THE TOURIST EXPERIENCE OF THE EGYPTIAN SOLO WOMAN
TRAVELER: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY
REHAB EL GAMIL
Tourism Studies Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt
Lately, many demographic changes have been occurred in the tourism market. Due to these changes various trends in tourism activity have been emerged. One of the most significant trends is the increasing of women travel all around the world for different reasons such as business, leisure, study, shopping and adventure. Recently, in the context of changes which have been occurred in the economic and educational level of women from one hand, the social and cultural changes in the communities from another hand, solo women travelers become an important market segment in the tourism industry.
Presently, there is a growing trend of solo women travelers not only in the western countries but also in the Arabic and Islamic countries .Egypt is an example of Middle East countries that witnesses an increasing number of solo women travelers domestically or internationally. Despite all the demographic changes which create a new profile of the Egyptian women travelers but still, there are various constraints which could impact their decisions to travel and have influence on their tourist experience.
Accordingly, the study is structured as follows; first, it presents the theoretical background; followed by the empirical study. A quantitative approach is adopted in this research, based on questionnairesconducted with the Egyptian solo women travelers who had previous experience in traveling solo .The questionnaire aims to identify the trip characteristics and preferences for the Egyptian solo women travelers. Then the study focuses on exploring their motivations for travelling solo. Besides, it aims to identify the different types of constraints that can impact their decisions to travel and on their tourist experience during the trip.Finally, the study ends with some implications for the marketers, (DMOs), travel agencies and accommodation sector to take them into consideration.
Key words: solo women, motivations, tourist experience, constraints, Egyptian solo woman traveler.
Before the Second World War, women's participation in leisure activities was so limited. Since 1945, many changes have been occurred, women have become an effective segment in the labor market, the increasing tendency to reduce the number of children they get, and the impendency of women which motivated them to participate in travel and tourism activities. Consequently, women used to travel and stay outside their homes alone without their children, their partners and away from their daily responsibilities towards their families (Scott, 2002;Marzuki et al., 2012) Since 1980s, tourism literature started to address several researches and topics related to women travel. In the mid of 80s, few companies offered some tourism programs and holidays for women only. Since then,female travel has gained an increasingly importance and many companies and tour operators have paid attention to this segment especially in Canada and US. They started to serve this market segment and provide it with the tourism products they are searching for (Junek et al., 2006).
Solo women segment is a flourishing market in European countries.This trend is growing vastly due to several reasons. Firstly, the demographic changes, particularly the social and economic aspects around the world which lead to constant growth of solo women market. For example, the shift of family's traditional ideologies such as the increasing trend of late marriage, growing number of singles, controlling the number of children or not having children at all and the noticeable increase in the divorce rate. In addition, the growing participation of women in labor force which improves the financial situation of those women and gives them the power to be more independent. All these circumstances give women various opportunities to travel and enjoy their life. It is obvious, that tourism is considered one of different aspects where women can exercise their social and financial autonomy (Marzuki et al., 2012; Lin and Lehto, 2006).Secondly, the psychological shift in women expectations which derived from their self esteem, self accomplishment and satisfaction from work and having holidays rather than from having a partner and getting married.(Wilson and Little, 2005).
Although there are many studies that addressed the profile and the travel motivations of solo women travelers (Mehmetoglu, Dann, and Larsen, 2001; Laesser et al., 2009; Fendtand Wilson, 2012; Kulwick, 2014; Bianchi; 2016; Khan et al., 2017) till now there is a lack of studies about the tourist experience of solo women and the travel constraints which may prevent this segment from traveling alone (Yang and Tung 2017). In the case of Egypt, it's obvious that despite the growing trend of outbound tourism - particularly solo women segment- it remains a neglected area of research which should be studied from different perspectives especially within a community like Egypt which is still controlled by some dominant cultural and social ideologies.
In this respect, the research questions can be summarized as follows:
1. To what extent the changes in the demographic characteristics of the Egyptian women motivate them to travel solo?
2. What are the main constraints which may affect the travel decision and tourist experience of the Egyptian solo women travelers?
These questions will be answered based on a quantitative approach and a descriptive analysis.
Accordingly,this paper seeks to address three objectives; firstly,developing a demographic profile of the Egyptian solo women travelers, secondly, exploring the motivations of the Egyptian women to travel alone,thirdly, identifying and describing the nature and types of travel constraints that may influence the travel decision and experience of the Egyptian solo women travelers.
