Since the launch of Language & Luxury several years ago, we have discovered that roughly 50% of our client bookings have been made by solo women travelers. This follows a recent trend, at least among U.S. travelers and in the U.S. travel industry, as many new tour operators have sprung up offering tour packages exclusively to solo women travelers. When launching the business, I had already become aware that 80% of the decisions in travel were made by women, no matter who travels, the destination, or who pays. As a result, early on, I directed my female partner to take the lead in working with “Steam Train Creative,” our partner in marketing (not crime!), to design the right “look and feel” so that the website would be appealing to women. I think we accomplished that, but as I began to speak with more women about traveling with Language & Luxury, I learned of the many other issues that are important to them other than the website’s appeal. This knowledge has, in some ways, shaped not only how we market our services, but also some of the key elements of the package.
Safety and Security with Language & Luxury
Over the last year, we added verbiage to the website to focus more directly on the need for safety and security in addition to the location of the accommodations and overall quality in both accommodations and services. We also added verbiage addressing the advantages of having our teams on the ground to ensure that the properties are up to our standards and to avoid any surprises with respect to properties and services. Our clients will never have to deal with an owner or risk that their reservation will somehow be mismanaged and cause delays or even a legal battle. But still, the biggest concern among women travelers continues to be safety and security, so that has become the main factor in selecting our properties.
Security • Safety • Quality • Location
Trust our Experience and Local Knowledge! In all our destinations, we have a local team who vet the properties and manage them as well, eliminating the risk of your luxury apartment or villa not turning out as you expected. This local knowledge and support also ensure a safe and secure building and neighborhood with nothing for you to worry about except immersing yourself in the culture and practicing the language! We do the work for you, nothing for you to do other than embrace the adventure!
Our local team members evaluate and qualify properties based on security, safety, quality, and convenient location! And they are there to help manage your local experience so that there are no surprises, only lifelong memories.
Examples of some of the other changes we’ve made are :
- including mid-week cleaning services in the Core Immersion Package
- adding more “off the beaten path” cultural activities, and
- including those activities more frequently.
Women really appreciate the comradery with the private instructors who lead the activities as well as the variety of unique experiences we offer.
I thank our solo women travelers for educating us on their priorities. While I founded the company based on luxury, I learned over time that nothing is more important than security and safety, especially for women traveling solo! Our clients have the option to choose between several properties and thus can decide the level of luxury – and price – that best suits them. But, more important to our solo women travelers, is the safety of their accommodations and surroundings!
The Evolution of the Solo Traveler
A good place to start for information on solo women travelers is the online publication, Solo Traveler. The company was launched in 2009 to fill an online void as, at the time, there was little information for female solo travelers. The female founders, after having traveled for years with family, found themselves going alone once again; thus, they were determined to create a platform where they could contribute personally and offer valuable advice to women travelers.
Since that time, the number of solo women travelers has grown substantially. At one point, women found Solo Traveler by googling, “is it weird to travel alone?” That question no longer comes up as it has become so common for women to travel solo. Yet, it is still not easy for everyone to begin traveling solo. Solo Traveler receives emails every week from women taking their first solo trip, and all testify to how much Solo Traveler has helped them before and during their journey.
Why Women Travel Solo
The Solo Travel Society on Facebook has over 230,000 members and 63% of them are women. A Booking.com study found that 65% of U.S. women are taking vacations without their partner. This is consistent with what I’ve experienced with Language & Luxury and I meet solo women travelers wherever I go. In a study conducted by the Solo Travel Society, women ranked why they travel solo:
– 46% said freedom, independence and the chance to do what they want when they want
– 22% said they were not willing to wait around for others
– 15% said to challenge themselves and gain confidence.
Whatever the reason, I am just thankful that many solo women travelers have chosen to improve their language skills with Language & Luxury’s language and cultural immersion programs.
Below are a couple of testimonials from the Solo Traveler site:
“I was a late bloomer as far as travel goes. I took my first solo trip to Nassau, Bahamas when I was 34. I was nervous at first. But I got there and made so many travel friends. I had a glorious time. I haven’t stopped travelling yet and I’ll be 64 soon. Planning another big trip around the world. Retired now and will live on the ‘road’ until I decide to come back.” Deborah
“Think you can’t or think you can- you are right! I’m 55 and I started with traveling solo within my own country. Then to Bali. Then the UK, Ireland, Europe, Thailand, and Hawaii: all solo. Why? I trusted myself enough to know I could, and I did! Solo travel? I love it! Only way to go! Safe travels!” Diane
More Solo Traveler Statistics
Here are some interesting solo travel statistics from a variety of travel publications:
- According to Forbes Magazine, 80% of all travel decisions are made by women. Regardless of with whom they travel, who pays, or where they go, a woman is the decision-maker.
