Single Supplement - Alternative Solutions
TORONTO — Solo travel is on an upward trend, says the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, with travellers who ventured alone on their most recent overseas leisure trip jumping to 24% from 15% in 2013.
This market has more than doubled amongst affluent and first-time travellers (32% up from 14% for the affluent, and 37% up from 16% for first-time travellers), while solo ‘Superboomers’ are also seeing a slow but steady increase (18%, up from 16% in 2013).
The study also revealed that solo travellers make for the ideal client: they engage in activities that speak to their passions (sporting events, water sports, etc.), they’re set on their destination but spontaneous about their itineraries (of 2,485 surveyed, 69% of solo travellers said they knew the destination they wanted to go to and did not consider others), and they seek bespoke travel experiences (personal guided tours have become increasingly popular among this market). In fact, the number of solo travellers that seek bespoke travel arrangements has increased almost three-fold compared to 2013 (24% compared to 9%).
As a result, many tour operators and cruise lines are taking notice and going out of their way to cater to solos and their needs. In fact, there are enough companies currently focusing on solos to warrant the first annual Solo Travel Awards, which takes place in October and is being sponsored by Solo Traveler and World Nomads. Designed to “acknowledge companies that are serving the solo market well, and to motivate others to follow suit”, the awards identify those with no or very low single supplements.
Of course, the single supplement, which ranges from 10% to 100% or more of the standard rate, is an industry-wide practice that has long been regarded as a necessary evil. But as solo travel continues to increase, so too will the need for single supplements. And with more people being slapped with a hefty surcharge, the more risk there is of disgruntling a growing segment of the market.
So is there a way to abolish the surcharge once and for all?
Not anytime soon. Katharine Bonner, SVP, Tauck River & Small Ship Cruising says that the single supplement results from the fact that tour and cruise companies price their products with the assumption that the cost of accommodations will be split between two guests occupying a single room or cabin. “So if a tour operator’s cost for a hotel room in Europe for one night is €300 and two guests sharing that room are paying €150 each, the tour operator breaks even. However, the tour operator’s cost for that room remains the same whether one or two guests are occupying it. So if you have a solo traveller in that same room, paying that same per-person rate of €150, suddenly the tour operator is incurring a substantial loss.
“The single supplement is a way of addressing the fact that hosting a solo traveller reduces the tour operator’s or cruise line’s income by half, while their costs haven’t been reduced accordingly.”
From a cruise line’s perspective, Dana Gain, National Director, Sales – Canada for Norwegian Cruise Line says single supplements are a way to remain competitive.
“The cruise model is based on sailing double occupancy, so if only one guest sails in a room it affects the overall model. In order to offer competitive pricing and rich, value-added promotional offers, the single supplement aligns to the double occupancy model,” she says.
So it looks like it’s not going away anytime soon, but this isn’t to say that solo travellers will always be stuck with the short end of the stick. Tauck, for example, has eliminated the single supplement entirely on all of its Category 1 European riverboat cabins, is waiving the supplement on over 230 river cruise departures this year, and reducing the surcharge by up to $1,000 on 187 departures of 64 itineraries to five continents.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), in addition to waiving or reducing the single supplement from time to time, is credited with being the first cruise line to offer Studio cabins, designed specifically for solo cruisers. First debuting on Norwegian Epic in 2010, the well-received Studios (which charge no single supplement) have since been added to five of NCL’s ships.
“There was clearly a market need and demand has been strong for these unique staterooms,” added Gain. “We recognized that families are the second largest cruising segment, second only to the 55+ age group. On average, between 15-20% of guests on each cruise are part of a multi-generational travel group, and that often includes family members that may be travelling solo.”
A growing number of millennials is also choosing to go at it alone. As the largest generation in history, they’re on track to also be the largest market in travel in the next several years. According to a 2015 MMGY Global survey of 2,300 U.S. adults, 37% of millennial respondents indicated they plan to take at least one overnight leisure trip alone during the next six months, up 5% from the previous year and 8% from two years prior.