Independent Traveler and Solo Traveler
It is important to distinguish between the terms "solo" and "independent" travelers. Independent travelers describes individuals “who neither travel on a fully inclusive package nor in a group” (Wilson, 2004, p. 8). They representa growing market segment which has special profile and motivations differentiating them from mass tourist. Independent travelers don’t travel in group or on inclusive tours(Gomes and Montenegro, 2016). They have flexibility in planning for the destinations they like to visit, as well as, they have freedom in organizing their tourism program. Thus, they prefer to personalize their tourist experience and book all tourist facilities before trip such as transportation, accommodation and activities(Hyde and Lawson, 2003).
On the other hand, the tourism literature clarifies that "solo travelers" refers to the person who arrives alone to the destination (Yang and Tung 2017). In other words, "solo" refers to the individual status of arrival not the status of traveling (Laesser et al., 2009).Despite solo travelers arrivealone; this doesn’t suppose that they will stay alone during their whole trip as it's not possible to prevent them from contacting with local community, persons who provide the services in the tourism industry and other tourists (Wilson, 2004; Yang and Tung 2017). They can contact and build relations with many tourists, so there is a possibility to continue their trip with others. Solo travelers practice freedom and autonomy, flexibility like independent travelers; as a result, they take charge of their programs and activities (Hyde and Lawson, 2003).
Thus,solo travelers can be classified according to two criteria; status of travel and solo preferences. Laesser et al. (2009) stated that there are two main groups of solo travelers; single solo and single group .Single solo is a person whostaysand travels alone, while single group represents individuals who stay alone, but they can travel in group with others. Furthermore, Yang and Tung (2017) mentioned that solo travelers can be solo by default or by choice. Default solo travelers don’t choose to travel solo; they travel alone as they don’t have opportunity to travel with others. On the other hand, solo travelers by choice represent tourists who decide to travel on their own without any partner.
Overview of Solo Women Travelers
Nowadays, one of the most growing trends in travel and tourism industry is women who travel solo and independently. This trend has been investigated by many researchers (Woodward and Green, 1988;Pain, 1991; Whyte and Shaw, 1994; Bond, 1997; Matthews-Sawyer et al., 2002; Junek,2006; Khoo and Prayag,2015)
Accordingly, tour operators and destination marketing organization realized the importance of this market segment and they started to design tourism products that meet their needs and preferences (Rosenbloom, 2012; Yang and Tung 2017).
Consequently, understanding this segment and its importance becomes an urgent need for tour companies and (DMOs) for two reasons.Firstly, many travel reports confirmed that women are responsible for taking 80% of travel decisions (Bond, 2011 cited in Khoo and Prayag, 2015)., this means that they have impressive power than men in thetravel industry whether they are single, married or divorced. Secondly, the increasing share of women in labor force means that the economic power of women is growing rapidly. Now, they have free time and stable financial resources (Ahokas, 2017), which can motivate them to travel and achieve their goals, which means that there is a possibility to spend money on tourism and their expenses during travel can be an important source of profit and income for the tourism industry (Markuzi et al., 2012;Gomes and Montenegro, 2016).
Many social, economic and political changes have been occurred all around the world. These changes shaped the distinguished characteristics of solo women travelers which created a special profile for this market segment. Laesseret al., (2009) referred that women who are young and well-educated prefer to travel alone compared to other market segments. Thismatches with the results of McNamara and Bruce Prideaux(2010) which confirmed that women who travel solo are mostly young and large part of them either occupy good positions or they are students. Furthermore, they are in the middle or high income category.
Regarding the main source of information they seek, Junek, Binney, and Winn (2006) clarified that the internet is considered the main source of information for solo women travelers as they search for many details while planning for their trips. Also they referred that they are depending mainly on social media in order to gather information such as; TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram, Google and YouTube. Recently, they use several apps to plan their trips and meet other travelers or local community (Sengupta, 2012; Kulwicki, 2014)
In terms of accommodation preferences, generally, solo women travelers focus on security and safety, cheap prices and good services while they are searching for accommodation. Therefore, the hotel is the common choice for solo women travelers (Marzukiet al., 2012). Also, they prefer staying in hostels for two reasons; they give them a good opportunity to meet people from different cultures, as well as, they offer shared females rooms with low prices (McNamara and Prideaux2010). Besides, in recent years many western solo females' travelers find that couchsurfing is a good mean of accommodation to save money, meet up with local community and make new friends ( Gomes and Montenegro,2016).
