Lee Thompson, Flash Pack Co-Founder, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the rise of solo travelers as a result of the pandemic and geographic locations of interest for travelers.
- Well, welcome back. This holiday season, and beyond, travel is expected to take off, as weary homebound consumers look to further afield getaways. But has the way they travel seen a fundamental shift? Here to discuss that is Lee Thompson, co-founder of travel company Flash Pack.
Lee, thank you so much for your time here. And congratulations, I believe, are in order, because you're just relaunching after being shut down by the pandemic for the last 20 months or so. Is that right?
LEE THOMPSON: Yeah, that's right. And thank you very much for having me. Yeah, so basically, like, we grew and we launched in 2014, put in $20,000 of saving and grew our business to $27 million revenue. And just before the pandemic struck.
So we had, like, amazing growth, but obviously, you know, getting groups of strangers, people that don't know each other, was just about the worst thing you could be in during the pandemic. But thankfully, we've just pulled off a multimillion pound fundraise to get going again. So it's really exciting.
- Talk to us a little bit about this rise in the solo traveler. You know, especially amidst this time, during the pandemic, when travel is more complex than ever, with all the different rules and regulations. What are you hearing from travelers?
LEE THOMPSON: Yeah, so like all the trends that we capitalized on when we first launched, back in 2014, are still there. You know, singles households is one of the fastest growing households, for a long time now. But in this post-pandemic world, the need for connection is going to be far greater than the travel come back itself. And we're very, very much ready to capitalize on that. And early indications show, I mean, we only switched the lights back on of our business 10 days ago, and we've had a massive, really impressive amount of bookings from our customers. So the demand's there, and the need for connection and new friendship is greater than ever.
- And then you also specialize in group travel. So are you seeing a big rise in groups wanting to travel again? Where are they going? And are they spending as much as they did in pre-pandemic days?
LEE THOMPSON: So everyone who goes on a Flash Pack trip travels solo. And we put you in a group of 14 like minded solo travelers in their 30s and 40s from all over the world, mostly the US. So it's solo low group travel.
Obviously, traveling by yourself is fine, lots of people do it, I do it myself. But traveling with a group of people you don't know is really the kind of magic behind our business. Because when you share something as powerful as adventure, or travel, and friendships are formed.
And you know, it's quite difficult to make new friends in busy cities like London and New York. But that shared connection of doing an adventure together really bonds a group. So that's why we're seeing such a rise in it.
- And where are you seeing the interest, in terms of geographic regions? Where are people, now that they are traveling again, where are they going?
LEE THOMPSON: That's a great question. Yeah, so far, they are loving Jordan, Morocco, all the places that were doing quite well for us before. Obviously, there's a lot more questions now around safety and vaccination rates. So places like Sri Lanka is doing really well for us, they've got a particularly high vaccination rate.
But yeah, all the places they were going to previously. In fact, I'm quite surprised, but lots of Asia bookings too, places like Japan, Vietnam. Everyone's just waiting to get back out to the world again and explore the places that have been off the radar for quite a long time.
- And then, are you seeing a rise in adventure tourism, you know, right now, and then moving forward as well?
LEE THOMPSON: Yeah, so adventure tourism was already growing 17%, as I can see on your screen there. This has been rising, dramatically increasing the demand for adventure travel for quite some years now. The beauty of adventure is it does help groups of people become friends. You know, you get to do things on a Flash Pack trip, for example, like, abseiling down Table Mountain in South Africa or having a launch with a Sumo wrestler. Things that would be really difficult to do by yourself.
So this, kind of, urge to do more adventurous activities, hiking, kayaking, is really greater than ever. I mean, I think a good example of that is how fast we grew pre-pandemic.
- I think a lot of these trips sound like they're bucket list trips, right? Where people are like, look, I want to do this, I've always wanted to do this, and there is no time like the present. Especially when the pandemic has you self-reflect on just how precious time is.
LEE THOMPSON: Completely, absolutely, we've had over 18 moths in some kind of lockdown or isolation. We saved our money. We're ready to-- you know, we've had a lot of time to reflect and to think about the places we want to go and the people we want to meet.
So it's going to be a lot bigger. And to answer your earlier question, people will spend more, that's what we are seeing so far. And they're ready to explore the world with like minded people.
- And let me ask you, really quickly, what are the experiences that people are coming away with from these trips? Are they happy that they actually, sort of, get together? I know they travel solo, but they're also in a group. Or are some of them fearful about it, now that they're, sort of, in this post-COVID environment? Are there mixed reactions?
LEE THOMPSON: Yeah, it's a good question. To be honest with you, look, obviously, safety is like the most important thing on all of our trips. And we make sure that our trips are COVID safe. But there are almost zero questions around the COVID side of things, everyone's just desperate to meet people and to travel.
And you know, the beautiful thing is, like adventure travel, it kind of, as I say, it fuels these friendships. So we obsess over the group dynamic. And just build our trips around helping a group of strangers become friends.
And research suggests that individuals who understand the power of connection are people that experience more career, financial, and social success. So our friends are just, you know, people are becoming really good friends. And they're going on to, kind of, accelerate their career and to achieve their, kind of, life goals too.
- All right, well, no matter how they do it, everyone wants to get out and travel. Lee Thompson, co-founder of Flash Pack, thank you so much for that.