- 75% of those who take cultural, adventure, or nature trips are women. There has been a 230% increase in the number of women-only travel companies in the past six years.
- With 67 million participants, the potential of the women’s market exceeds $19 trillion annually.
- According to 44% of agents polled, most of their clients taking solo trips are 55 years of age or older, followed by those 45-55 (29%), 35-45 (18%), 25-34 (9%) and 18-24 years of age (0.4%).
- Searches for “Solo Women Travel” surged in 2019. Google searches for “solo women travel” increased by 32% in 2017 and 59% in 2018. The search grew to a jaw-dropping 230% increase in 2019.
- Pinterest sees massive growth in interest for solo female travel. Pinterest has also reported a 350% increase in women pinning articles in “solo female travel.”
- (40%) of global Baby Boomers having taken a solo trip in the last year, and a further fifth (21%) are planning to take one in the future.”
- From a Booking.com study, 34% of respondents said that solo travel is among the “top five trips that they have already been on and would like to go on again”.
Attention to Detail!
In the excellent 2009 book, “Why She Buys,” by Bridget Brennan, the author states early on that “there are two sexes in the human race, and one of them does most of the shopping.” The basic premise of the book is that women rule consumer spending, but men still rule business, or at least that has been the case traditionally. The resultant clash is that men tend to promote products and service like they would to men, yet their biggest market, to which they need to appeal, is women! The travel industry is way out in front of the curve in learning this lesson and have taken adequate steps to ensure that their female clients are not overlooked. They have learned what Ms. Brennan says, that “Women are female first and consumers (or travelers) second!”
Another major premise of the book is that women are much more interested in knowing the details, something to which I can attest wholeheartedly, having had the pleasure of working collaboratively with many women on their language learning journeys. A lot of men are willing to “wing it”, meaning their advanced planning is often much simpler, only needing a few things confirmed in advance and a few good recommendations where to go for food, ambiance, and a good drink or two!
Women Traveling with their Children
Another important segment of our client base, especially in the summer months, is comprised of mothers taking their young children abroad so that mom and kids can all benefit from the immersion language learning model of Language & Luxury. To be honest, the initial market we set out to target was that of adults who still have a dream to learn to speak a foreign language. And while our Core Immersion Package and Learning Methodology reflect that initial effort, we have had to come up to speed on this combination of mother with children. What’s very rewarding is that most of the mothers planning these journeys know that they should spend two to four weeks in the region to realize significant improvement; thus, they typically return very satisfied with the experience, their individual improvement, and they leave excellent reviews!
Just before things came to a screeching halt due to the Covid-19 outbreak, we were working on several programs with mothers and their children traveling to Paris, San Miguel de Allende, Malaga, Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastian! In some cases, dad would join toward the end of the trip, so we would be sure to plan accordingly while remaining flexible with respect to language instructors, accommodations, and activities. In other occasions, dad was either out of the picture or not available to join. We should be able to resume planning either later this Summer or Fall or in the summer of 2021!
As our clients know, personal language instruction, one on one, is a key element of the immersion package. But with young children and teenagers, that might not always be the best approach, depending on the age of the kids, how serious they are about learning the language, and their level of proficienty. I always make it a point to emphasize to the mothers the benefits of personal instruction. But I also point out the benefits, for some youngsters, to be in an environment in which they may be more comfortable, namely, the classroom! Young students are used to classroom study, can easily make friends, and typically can participate in activities designed to keep them entertained while learning the language. So, in addition to one on one instruction, we also make classroom study available as an option for kids.
These classes are always taught by very experienced instructors and with all the accreditation and government permits one would expect for a program for children. And, since the programs are typically four hours minimum, they can be held while mom has her two-hour private class, leaving her a couple of hours in which to explore on her own! Also keeping in mind the energy levels of the youngsters, we make a special effort to offer optional activities for them that will keep them entertained and wear them out so that mom can relax a bit later! There are many options, but these could include surfing lessons, dance classes, visits to sports stadiums or attending a sporting event, cycling, horseback riding, etc.
For those of us who have children, we also understand that a full day of sightseeing, shopping, dining in formal restaurants, or any combination of the above can be frustrating and downright exhausting for kids. Thus, in addition to offering activities such as those above, we also work with the mothers to plan downtime for the kids to relax and spend a few hours just like they might spend them at home.