Concerning the most visited destinations, solo women travelers are interested in visiting new and exotic destinations (Park, 2014; Sathyanarayanan, 2014).Their choices depend mainly on their marital status.Married solo travelers often prefer traveling to domestic destinations, while single, widow and divorced solo travelers usually select international trips (Kulwicki, 2014).Towns and small cities are the favorite destinations for solo women travelers. They prefer to visit mountains and coastal areas to feel relaxed and get adventure experiences (Ahokas,2017).According to booking.com survey(2014) European countries and Australia are the first destination for international trips for solo women travelers, while Sri Lanka,Costa Rica, Nepal and Laos are the most popular destinations for them in developing countries (Burkhard,2016). On the other hand, the biggest outbound tourism destinations are Europe, UK, Australia, North America, New Zealand , Asia especially south and southeast , China, Singapore and Hong Kong (Bond, 1997; Marzukiet al., 2012).
The Solo Women Travelers' Experience
According to the profile of solo women travelers, it's obvious that they are bold, brave, adventure seekers, and have self- confidence (Ahokas, 2017).
Initially, it's very important to shed light the reasons for traveling solo. Depending on the results of previous researches which addressed the travel purposes for solo women, it's clearly shown that the main reasonsfor travel is pleasure, leisure, relaxation, and doing something for themselves (Wilson and Harris, 2006; Kulwicki, 2014).For example, AARP survey (2014) found that in the last two years, most leisure trips have been taken among the respondents who have more than 45 yearswere solo trips. Due to socio-cultural and economic changes, many solo women travel for educational reasons (Gray and Kerstetter, 2001). As a result of growing contribution of women in labor force, there is an increasing trend of traveling for business, attending conferences, meetings and workshops (Khoo and Prayag, 2015).
A number of studies (McNamara and Prideaux 2010;Ahokas, 2017) have pointed out that the most popular motivations for solo women travel are escape, novelty, fulfilling many things related to one's self and esteem or putting themselves in challenge. Furthermore, Wilson and Little (2005) mentioned that women travel solo as a result of not finding the suitable one to travel with such as a partner or a family member. On the other hand, women can feel enjoyable when they are traveling solo as they have opportunities to meet new people either local residents or other travelers and to plan for their program with sense of freedom and autonomy (Heimtun and Abelsen, 2014).
Tourist experience for solo women travelers is a distinguished experience as they seek meaningful travel. Wilson and Harris (2006) stated that solo women experience depends mainly on exploring and building relationship with new people, independence and self confidence. They have time and money to fulfill their needs and interests. Additionally, their social circumstances give them the power and freedom to take decisions and travel (Brown and Osman, 2017).
Although, the positive impacts of solo travel as mentioned above, it has also some negative impacts as women can feel lonely and afraid from unexpected situations during their travel (Wilson and Little 2005). Heimtun and Abelsen (2014) pointed out that issues related to security and safety is the key challenge for solo women. For example, sexual harassments, attacks of personal safety during trip can influence the destination choices and eliminate them from feeling enjoyable.
Constraints Affecting Solo Women Travelers
The theory of constraints focused on the concept that individuals have needs and free time to participate in leisure and tourism activities but they have specific constraints or obstacles which control their desire and avoid them from participation (Raymore, 2002; Wilson, 2004).Constraints are defined as “factors thatinhibit people’s ability to participate in leisure activities, to spend more time doing so, to take advantage of leisure services, or to achieve a desired level of satisfaction” (Jackson, 1988, p. 203).
Since 1980s and 1990s most of theresearches have adopted the constraints as obstacles or barriers which can stand between the traveler's desire to travel and the ability to participate and take the action itself (Wilson, 2004).
It is evidently, that constraints are playing an effective role in the tourist experience particularly for women who travel solo (Wilson and Little, 2005).These constraints are mainly related to the gender issue (Wilson, 2004). Several studies revealed that solo women can face many constraints in seeking travel than solo men do (Henderson, 1991; Jackson and Henderson, 1995; Ahokas, 2017).
Constraints that have been addressed in the context of several tourism studies are; constraints of participation in leisure activity, constraints within tourist experience, constraints for niche markets such as tourists with disabilities, seniors , constraints in practicing insome tourist activities such as skiing, tourist activities related to nature , and constraints of visiting museums (Wilson and Little, 2005).
