Key words: Female solo traveller, Travel constraints, Coping mechanisms, Gender, Tourism, Womenâ€™s safety, Perceived risks.
In recent years the tourism industry has seen an increase in the amount of female solo travellers venturing out to a variety of destination. The amount of female solo travellers has now in fact overtaken the amount of male solo travellers travelling (Tilley et al, 2016). All travellers have some sort of travel constraints however the perceived risks of female solo travellers are significantly higher and therefore it is important for them to develop coping mechanisms.
According to Poon and Adams (2000), the biggest perceived risk for female solo travellers is their security and safety. If a destination is in the media for lacking these qualities or a family or friend has visited before and not had a great experience then these perceived risks influence their choice of destination and intentions to travel. Bad publicity usually includes violence and sexual assault from locals towards female solo travellers influencing a destinations image (Attwooll, 2014).
Henderson (1991) mentions that female solo travellers are also highly constrained more than men when travelling solo primarily because women fall victims of rape and sexual attack. Women perceive their constraints to be heightened when they take part in activities which are outside of their home and therefore restricting their freedom. This means that their participation levels and enjoyment more often than not reduced (Whyte and Shaw, 1994). Further travel constraints for female solo travellers are others perception such as friends and family. Valentine (1989) believes that others create doubt in the minds of female solo travellers and restrict their travels.
Blogs by Shannon (2016) and Intrepid (2016) both share how they felt vulnerable and at risk of sexual attack whilst travelling however they believe that there are ways in which you can prevent sexual assault and harassment from happening. They mention dressing appropriately so that you are being respectful to the locals, carry a personal alarm and never take a drink from a stranger or leave your drink unattended. This is because drug rape is an ongoing issue which is on the rise.
There a number of coping mechanisms that help female solo travellers deal with travel constraints and perceived risks, the main one Valentine (1989) points out is making sure you know how and where you can seek help, this will then minimise the feelings of fear and anxiousness. It is best to use this coping mechanism when meeting new people and visiting unfamiliar places. One other important coping mechanism identified through blogs of people who have shared their personal experiences was to involve those that are worried about you travelling alone (Chapman, undated). This way friends and family know what you plan on doing and can help ensure that you have all the essentials for when you leave and that you have a plan of action.
These coping mechanisms help female solo travellers deal with not knowing the unknown. For example they do not know what to expect of new destinations and they are going to find themselves in unusual environments with non- English speaking locals. The key point here is to get to know the destinations as much as you can before you go to develop your confidence, this will also help reassure those friends and family members that are not keen for you to go. Greenman (2015) suggests carrying a map and a travel guide with you before you go as well as plan any trips you want to do whilst you are. Intrepid (2016) recommends trusted companies like Contiki to help do this.
Today, with the increase in female solo travellers for the tourism industry and their heightened travel constraints and increased travel risks, it is important that these challenges women face are resolved by developing coping mechanisms. By allowing female solo travellers to share their own experiences and coping mechanisms, it proves to other female solo travellers that they are not alone but also gives them an insight into how they can deal with their own perceived risks and travel constraints. What is important to remember is everyoneâ€™s travel constraints, perceived risks and coping mechanisms all differ from one another, so just because one coping mechanism works for someone, it does not necessarily mean it will suit your needs to.
Valentine, G (1989) The Geography of Womenâ€™s Fear. Area, 21, pp.385-390.
Whyte, L.B., and Shaw, S.M (1994) Womenâ€™s Leisure: An Exploratory study of Fear of Violence as a Leisure Constraints. Journal of Applied Recreation Research, 19 (1), pp.5-21.
Wilson, E and Little, D.E (2015) The Solo Female Travel Experience: Exploring the Geography of Womenâ€™s Fear. Current Issues in Tourism, 11 (2) pp.167-186.