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The bugbear of senior travellers – single supplements

Posted By Marilynh / February 3, 2021 / 2 Comments

It is quite evident that SA seniors love to travel*. 

 

However, one of the big bugbears of senior travellers
is single supplements

 

Come and join the conversation
– find out what YEI members and YEI partners have to say
about single supplements, and add your voice to the debate…

 

 

solo senior traveller

 

 

Recently, YEI received several comments from YEI members regarding single supplements when travelling.  It prompted us to put the debate out there on the YEI Facebook page and the results were very interesting.  We asked our Facebook fans – Do you think that when one travels on one’s own, that the costs of holidays and single rooms are sharply increased? And what do you think could be done, given that it does not appear to be a case of exploiting single travellers but has everything to do with calculation of hotel and transport costs.

Here is a sample of the responses received:

  • Industry norm globally….definitely not intended to exploit. Belinda
  • I think many establishments do not take the single traveller too seriously. More and more people are opting to travel alone. Perhaps this is a market which can be capitalised on – but has thus far been sidelined. Adela
  • t’s the same maintenance costs, linen, sterilization (Covid compliant) etc. hence the surcharge. I am personally happy to pay a reasonable supplement. Michael
  • If it is a double room & you are only one person – it costs the place the same to clean etc so you will be paying a premium! Ginny
  • If you are given a double room it’s not too bad but when you are given the equivalent of a cell then it is a rip off. Clive
  • I may understand the reasoning but it feels so unfair that when you are on your own you have to pay extra. It definitely stops people (especially pensioners) from travelling. Robinette
  • In most cases the cost of cleaning the room/ washing linen/ adding amenities/ etc doesn’t change regardless of the number of people occupying the room. Some places just charge a flat room rate so if you are 1 or 2 people you would pay the same. So if you think of that rate divided by 2 with a surcharge, then you are actually getting a bargain for the room if you are a single person. It does feel unfair when you see a Per Person rate and you then have to pay more than that for yourself, but the establishment is losing out on the balance as they cannot sell the other bed in the room to someone else. I don’t think the aim of any establishment is to alienate single people or make them feel unwelcome, but rather to try cover their costs somehow. I can only suggest calling personally when making a booking, sometimes speaking to the reservationist helps them to offer you a better rate or drop the single supplement Nicola
  • I would love to travel more but do like my privacy when I go to bed….I am a widow and feel that we are penalized for being single…surely surely these huge hotels and ships can cater for the single person.. Glenda

 

solo senior traveller 2

 

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. 

 

YEI spoke to some of our partners in the hospitality and travel industry about single supplements:  

 

Ildikó Hegyi of Greystone Lodge  had this to say:

The single supplement issue is always a bit contentious.  From the traveller’s perspective, this supplement understandably causes frustration and leaves one with a feeling of being punished for being single.  Being single, especially in the case of a lot of seniors, was not a choice but a result of life’s curveballs, such as the death of a life-partner at this late stage in life.

Fortunately for some of the resilient seniors, they have decided not to let this heart-breaking occurrence be a setback, they have decided to keep living life to the fullest with the precious time they have left.

At Greystone Lodge near Dullstroom, we welcome seniors, couples or singles, giving them a 15% discount for their stay and we do not charge a single supplement.  Having said that, we charge per chalet and not per person. 

Our one bedroom chalet peak rate for 2021 is R1200 per night.  This could cause someone on pension to gasp!  So we suggest to our seniors that they travel during off-peak seasons, during the week even. It is much quieter! We have a lower off-peak rate (R1100 per chalet per night) and even lower mid-week rate (R900 per chalet per night – Monday to Thursday).  Remember, we will still deduct the 15% pensioners discount from that rate.

We also have a 4 bedroom wheel-chair friendly unit for big families celebrating 70th and 80th birthday parties with Granny or Grandpa.  Most of our chalets also have minimal stairs leading into the units,  we understand those knees are not what they used to be!

We are bird-watchers and love to impart our knowledge of our resident feathered friends at Greystone Lodge to a willing listener.

We look forward to welcoming you on your solo mission!

 

Shelley Longmore from The Nest said:

I would suggest that single travellers try to travel out of season or on quieter days and then request that the single supplement be reduced or even dropped.  We are very amenable to this at The Nest.

 

Billy Engelbrecht from Eight Bells Mountain Inn had this to say:

 

Single Supplement: Pro’s and Con’s from the Hotel’s perspective

 

Very interesting topic I must say.  Eight Bells Mountain Inn, like most hotels in the world, charge a different rate for 1 person in a room compared to 2 people sharing a room. I have read some of the comments on the YEI Facebook page regarding this topic and appreciate the valid and logical comments made by the readers/followers.   We, on the face of it – and that is where the “problem” is – charge a single person in a room about 20% more than we would for a person sharing a room with someone else; from a per person point of view. The thing is that (from our point of view) you are actually looking at it from the wrong side – if I may say so with all due respect.   Capitalism is a simple and logical system – I am getting philosophical here, please bear with me – it says that if one buys 1 item it should cost Y, and if one buys 2 items it should cost X (X being less than Y off course) – the more things you buy the cheaper it should cost as an incentive for you to purchase more of said product.  Buy 2 Mobile phones instead of one and get 20% discount …. Etc.

