Solo travelers, a large segment of the travel population (one third of the adult population travels solo) may finally be getting the attention they deserve, according to industry experts.
-¬---The travel industry long has catered to couples and families. But as more travelers set out on their own, companies that ignore the growing ranks of solo vacationers may be doing so at their financial peril,-¬~ said the Dallas Morning News.
This year, a quarter-million singles (42 and older) will spend more than $28 billion on travel, according to an American Association of Retired People (AARP) survey.
Yet there remain many cases of single supplement. Solo travelers usually think they have no choice but to pay up or stay home.
But increasingly, tour companies are offering single supplements.
"It makes sense for them to do it, and it's time for them to do it," said Kathy Sudeikis, vice president of corporate relations at All About Travel, an agency in Mission, Kan.
Technically anyone who stays alone at a hotel pays a "single supplement" when paying the same price for a room as two people. But that concept doesn't seem to stir the frustration that the words "single supplement" do.
An angry client complained to Stephanie Turner of Brentwood Travel Service in St. Louis about being charged extra for traveling alone. Ms. Turner's explanation: "The room is the room. This is what it costs. The hotel can't sell the other half of the room."
Single rooms do exist. They can be found in hotels in Europe and South America. But travelers say they're nothing to write home about.
"It's like a walk-in closet," Ms Turner said.
A smattering of places already cater to solo travelers, treating them almost like full vacation citizens. The BodyHoliday at LeSport on St. Lucia hosted so many solo travelers that, six years ago, the resort built a new wing with 29 rooms for singles, all with queen beds.
In the US, the organization Club1, which arranges singles events in Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis and Richmond, Va., also puts together vacations for singles. The prices are per person.
Guests who share can get a discount. "Some people don't mind sharing," said owner Debbie Rance. "Others really don't want to do that. We try to give them the option."
On the flip side, some travel companies make no concessions at all. The cruise industry has some of the steepest penalties for traveling solo, in some cases charging 200%.
During off-season, cruise lines can become more flexible.
But some cruise companies go even further. Tauck World Discovery has reduced or waived the single supplement on 54 departures on 19 cruise and tour itineraries in the US, Europe and Canada. The average savings is more than $1,200.
"They routinely sell out very quickly," said Tom Armstrong, a Tauck spokesman.
Report by David Wilkening
Thursday, August 14, 2008
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