Some other researchers focused on classifying constraints according to their nature and types (Jackson, 1988; Wilson, 2004).Thus, there are various classification models of constraints. One of the most basic and initial model is the model which differentiates between "internal" and "external" constraints. Internal constraints relate to the personal characteristics which focus on knowledge, interests, and attitudes. External constraints involve the surrounding environmental characteristics of people such as; lack of facilities, money and time (Yang and Tung, 2017).
Crawford and Godbey (1987) proposed another model which is considered as the most common classification of constraints. It distinguishes between three types of constraints; "Interpersonal", "Intrapersonal" and "Structural". Interpersonal constraints focus on the relations between theperson and society such as impacts of family, partner or friends. Intrapersonal constraints relate to the person's attitudes and psychological attributes that could prevent individual's participation in thetourism activity such as fears, worries concerning safety and lack of self-confidence. Structural constraints stem from demographic and physical determinants which eliminate theperson from participation in leisure and tourism activities such as; age, life stage, transportation, weather, as well as, insufficient of time and money.Yang and Tung (2017) referred that structural constraints are the most popular constraints which affect the tourist behavior.
With regard to the constraints which prevent solo women from traveling, some previous studies (Wilson, 2004; Wilson and Little, 2005) referred that the constraints are changing according to the stage of travel. This means that constraints have impacts on the women's travel decision (pre- trip); these constraints relate to women's daily lives. Furthermore, there is another set of constraints (in-situ constraints) which affect the women's tourist experience (during trip) at tourism destinations. In other words, solo women travelers experience different constraints according to their age or their social condition(Wilson, 2004). In this context, this study adopts a model of constraints which depends on four main grouped themes; "socio-cultural," "personal", “practical," and "spatial". These constraints are aligned to the previous model which proposed by Crawford and Godbey (1987).
"Socio-cultural" constraints derive from the social environment and cultural norms that women live. For example, the constraints which relate to women's responsibilities and their roles within the family, as well as, expectations of society have effects before travel, while the perceptions of others towards their solo travel, unwanted attention and the attitudes of host community towards solo females during trip have an influence on tourist experience. The second theme is "personal constraints", which are mainly related to socio-cultural constraints.Theyfocus on women's feelings, emotions, values, perceptions and attitudes. For example, sense of weakness, self doubts and fears can impact women's travel decision, as well as,can avoid women from participation in some activities during the trip. Besides, the feeling of isolation and loneliness represents a constraint for solo women at destinations. The third theme is "practical constraints", which include the challenges, and obstacles that can face solo women before trip such as insufficient of financial resources and lack of time to travel, as well as, feeling tired and stressful from traveling alone and shortage of knowledge and language barrier during trip. The last theme is "spatial constraints", which are strongly associated with practical constraints. These geographical constraints can limit the solo women's choice of their destinations before trip. In addition, they can control women's movements and freedom at destinations (Wilson, 2004; Wilson and Little 2005;McNamara and Prideaux 2010; Heimtun and Abelsen 2014; Ahokas,2017).
Egyptian Solo Women Travelers as an Emerging Outbound Market
Several researches addressed the inbound tourism which is representing the backbone of the Egyptian economy. Till now, there is a noticeable shortage in studies which haveaddressed the trends, motivations and preferences of outbound tourism market in Egypt. Thus, this paper focused on this market especially the females who travel solo.
Sengupta (2012) gave an overview about the Middle East outbound tourism.He confirmed that the most visited destinations of theMiddle East outbound tourism as a whole are; Saudi Arabia, AUE, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Turkey, European countries such as, Greece, France, Italy, Spain, as well as,theUnited Kingdom, Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and China. He added that theMiddle East market is distinguished by thelong stay holiday and customized itinerary. In addition, this market depends mainly on the internet particularly social media websites for example, Facebook and Youtube in planning their trips. Also, the Middle East outbound tourists prefer city tourism, leisure tourism, especially beaches and theme parks, shopping trips, as well as, there is a growing trend of adventure and health tourism.