With regard to the rate structure for Hotels, the “single supplement” is the actual rack rate.  Two people sharing a room are actually getting the discounted rate.  In other words, you are not being penalised, as per your perception – you are actually paying the rate you should.  If two people share a room, there is less maintenance/labour and that is why two people land up getting a better rate, as opposed to one person.  I do hope this makes sense to you.

 

YEI put three questions forward to Mari Schoeman from Forever Resorts, Lodges, Hotels & Retreats

Can you explain the concept behind single supplements?

Single supplements are the costs per single guest per unit (including but not limited to Chalets, Rondavels, Hotel Rooms, Camping and Caravan sites). Accommodation costs are usually based on both fixed and variable expenses. Some fixed expenses include electricity, rates, taxes, water, sanitation, cleaning materials and sanitisation, guest entertainment (such as DSTV), supplies (such as guest amenities and toilet paper), laundry, maintenance, security and pest control. Variable expenses on the other hand include operating equipment (such as replacing broken cutlery) and additional maintenance. Furthermore, salaries, wages, insurance and other expense also have to be covered. Costs, whether they are worked out per person or per room have to cover these expenses in order for the properties to remain operational while still staying up to date with the changing requirements of guests. We use multiple guidelines for our pricing structure as well as the requirements set out by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa who is responsible for our star grading (our properties are graded predominantly three star but we also have four and five star grading’s within our group portfolio). The purpose of our pricing structure is not to exploit any of our guests under any circumstances, whether or not they are pensioners. We take our prices very seriously and each year when an increased cost is discussed, we carefully review all existing expenses to ensure we increase costs as little as possible without compromising on our guests experience and our service levels. For that reason, we made the decision to keep our 2021 rates the same as the rates in 2020 forfeiting our annual cost increase in order to accommodate our guests. We have pensioner specials and packages available at our individual Forever Resort properties which have carefully been tailored to be exclusively available for our pensioner guests.

Our understanding of single supplements is that it is not a case of exploiting single travellers, which is a concept that many seniors have, but has everything to do with the covering of costs.  In your view, do you think that in the hospitality industry generally, establishments should be more accommodating to solo travellers, recognizing the fact that there is a big untapped market of solo senior travellers and that it is in fact a growing opportunity?

I think more often than not, costs are given but the explanation behind the costs get lost in communication. In some instances, as with our group, guidelines are established before any costs are determined. We do believe that solo travellers play a role in the Tourism industry. Over the years we have seen some of our loyal guests travel as friends, then couples, then families, then couples again and then as solo travellers because they have had some of their most cherished memories at our properties. It goes without saying that this specific market, as with all the other markets should be accommodated where viably possible.

Is it true to say that it is best to avoid big cities with expensive hotels when it comes to the single supplement?  Do country establishments charge less for single supplements purely because their costs are lower?

As we don’t have establishments in any major cities, this is a tough question to answer. However, we have noticed that our pensioner guests who live in large cities are excited to leave the hustle and bustle of the city come to our properties to slow down, enjoy the peace, and tranquillity at our properties. That’s something that makes our properties so unique and appealing, some of them are based at the most scenic destinations and attractions of our country making them the ideal space to escape to, from seaside to bushveld, mountain to dam views. What’s more is, our destinations are great options for solo travellers, groups, couples and Skip-Gen

 

Solo senior traveller 2

 

At the end of the day, the feedback we get, without exception, is that YEI partners/advertisers have a very soft spot for senior travellers.  To quote one of our partners “We are always open to finding a solution in order to meet a guest’s budget.  So, don’t let single supplements frustrate you or rob you of a well-deserved break.  Do voice your concerns with the establishment and see if they can come up with a solution”. 

 

*As an organisation, YEI does need to advocate that the safest place for SA seniors during this torrid time, especially if you have co-morbidities, is at home.  However, in light of the huge volume of hospitality and travel enquiries that YEI receives from its senior readership, the demand is such that YEI continues to feature travel offers.  Should you wish to enjoy what we call a “safecation”, YEI recommends that you ensure that your destination is cleared for safe travel during this time and enquire about the covid protocols at your destination.

 

 Click here to read up on some tips as a solo traveller

 

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Relevant articles:

 

Single supplements frustrate the solo senior traveller

YEI Pensioner Deals – Brand New and Hot off the press – 2021

SA seniors – Leisure travel is back!

 

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Comments

2 Comments

  • Penny
    February 3, 2021 at 5:41 pm

    Hi – I believe there is a real gap in the market for reasonably-priced, single accommodation without any ‘extras’. I don’t consider staying at establishments that charge a high ‘single supplement’. I don’t mind (actually prefer) travelling out of season so I look for opportunities at those times. Why don’t people in the industry start looking at building smaller rooms for singles? They are doing this in other parts of the world, where the tourist industry seems to be more aware of the many singles looking for well-priced holidays (not just pensioners). I also think that there’s a market for a blog (there are several overseas) selling and recommending solo holidays and accommodation.

    • Marilynh
      February 5, 2021 at 9:14 am

      Hi Penny – thank you for your thoughtful comments regarding single solo travellers. YEI already has, under construction, a page for Senior Solo Travellers – we will announce this on the YEI platform once the page is ready to roll.
      Regards, YEI

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