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Single supplements frustrate the solo senior traveller

Posted By Marilynh / January 30, 2017 / 10 Comments

Solo senior travel is on the rise.  The times – they are a-changing.   It is a myth that the stereotyped solo senior traveller is single, unattached and looking for romance.   It is often the case that the solo senior traveller is married, in a committed relationship and is travelling without their spouse or partner for a variety of reasons. 

 

 

The solo senior traveller could be widowed, divorced or an adventurous singleton.  Many women, and men, like the idea of having an experience on their own, have no qualms about travelling alone to an unusual destination, are not bothered that their partner is disinterested in a particular destination, or they just can’t bear the idea of a golfing or cooking holiday!  No matter what the reason is that a person is travelling solo, the fact is that more and more people are solo travellers and form a significant portion of the leisure travel industry. 

The one commonality amongst solo travellers is their beef with single supplements.  While many travel brands are sitting up and paying attention to this bugbear, there are equally as many travel companies, hotels, B&Bs who are not.  Is it justified that the costs of holidays and single rooms are sharply increased when one travels on one’s own?

 

 

You’ve Earned It received an email from a YEI reader, Ann Kempen, who decided to voice her opinion about single supplements.  This prompted YEI to research the topic and speak to two of our travel industry advertisers about this.  It is clear that this is a widespread industry practice, but equally clear that more and more companies are doing away with single supplements.

Ann Kempen had this to say:  “Two of us gals, in a group of four gal – pals of many years’ duration, have birthdays in January.  We try to do one or two weekends away a year – but do like to have our own rooms.  We are very disappointed that most places, when offering specials, don’t think about the single ladies who want their own rooms.  Single supplements are exorbitant.  We find that we have to try and find a four-bed cottage or 2 x two-bedroom cottages.  It’s not easy, I tell you!  How nice it would be if these wonderful places would think of these single, intrepid, over-55 adventurous ladies, who after a fun day together, like their privacy in their own single room with a lovely bathroom.  Why do only couples have all the fun!”.

 

 

Experts in the industry advise that holidays are generally priced on a per person basis, based on two people sharing a room.  It does not seem to be an issue of profiteering or exploiting single travellers.  It has everything to do with the calculation of hotel and transport costs.  The operating costs of a hotel room – things like the cleaning and servicing of the room, utilities and amenities – are the same no matter how many people occupy a room.  If a single traveller pays half for the room, the hotel could be running at a loss. 

Danie Jansen van Vuuren  of Forest Edge, a nature-lovers’ retreat in Knysna had this to say:

“Single Supplements – albeit frustrating – are really just a case of simple business maths. Forest Edge – Nature Lovers’ Retreat has 5 indigenous forest self-catering cottages and to operate them, we incur certain costs, for example staff wages, cleaning materials, cottage equipment, bond repayments, repairs, linen, electricity, etc. When we price a daily cottage rental rate, we take all our costs and we add a profit margin to get to a rack rate that we charge our guests. We base that on a minimum occupancy of 2 people. For example, if our costs are R850 per night + 20% profit margin, then our rate per cottage per night is R1 020, or R510 per person. However, we would not even be able to recover our cost if rented a cottage out at R510 for one person, thus we charge a 100% “single supplement” for a single occupancy.  Having said all of that, Forest Edge has a very soft spot for our mature travellers and we are always open to finding a way to meet our guest’s budget, as far as possible, so don’t let single supplements frustrate you or rob you of your well-deserved break, voice your concern with the establishment and let’s “do a deal”.

Fouriesburg Country Tours specializes in senior citizen travel in South Africa, offering local and international tours.  Johann Brits of FCT has a different opinion:

“Our view is simple, we don’t like it. We feel that when you book 20 to 25 rooms at an establishment, you should get at least 4 to 5 rooms for single board at a single rate. The hotels can’t afford to give 20 rooms for singles as it greatly affects their turnover, especially in places like Botswana and Namibia where tourists come through on a conveyor belt. SS are, in fairness, still cheaper than the rate for 2 people in a room, although not by much. Single travellers also affect smaller operators more than ones taking larger groups, as we have bargaining power which the smaller operators don’t have, so we can still drive SS down with the numbers we bring.  We therefore strongly feel that there should be an allocation system in place. It would be beneficial for hotels and tour operators to standardize this practice”. 

 

 

If you are planning a holiday or mini-break, here are some thoughts that might avoid or reduce single supplements:

Negotiate with the hotel or tour operator

Use your negotiating and diplomatic skills.  Ask the business concerned if they could consider waiving the single supplement.  If they are not fully booked, they might go out of their way to get your business.