In fact, the trend of outbound tourism market in Egypt is not much different from the trend of the Middle East outbound tourism as a whole. Indeed, the political circumstances and the unrest situation in Egypt lead to continuous growth in outbound in tourism (Timetric, 2014). According to (UNWTO), the number of outbound tourists from Egypt is expected to increase in 2020. For instances; the total number of Egyptian outbound tourists is estimated at about 1.1 million in 2000 and 1 .854 million in 2013 (OECD, 2016). Furthermore, the Egyptian tourism expenditure in other countries increased from 1,382 million US dollars in 1996 to 3,636 million US dollars in 2015(UNWTO).This means there is an increasing trend of this market.
The main purposes of outbound tourists from Egypt are leisure, business, visiting friends and relatives, religious, medical tourism as well as other purposes (Timetric, 2014).As a result of the unique geographical location of Egypt, as well as, Egypt's proximity, it can be said that the other Middle East, North African and Mediterranean destinations are the most visited destinations by theEgyptian travelers. They can arrive easily to theEuropean and Mediterranean destinations through short-haul and low cost flights. There is an increasing proportion of Egyptian travelers who are visiting France (Market Vision, 2002), Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, and Turkey for holiday and for other purposes. Additionally, there is an emerging trend of the Egyptian travelers who visit Eastern European and south East Asian countries (OECD, 2016).
Although, the shortage of statistics about outbound tourism in Egypt, their demographic characteristics, their preferences and attitudes in travel, the previous overall view can be an evident of the growing trend of this market which needs further researches.
With regards to the Egyptian cultural customs and traditions, it's so clear that the Egyptian society gives special advantages and rights to men rather than women (Gadami, 2012; Brown and Osman, 2017).This may create lack of equality based on gender in thedaily life. In theEgyptian society, women have less value than men (Goldschmidt, 2004); as a result, Egyptian female tourists are facing many challenges and obstacles related to the attitudes and the behaviors in the Egyptian social system which is dominated by men (Brown and Osman, 2017).
On the other hand, recently many socio-cultural demographic changes have occurred in the world and in Egypt specifically. These changes have various influences on the Egyptian women; Firstly, the increasing number of females in Egypt 48,366,813 million which represents (49.8%) of the total population of Egypt (Country meters, 2018). Secondly, the improving of the educational level of the Egyptian women.In 2016 around 16 million (37%) of the total females are graduates and post-graduates. For example in 2015 (47%) of the total population are females who are holding Master's and PhD(CAPMAS, 2015).Thirdly, there is an improvement of the proportion of Egyptian women in the labor market. In 2015, (26%) of the total workforce who are between(16-46 years old) in Egypt are women(UNFPA and National population Council,2016).Fourthly , rise in the average age of marriage in Egypt 2015( 24 years) while in the world the average age at of marriage is 30 years(World Bank,2015).According to CAMPAS (2015) there is a growing rate of unmarried females in Egypt for example; in 2017 approximately 4.7 million female who areparticularly between 35-40 years old are unmarried. Additionally, in 2017 the divorce rate increased by 15% in Egypt compared to 2016(CAMPAS, 2017).Finally, there is a noticeable shift in traditional ideologies of the family concerning marriage and having children. It can be said that all these changes together create more opportunities to the Egyptian women to take their decision to travel independently.
A quantitative approach was employed in this research to collect data as it is the most appropriate approach to the research subject. A questionnaire was conducted to realize the study objectives and to answer the research questions. A total of 559 questionnaires were carried out with Egyptian solo women travelers who had had solo travel experience either domestic or international. The questionnaire was sent online through Egyptian travel groups and pages on social media. 35 questionnaires were excluded as the respondents had no previous solo travel experience so; the total research sample was 524 valid questionnairesfor analysis. The response rate is 93.7%.
Initially, the questionnaire was divided into four main sections in order to explore the tourist experience of the Egyptian solo women travelers. The first section is about trip characteristics. It consisted of 11 questions about previous solo travel experience, the kind of solo travel, the type of trips, the destinations they visited before, the way of planning their trips, the main sources of information especially the internet sources, the type of accommodation and airlines which they prefer.
The second section involved three questions related to travel motivations. It included the main reason to travel in general, the reasons for choosing to travel solo and the motivations for that.
The third section consisted of two questions about the travel constraints which had impacts on the travel decision before and during the trip. These constraints were classified into four main groups the socio-cultural constraints, personal constraints, practical and spatial constraints.
