-party hotel booking website Small Luxury Hotels Of The World have also been actively catering to the needs of solo female travellers.

At Dukes London, such guests are assigned a female employee to escort them and handle all room and housekeeping requirements; and La Suite Kobe Harborland in Japan offers female-oriented amenities, including a facial mask, moisturising gloves and a ladies-only spa.

Premium tour operator Insight Vacations is also in the process of planning a female-targeted trip itinerary.

Beyond these special arrangements, solo female travellers say the draw of travelling alone lies in the people they meet and the adventures that await them.

Real estate agent Ang Geok Bee, 41, hit it off with an Italian man in a travel cafe while she was holidaying in Barcelona, Spain, more than 20 years ago.

They are still in touch and she has visited him several times in Italy.

"We chat about everything - our lives, careers, family. I find the friendship meaningful," she says.

Bank employee Amy Soh, 31, went on a solo trip for the first time in January last year.

"I had just turned 30 and wanted to step out of my comfort zone after hitting the milestone for some me-time," she says.

She booked herself a yoga retreat in Koh Samui, Thailand, to "connect with myself" and says she emerged from the trip feeling physically and mentally refreshed.

"I hope to make this an annual thing," she says.

brynasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 27, 2017 .
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