One of the great frustrations of travelling alone is the phenomenon known as the single room supplement. Practically all costings that are made in respect of travel packages where accommodation is involved are based on the not-unreasonable assumption that two people will be travelling. The room type — double or twin — is irrelevant; the only consideration is that the room cost can be divided in two, thus making the resultant costing much cheaper, and therefore more attractive. It’s not an unreasonable practice, nor is it a misleading one since no one leads with their most expensive price. The lead-in price of any hotel, apartment or rental unit will always be based on the maximum occupancy and for the most off-season date and it has been ever thus!
Package holidays that are based on self-catering units where occupancies can typically vary between three and up to eight persons will also be costed, based on the maximum occupancy with subsequent supplements applying for lesser configurations. It’s one of the reasons why groups of friends travelling on apartment-based holidays (or sometimes even hotels) need to be extremely careful before parting with their hard-earned money because if one or more of their colleagues subsequently cancel their arrangements before travel has commenced due to unforeseen circumstances (relationship breakup, illness, job loss etc.), then all the remaining people who are travelling may be faced with having to pick up the tab for the consequential under-occupancy!
This under-occupancy dilemma is particularly true when it comes to solo travellers and it’s easy to see why when you look at the arithmetic in the following example:
Let’s say that the cost of a hotel room is €500 for a weeks’ stay and the accompanying flight is €250 per person. The proportionate cost of that room is split two ways and thus the ‘package’ cost for each is €500 — €250 for the flight content and €250 for the accommodational content (i.e. €500 divided by 2). If only one person is travelling, then clearly there is no one to split the cost of the hotel two ways so the cost of the package increases by 50% to €750. It may seem unreasonable but itr is simple economics.
Because more people are now travelling alone, some companies have identified this cohort of travellers as a potentially important market in its own right and have become more creative in trying to eliminate the financial penalties normally associated with solo travelling. One of the simplest strategies employed in eliminating the high occupancy supplements is to offer solo travellers the opportunity to share accommodation with other like-minded individuals of the same sex. In other instances, properties are specifically chosen because they feature rooms whose configurations are such that they can only accommodate one person and are thus priced accordingly. This can often be the case with older, more traditional buildings where the architectural configurations are such that certain parts of the buildings are only suited to sole occupancy.
One of the companies leading the charge in this initiative to attract solo travellers is the world’s largest adventure travel company, Intrepid Travel. They feature over 1,000 itineraries of various durations and levels of activity in 142 countries across all seven continents, so I have a sneaking suspicion that there might be something there that might suit most people. And though some might describe them as an adventure company, don’t let that put you off in any way as the average age of their customers is a decidedly middle-aged 43 and you don’t have to sleep in a hammock, paddle a canoe or abseil down the side of a sheer cliff face in Vanuatu. Normal people like you travel with companies like Intrepid Travel and not only do they enjoy the holiday experience of a lifetime and make new friends but they often don’t end up having to pay those pesky single room supplements!