Finally, the last section is socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents which compromised of five questions including age, occupation, marital status, educational level and income.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Regarding the demographic characteristics: the results revealed that the majority of the respondents’ age ranged between 18-30 years,representing (80.2%) of the sample, then (19.8%) covered a wide range of ages between 31- 60 years.Aapproximately (61.8%) were university graduates, while (35.3%) obtained PhD or master degrees, and only (2.9%) of the respondents were high school graduates. With regard to the marital status, the majority of respondents were single (69.7%), while (32.9%) were married and the remaining percentage of(6%) was divorced.
Regarding the occupation of the respondents,(61.5%) were employed and holding good positions in different fields including (medical field, engineering, banking, administration, media, marketing, teaching and tourism), while (30.7%) were students and the remaining percentages of (4.8%) and (3.1%) were unemployed and retired respectively. Also, the results showed that the majority of the respondents (77.1%) get a moderate monthly income that ranges between 1000 -6000 EGP, while (22.9%) get more than 6000 EGP per month.
These results are aligned with what was presented previously in Laesser, Beritelli, and Bieger (2009);McNamara and Prideaux (2010) studies indicated that solo women travelers are young, well- educated, occupied good positions and they get medium or high monthly income.
With regard to the trip characteristics of the Egyptian solo women travelers, the results showed that the majority of the respondents (93.7%) had previous solo travel experience, while (6.3%) hadn’t any experience of traveling solo before. As a result, the study excluded those questionnaires from the study sample in order to continue the next sections and get accurate results. The majority of the sample (51.7%) preferred to travel as single solo travelers, while (48.3%) preferred to travel as asingle group.
This result is supported by Laesser et al., (2009) who mentioned that there are two main types of solo travelers (single solo and single group).
Furthermore, the results mentioned that (82.3%) of the Egyptian solo women travelers preferred to travel to international destinations and few of them (17.7%) preferred to visit domestic destinations inside Egypt. This proves the growing trend of the Egyptian outbound tourism.
This result is in line with the study of Kulwicki(2014) that indicated that the international destinations are the most favorite destinations for single and divorced women and the domestic destinations are the most popular destinations for married women.
The findings revealed that the Egyptian solo women travelers who filled out the questionnaire traveled to many cities and countries domestically or internationally. (48.7%) of the study sample visited cities inside Egypt such as; Sharm El Sheikh , Hurghada, Dahab Luxor , Aswan , Nubia , the Oases , the North Coast , Matrouh , Fayoum , El Sokhna and Rashid, while the majority of the respondents (69.7%) visited western and eastern European countries such as; Spain, France, Italy , Netherland, Germany, Belgium, Romania, Turkey, Greece, Georgia, Russia and Poland . Furthermore (20%) of the women visited USA, as well as, (13%) of the respondents traveled to Arab and North African countries such as Morocco, Tunis, Algeria, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon.Finally, there is an emerging trend among the Egyptian solo women travelers to visit Asian and African countries (9%) and (2%) respectively.
This result matches with OECD (2016) which showed the overall trends of the Egyptian outbound tourism and stated the most visited destinations which are European countries and the Mediterranean destinations due to the geographical location .Besides; there is a considerable demand to visit south East Asian countries.
Concerning the favorable time of the year to travel; most of the study sample (68.3%) mentioned that their trips depend mainly on their vacation as most of them are working, while (24.8%) of the respondents plan usually to travel in low season to get low prices and only few of them (6.9%) preferto travel in high season.
In terms of the way of planning the trip, the majority of respondents (76%) confirmed that they plan their owntrips, whereas (24%) mentioned that they dependon travel agencies to plan their trips.
Regarding the main source on which they depend to get information, approximately (80.2%) of the study sample depends mainly on the internet as a source to get information while planning their trips. Furthermore (13.9%) mentioned that their friends and families are their main source of information. Additionally, the majority of the sample stated that they depend mainly onGoogle and Booking (61.1%) (57.4%) respectively, followed by Facebook (46.0%),Tripadvisor (39.3%), Youtube (32.1%) and Airbnb (28.2%).
This is consistent with the study of Junek et al., (2006) and Kulwicki (2014) which clarified that the internet is considered the main source of information for solo women travelers, especially through social media such as TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram, Google and YouTube.
Concerning the accommodation that Egyptian solo women travelers prefer, the majority of them mentioned that the type of accommodation depends mainly on the destination that will visit (domestically or internationally).