“We have seen an incredible increase of solo travellers as it is now more common – especially among millennials – today than it ever was,” says Damien Bennett, VP Sales North America, Busabout. “Because of this shift in travel habits, operators are realizing that there is a huge market in this sector and are now catering accordingly.”
Bennett also cites a recent study by the UNWTO (United Nations World Travel Organization), which found that given the fact that the number of international millennial trips is expected to nearly double to about 300 million by 2020, solo travel will play an even larger role in how young Canadians travel.
“From my experience, tour operators have traditionally seen solo travellers as an afterthought and have typically charged them extra for travelling alone. We’re seeing more and more operators following what Busabout is doing, that is by recognizing the benefits of solo travellers travelling with them. They have and continue to be a big part of our business,” he says.
Solos are making a similar impact at Tauck, with Bonner saying that solo travel has certainly been a growing part of its business. “I think it points to an increased awareness that guided group travel is a smart choice for solo travellers. Prior to a trip, the work involved in planning a vacation is normally divided among two people. For someone travelling alone, all of that work falls on a single person, and it can be a lot,” she says. “With a guided group tour or cruise, the only work involved is picking the itinerary and departure date. Tauck does the rest.”
Posted by Travelweek Group
This story originally ran in the August 3rd, 2017 issue of Travelweek magazine.
My stay in Curacao has me baffled. Odd to be baffled I’m sure but it comes from a place of dichotomy: wealthy–poor, safe-unsafe, desert-lush, luxurious-run down. As we travelled around the island I experienced a multitude of contradictory thoughts. Not to say that our visit wasn’t great, I simply did not get a good sense of the Dutch island. What I need to do is revisit!
Our family vacation brought a lovely week of experiences and memories. Visiting the ostrich farm was, as my daughter put it, the most random thing we have ever done. The Hato Caves were neat and our hike to the top of Mount Christoffel (highest point on the island) had us huffing and puffing but amazed with the view. Scuba diving (staff at the dive shop were fabulous) and snorkeling allowed us to see the underwater world of Curaçao. A visit to Willemstad showed us a wonderful display of brilliantly coloured shops.
Beach was fantastic. There was plenty of room for all the resort’s guests and the reef just off shore provided a natural underwater zoo of fish. I was happy to have brought snorkeling gear and an underwater camera. Swimming with the schools of fish created many ‘pinch me’ moments.
Renting a car was great. Driving was completely doable and provided us the ability to see the whole island. Crazy maze of a road system had us seemingly going in circles while actually getting somewhere. Please note that having a GPS is not just a luxury, it is an absolute MUST. The laughs while traversing the island will not be forgotten. Seriously?!? Who designed this road system??
Beware, being a mere 65 kilometers off the coast of Venezuela brings killer rays of sunshine. Cloud coverage is a welcome reprieve. Even the hardiest of sun worshippers will need a wee bit of shade. For me it was 90 percent shade and 10 percent sun but, then again, I am a wimp when it comes to heat.
Take sunscreen and a hat and enjoy.
Little did I know Iceland would have such an impact.
I now feel as though our ever changing world has it's origins rooted on an island in the North Atlantic. Stark naked nature is what you will find in Iceland. Geysers, lava fields, northern lights, waterfalls, geothermal spas, volcanoes, mountains, rushing rivers, lakes, volcanic craters, caves, the meeting of two tectonic plates (North America and Europe) and massive glaciers make up this must experience destination. My reason for heading to Iceland was to see the Northern Lights. My reason for wanting to make a return visit is ten fold that.
I was naive to think that the northern lights were the be all and end all of Iceland. The northern lights are simply a feather in the country cap. Stepping inside all that Iceland has to offer opened my eyes to a vigorous and vibrant Mother Nature whose grasp on this earth is a vulnerable yet tight one.