Book directly with the business, not through a middle man

Contacting the tour operator or hotel directly may put you in a position to negotiate a single room or place without paying the single supplement, or at the very least, to get the best possible rate of the day.

Find a travel partner

It might be easier said than done, but when you consider that there are many people in the same boat as you, it could be very worthwhile financially.  If you have no single friends, consider asking your friends if they have single friends who would be interested in teaming up as a travel companion.  If you go this route, probably best to try out a weekend together to see if you are compatible travelling companions.

Travel in the off-season

When business is quiet, you may find that there is more of a willingness to give you a better rate for single occupancy.  Some cruise companies and tour operators even highlight the quiet months that are reserved for single travellers.

Last-minute travel

If you are in a position to book at the last minute, there is a possibility you could clinch yourself a good deal.  You might need to pay a single supplement, but you could be the recipient of a good discounted price.

Early-bird special

At the other end of the spectrum, you might be able to score a good early-bird special.  Worth a thought..

How about sharing?

Not ideal for everyone, but some tour operators will offer to assist you and pair you up with another single traveller of the same sex.  You never know – you could land up making a new BFF!

Talk to the operators of specialised singles holidays

You do need to do your homework here as operators price in different ways.  Having said that, many operators who specialise in singles holidays do not charge supplements, but offer a single or double room for sole occupancy.

 

Do you have any tips on avoiding single supplements?
What do you think about paying extra as a solo senior traveller?
Have you found supplement-free cruises or tours?
Have you joined a solo senior traveller’s group?
Would you like to see a space on YEI where you could meet up with people sharing similar interests?


Do share your travel experiences with other YEI readers in the comment section below!

 

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Comments

10 Comments

  • Brenda Sudano
    February 1, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Dear YEI ! Excellent subject matter and very relevant to the mature traveller.
    I find it painful to fork out extra as a solo senior traveller – as if it’s a penalty to travel alone. Sharing with a stranger is not ideal, but I have done so on occasion and made firm friendships.
    I would love to learn about supplement-free cruises or tours, and would welcome a ‘safe’ space on YEI where one could ‘post’ or meet up with people sharing similar interests or tours.
    Thanks for thinking of this!
    Brenda

    • Marilynh
      February 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      Dear Brenda

      Thanks for your contribution to both topics. Much appreciated.

      Kind regards
      Marilyn, YE Editor

  • Adri Van Niekerk
    February 1, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Dear YEI – Thank you very much for this article. There will certainly be more frequent senior solos on the move if this matter could be seriously debated in the travel industry.
    If you travel twice a year your single supp could be paying for half of a next trip ! I have had that experience – it is blood money.

    Some companies pride themselves on offering 5 star accommodation, but then the schedule is so busy that you hardly enjoy the luxury before the early departure next morning !!! Maybe go for a good 2 -3 * and save a penny for the next adventure.

    Happy travelling solo friends
    Adri

    • Marilynh
      February 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      Dear Adri

      Thanks for taking the time to add to this conversation. Much appreciated.

      Kind regards
      Marilyn

  • BRIAN COOMBES
    February 2, 2017 at 8:04 am

    We are always aware of single supplements in planning our tours and wherever possible try to structure tours to exclude a single supplement. We currently are able to offer 2 tours in 2017 without a single supplement – Brian and Carol TRAVELTIME TOURS see out website – http://www.traveltime.co.za

    • Marilynh
      February 5, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Dear Brian

      Thank you for your comments. We will bring this to the attention of YEI readers in our next newsletter – in the Editor’s column.

      Kind regards
      Marilyn

  • Grant
    April 26, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you for the post and we do realise that the single suppliment is a burden on our travellers. We do offer 2 bedroom chalets with sharing bathroom where possible to help reduce this cost and will certainly bargain harder with suppliers to reduce the rates in future.
    Grant MD Landscape Tours http://www.landscapetours.co.za

    • Marilynh
      May 14, 2017 at 6:50 am

      Dear Grant

      Thank you for sharing Landscape Tour’s point of view with YEI readers – much appreciated.

      Kind regards
      Marilyn, YEI Editor

  • Grimalkin
    August 27, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Absolutely agree regarding the single supplement. I’m prepared to travel out of season, during the week, but many b & bs don’t recognise this and charge a whopping ‘single supplement’. (In addition, I rarely eat breakfast!). Please keep investigating the establishments that will accommodate us singletons and advertise them as this is the best way of increasing the non-SS charging places!

    • Marilynh
      September 4, 2018 at 8:37 am

      Dear Penny

      We will certainly do so. thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

      Regards, YEI

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