The results revealed that (39.1%) of the respondents usually stay at hotels, while (31.5%) mentioned that they prefer to stay at hostels, (27.1%)and (18.7%) stated that they prefer to stay at bed and breakfast hotels and pension respectively. In addition, (15.6%) of the respondents like to stay with local community through couch surfing, especially in foreign countries, while (12.8%) of the women stated that they prefer to stay at friends/family home.
This is in line with the study of McNamara and Prideaux (2010) and Marzuki et al, (2012) which indicate that hotels, hostels are the most favorable means of accommodation for solo women travelers. Additionally, there is an emerging trend to use couchsurfing form Egyptian solo women travelers and this is aligned with Gomes and Montenegro (2016) study who mentioned that there is an increasing trend to use couschsurfing especially among western women.
Regarding the Airlines preferences, a large proportion of Egyptian solo women travelers(53.6%) declared that they prefer low cost carriers according to their prices , while (27.1%) of them mentioned that they usually book their tickets through international airlines whereas(19.3%) of the respondents prefer the national airlines.
Concerning the travel motivations, the results revealed that the main reason for travel, (67.7%) of the study sample confirmed that leisure is the main reason fortravel, while (29.4%) mentioned that they travel in order to study abroad or to getscholarship. Moreover, (18.1%) of the respondents travel for business or in order to attend a meeting or aconference. Finally, (15.3%) and(5.7%) stated that they travel to visit friends and relatives and for shopping respectively.
This is aligned with the opinion of McNamara and Prideaux (2010) and Brown and Osman (2017)who emphasized that the most important reasons of women travelers are taking rest, self development, business, studying, visiting friends and relatives and shopping.
Furthermore, (61.3%) of Egyptian solo women travelers stated that getting away from pressures and responsibilities is the primary motivation to travel solo, while (57.3%) of them clarified that meeting new people and experience different cultures and ways of life are their motivations for travel solo. Additionally, (51.1%) of the respondents confirmed that fulfilling a dream of visiting a place they have always wanted to visit is the motivation to travel solo. Additionally, (46%) of the study sample indicated that taking rest form daily life routine and relaxing is their motivation for solo travel, while (45%) mentioned that they travel solo to learn something new, followed by (42.7%) mentioned that they travel alone to develop a feeling of autonomy and independence.This is consistent with the studies of Wilson and Little (2008) and Kulwicki (2014) which addressed the different motivations which push women to travel solo.
Also, the results revealed that (53.2%) of the Egyptian solo women travel solo to try and live this experience from thevarious aspects, while (32.1%) of thewomen confirmed that they chose to travel solo as they don’t find anyone (friend, partner, or family member) to travel with , so they decideto travel solo. Additionally, (15.6%) of the respondents mentioned that they feel enjoyable when they travel alone, while (11.8%) clarified that sometimes they feel uncomfortable with those who accompany them ,thus, its better from their point of view to travel solo.These findings are parallel to those identified by Wilson and Little (2008);Heimtun and Abelsen (2014).
Regarding the constraints , the results clarified that among all the constraints which have impacts on Egyptian solo women travelers before trip, the practical constraints especially the financial limitations (46.8%) have the strongest influence on their travel choices.Furthermore,(42.9%) stated that finding compatible travel companions is the socio-cultural constraint which has influence on them. Besides, (40.1%) of the respondents identified doubts and fears as personal constraints have impact on their travel choices. On the other hand, the results showed that negotiating travel plans with family and partner as well as, refusing traveling in mixed groups as personal constraints (18.7%),have the lowest influence on the travel choices of the Egyptian solo women travelers' A recent study of Wilson and Little (2005) supports this finding
With regard to the constraints that have influence on the Egyptian solo women travelers during trip, the results identified that the personal constraint particularly the feeling of loneliness and isolation (61.1%) proved to be the most dominant personal constraint during the trip. Whereas, (58.2%) of the respondents mentioned the lack of knowledge of the destination foreign language, as the second practical constraint which has an influence on their tourist experience. Also, (40.8%) of the study sample reported that the spatial constraint could restrict their movement in tourist destinations and their feeling of freedom and safety which has aneffect on their tourist experience. On the other hand, the results indicated that difficulties to communicate with others during the trip (17.9%) as a practical constraint, has the lowest influence on the tourist experience of Egyptian solo women travelers during trip.
Generally, it can be said that socio- cultural and practical constraints are the most dominant on the women's travel decision. This means that the ideologies related to the family, the women responsibilities and the social attitudes towards solo women travelers are still playing a significant role in the Egyptian society despite the shifts which happened lately. In addition, the lack of money as a practical constraint has a strong impact on women's travel decision (Figure 1).