The benefits for kids, as it is for adults, is enormous! You are putting your child on a track to become conversational in a foreign language, which is not at all common in the U.S. Less than 1 percent of American adults today are proficient in a foreign language that they studied in a U.S. classroom. That is noteworthy considering that in 2008 almost all high schools in the country—93 percent—offered foreign languages, according to a national survey. In many cases, as Richard Brecht, who oversees the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language, said, “It isn’t that people don’t think language education important. It’s that they don’t think it’s possible.”1 The Language & Luxury immersion program makes it possible:
Our Core Immersion Package
The Language & Luxury program places you in a real neighborhood in one of our beautiful destinations, with a personal language instructor, plus private activities, like “off-the-beaten-path” walking tours, or dining in restaurants where only locals go, so that you become comfortable with the culture, the people, and, most of all, practice speaking the language. You will most likely meet your neighbors, you’ll know their names, and you’ll use the language every day. You’ll truly be living like a local!
Now this is not a group tour, no youth hostel or tourist hotel, and you’re not living with a family. This is an individual experience, staying in a luxury apartment or house, in a real neighborhood, in one of the world’s great cities or towns. We even have a 24-hour concierge service to help you get situated when you arrive, and then to book local activities that are right for you; that is, activities that YOU want, not following a strict sightseeing schedule.
So, if you are one of many who still have a dream to learn a foreign language, go to our website, check out our destinations, and send us an email or call to discuss your next journey. For language learning in general or to talk about Spain or Mexico, call me directly at 858-354-9393. Otherwise, call our main number, pick your language, and talk to one of our destination specialists. With the Language & Luxury program, all you really need to do, is show up!
Why Does Immersion Work?
That is a fair question, so let me tell you my story:
I didn’t grow up speaking a foreign language at home. Like most, I studied a language in high school, German, in fact, and I even joined a summer study abroad program in Germany. I studied German in university and joined another summer study abroad program. I graduated college with a degree in German, but I STILL COULDN’T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE! I had a great time in Germany, but I was with other American students, so, of course, we spoke English all the time! It wasn’t until several years later, when I got the chance to spend two consecutive summers in Germany, working with locals, immersed in the culture, that I finally became conversational, you could say fluent. Now that was at least 10 years in the making, so I’d learned my lesson.
A few years later, I found myself in a relationship with a young woman from Mexico City. So now, motivated, I moved to Mexico and literally, in 10 months, I learned to speak Spanish better than I ever spoke German after 10 years. Why? Immersion! I lived in the culture, with a private language instructor (not my girlfriend) and had to use the language in my daily life. Not only did I learn the language, but it changed my life! I’ve been speaking Spanish for over 30 years now and speak it almost daily living in California. I have a family in Mexico – my ex-wife’s – and friends all over the Spanish-speaking world, because speaking the language opens up all kinds of opportunities you would have never known.
So, here’s the formula: no group tour, or else you’ll speak only English. Don’t bother with the online programs, as you won’t be immersed. Can you imagine learning a language by speaking with your phone or laptop? What’s fun about that? Immersion is what works, and, at Language & Luxury, that’s exactly what we do. Our program immerses you in the culture, which gives you the chance to practice speaking, so that you can finally become conversational! Plus, it might just change your life!
How Immersion Learning is Like Learning as a Child – And Enjoying Red Wine!
Firstly, do not think that adults can’t learn languages, it’s just not true. I learned to speak Chinese in my 40s and am still learning Italian into my 50s. And it’s a myth that we don’t learn languages like children, we actually do, the mechanism is the same! But as children, we had the perfect environment, surrounded by adults who constantly spoke to us, then learning what to say to get what we wanted, lots of positive reinforcement, and plenty of time. You could call it “intense immersion”!
As adults, we are a little short on time, but we have already learned a language, make a variety of sounds, and are, well, educated. The shortcut is getting the most productive, personal language instruction, and being immersed in the culture; and the longer you’re immersed, not only do you learn more, but the learning curve steepens, you learn faster.
Language experts agree: The key to language learning (again, think of learning as a child), is to start with “significant input”. That means you hear something important TO YOU, something relevant, and that makes it easy to learn. For example, if you’re in another country to learn the language, and your favorite adult beverage is red wine, you can bet that you’ll learn how to order red wine, how to pay for it, thank people for it, the names of the local varietals, how to ask for it in grocery stores, the list goes on and on, all in the local language, because it’s significant TO YOU, it’s relevant. And, when you are immersed in the culture, many, many words and expressions become significant to you because you just have to get things done.
And what about grammar? You must eventually learn grammar, but it should be mixed in with the conversation practice as needed. For example, if you only know the present tense and someone asks you what you did over the weekend, well, it’s time to start learning to use past tense…because you’ll want to!
Remember, the Language & Luxury program immerses you in the culture, which gives you the chance to practice speaking, so that you can finally become conversational! And remember, with our program, all you really need to do, is show up!