In traversing the southern coast (by car), from Reykjavik to Hof (golden circle too), I feel we were able to capture the essence of Iceland. Dotted with many highlight reel experiences it would be hard to single out any one in particular. However, the glacier lagoon did knock my travel experience socks off. Venturing from the car we made our way across the black beach to the edge of the North Atlantic. I was amazed to see rolling waves carrying chucks of ice to shore. The black beach was speckled with naturally formed ice scultures. Where one would expect to see sea shells we were seeing ice. Further inland seals swam freely in amongst the masssive and not so massive ice bergs. Deceptively far off in the distance loomed the tongue of the frozen glacier. Powerful winds enhanced the already daunting scene of frigid water and ice. As darkness set in, the sounds of the evening became increasingly present. Nature had the upper hand and we respected its omnipresence.
If you are planning a visit to the southern part of the country I would recommend you experience: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfoss, Secret Lagoon, the Black Beach and the Glacier Lagoon. I did not spend much time in Reykjavik. I say to that, 'until we meet again Iceland'.
Chalkful of character.
It took less than a day for the marvelously relaxed nature of PEI to take hold. Rolling hills of lush countryside speckled with meticulously kept homes lent itself well to the laid back lifestyle enjoyed by all.
With fresh air seemingly fresher, and quiet seemingly quieter, I am motivated to journal my stay here. The wonderfully simple atmosphere removes complexities making way for thought and creativity. Artists must find this place an absolute inspiration for their work.
Sitting on the beach, amid the Greenwich dunes, I mentally take a piece of charcoal and begin to imagine how striking the canvas would become were I to sketch the scene. The warm sea is of good temperament today. Lazy respectful waves, clear water and a sandy bottom invite visitors to enjoy a refreshing dip. Grains of sand, easily picked up by a gust of wind, cause me to focus on the fragile dunes. Facing inland the sand keeps its silky white colour as it rises into high dunes. Patches of grass rooted in the dunes do their best to keep the transient sand in place. Forever changing dunes reflect well the acceptance and tough, yet easy going, nature of the Islanders. It saddens me to think that the ravages of wind and constant erosion from the water are, inch by inch, stealing this island from us.
After a wonderful couple of hours of sun, water and reflection, it is time to head back. Crossing over the dunes and walking across the expansive boardwalk I am thankful for the chance to visit such a treasure of a spot.
Memories of the dunes solidified, lobster supper in New Glasgow has me day dreaming of how marvelous it will be. A pound and a half lobster with all the mussels I can eat, takes me to a new level of loving this island. Great laughs with my travel mates and that gosh darn lobster bib strip away any lingering city life tension.
With my brain in, an island imposed, fabulous melancholy, I step into the local Lion’s Club to attend a ceildh (kitchen party). A trip to PEI would not be complete without enjoying the sounds of fiddling. Fiddlers Son was slated to play. Locals and tourists gathered in the Lion's Club main room. Taking our seats I was struck by how spectacular this hometown gathering is. Cars spilling over the parking lot into the adjacent field while strawberries and ice cream were to be served at intermission. The music was fantastic and the support for the local talent even more so. We clapped and tapped our feet to the rhythm. The camaraderie of the evening and great music, of course, left us feeling truly a part of PEI culture. What an evening! What a day!
Located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this smallest Canadian province is worth its weight in serenity.
David never ceases to amaze me!
After a brief stay in line we entered the Galleria dell’ Accademia. The natural direction to start our tour was to go straight. I knew David was left. My wait had been 12 years to see David again. Going straight was not an option. I would circle back. Rounding the corner, at the end of the long open hallway, there he was. In all his glory David emotionally and physically dominated the space. Wanting to savour the moments of my visit, I did not rush up to the statue. I took my time as I took in his presence. At just 26 years old Michelangelo skillfully created a statue which quite naturally exudes promise, power and protection. This 17 foot tall, 12,478 pound marble statue somehow presents a softness of acceptance. A grand combination of humility and confidence, strength and youthful beauty.
David never ceases to amaze me. His effect on me is an oddity I may never fully understand. I spent a good amount of time staying within the aura of him. I toured the rest of the museum with half hearted interest. It was David I wanted to see again. Seeing a replica does not elicit much from me except to remind me of time I have spent in the Galleria dell' Accademia admiring the original.
As I left the museum a sadness struck me. The feeling took me by surprise. I believe it came from a place of not knowing if I would ever return.