Figure (1): Constraints facing the Egyptian solo women travelers pre-trip
Source: The Researcher
On the other hand, the personal and practical constraints have the strongest impacts on the tourist experience of the Egyptian solo women travelers at the destinations. Mostly, these constraints are associated with the women's feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as, fears and sense of safety during trip (Figure 2).
Figure (2): Constraints facing Egyptian solo women travelers during-trip
Source: The Researcher
Finally, according to the previous findings, it is evidently clear that the four categories of constraints are interacting together and in fact, it's not easy to identify one constraint as the only influencer on the travel decision or tourist experience of the Egyptian solo women.
Ultimately,from previous results and discussion it is obvious that the research questions have been answered and proven. The demographic shifts in the Egyptian women profile have a significant effect on their travel behavior,and their travel decisions. Although these noticeable changes, some constraints - particularly the socio- cultural constraints as well as,thepractical constraints- still exist and could limit their ability to take the travel decision and also can impact their tourist experiences during travel.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This paper is can be considered the first contribution to the literature exploring the tourist experience of the Egyptian solo women from the motivation and constraints aspects.
The literature review section clarified the differences between independent and solo travelers, and then identified the solo traveler's types .Furthermore; it presented an overview of solo women travelers; including their demographic characteristics, preferences, and motivations to travel solo. Finally, the study addressed the different models of travel constrains.
Additionally, the literature review confirmed that some of study results have been justified in previous researches. For example, the demographic characteristics of the Egyptian solo women travelers match with those identified by previous studies.
Accordingly, the results of this study strengthened the emerging trend of the Egyptian outbound tourism market particularly solo women travelers. In addition, the results showed that although the Egyptian solo women travelers are challenged by a wide range of constraints prior to travel and during their tourist experience at destinations this didn’t prevent them from traveling solo.
The most prevalent constraints which have effect on the travel decision of the Egyptian solo women are the practical and socio- cultural constraints which are related to the Egyptian women's roles and responsibilities in the family and the shortage in the financial resources to travel. On the other hand, the personal and practical constraints have the strongest influence during the trip itself. The feelings of loneliness, fears and lack of security are still the crucial issues for the Egyptian women at tourism destinations.
This paper can be considered a starting point for further researches on travel's constraints specifically family constraints which can affect the Egyptian women travel's decision. Further research should take these findings in considerations and conduct a comparative study of this market in Egypt and other Middle East destinations. Moreover, the study can be found useful for marketers,destination management organizations,tour operators, travel agencies and accommodation sector. Based on the results obtained, the study raises the following recommendations.
Firstly recommendations for marketers and destination management organizations: they should benefit from the research findings to adopt and implement effective marketing strategies in order to attract them especially to domestic destinations instead of international destinations. This will reduce the leakages of hard currency from Egypt through outbound tourism, as well as,promote domestic tourism. Furthermore, they should emphasize the role of social media in marketing campaigns and sharing photos, video and blogs about the Egyptian tourist destinations as safe destinations to encourage domestic tourism particularly the Egyptian solo women travelers. Also, they should organize interactive programs between Egyptian solo women travelers and foreign solo women travelers to exchange positive tourist experiences about their solo trips and to learn more about other cultures. This can improve the confidence of women who travel solo for first time and minimize the constraints that can face them.
Secondly recommendations for tour operators and travel agencies: they should organize suitable programs and activities for solo women that will improve their tourist experience to promote domestic tourism in Egypt. So, it's very important to enhance the concept of tourist experience instead of tourism products. In this context, the travel agencies should create themed itineraries such as soft adventure trips and culinary trips. In addition, the airlines should encourage domestic tourism by reducing the prices of domestic flight and providing real competitive prices. They can benefit from the results of this study to understand the preferences and needs of the Egyptian solo women travelers and their needs. There is a necessity to issue a guidebook of solo travel trips, tourist experiences, activities, travel tales advices for the females traveling solo. This can mitigate the women's fears and constraints.
Finally recommendations for accommodation sector: it is important to specify separate floors inside hotels for women only and providing them with all tourist facilities needed especially for women such as private beaches and swimming pools.Also, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of service and facilities in hostels in Egypt to be able to host the solo women travelers and provide them with females' rooms
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