Updated: Dec 30, 2019
These days a growing number of people of all ages are travelling solo and love the independence that comes with it. But when a solo traveller looks at booking a place on a tour, they generally have to pay extra: a ‘single supplement’, which on the surface looks a little like a penalty for not having a travelling companion. Why do tour companies make single travellers pay extra?
Like most travel companies, the groups for our tours of Italy are usually a blend of couples, friends travelling together and single travellers. It makes for a good social mix.
The number of singles on each tour but - if our experience is anything to go by - the trend for solo travel is growing. The 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study found that 24% of international leisure travellers did so on their own; up from 15% in 2013. The United States Tour Operators Association reported that 53% of its members saw increases in bookings by solo travellers. And according to the Daily Mail newspaper, tour operators reported that 35% of British travellers who book group tours are travelling alone (and of those solo travellers, 58% were women).
So increasingly, like many other similar companies, we are finding ourselves needing to explain to solo travellers that there is a single supplement to pay. (We wish they didn’t have to pay it, but they do.)
That is, unless two single people are happy to share a room for the duration of a tour. A shared room means no additional fee. That works well if both guests are like-minded people, and sometimes roommates become new long-term friends. But more often than not we find most single guests prefer to have their own room (I know I would).
For one thing, I like my own space. Travelling is fun but it can also be very tiring – especially after a long day of sightseeing. So if you prefer your own company when unwinding at the end of a day, then the cost of having your own room is likely to be worth it. I also like the freedom to do as I wish. By having my own room, I don’t need to worry about fitting around another person’s sleeping patterns. I’m free to go to bed when I want without the fear of being woken up or waking them up. I’m also free to play music or watch TV, with the privacy to call friends and family back home whenever I like.
So if I was a solo guest on one of our tours, I’d definitely be up for the single supplement. But why is it there in the first place?
Well, it’s simple really... hotel pricing is based on double occupancy: two people sharing a twin or double room. And when a tour is priced, it is on that same basis. If a solo traveller chooses to have their own room, they are not sharing the cost of the room with a second traveller. The single supplement is, therefore, an additional charge to make up the full cost of the room. That's all there is to it. There are no other costs that need to be included in a single supplement.
When we approach our hotels in Italy, we are usually provided with one or two options for single travellers. Firstly, some (but not all) hotels do have a limited number of single rooms, and these are often taken quite quickly. The second option is single use of a double room - so a full-size room but with just a single occupant. The price for a single room varies but it usually in the order of 75% of a double room. Single use of a double room is most often offered at only 10 or 20 euro less than the full cost of the room. That is really not much of a discount, but this is common.
Over a 2-week tour the costs add up, which means that usually there won’t be much change from $1000 for the single supplement.
It's important to know that - unlike some tour companies - we don’t put any additional margin on the supplement. In fact, we usually top up part of the additional costs. But unless hotels charge half the price of two people for a single traveller to use a room, we have to either cover the difference ourselves – which is not financially sustainable – or we need to charge a single supplement.
So that’s it. No-one likes it – especially the person having to pay it – but hopefully you can understand why it is necessary.
In any case, if you are a single traveller with us, we will go out of our way to make you welcome and ensure your tour is a wonderful social adventure in Italy.
If you are considering coming on any of our tours of Italy, please contact us to ask about our single supplement.
Oh, and I need to add that - whilst I mentioned my wish to have my own room - on our tours I share a room with my wife of 31 years, Alexia. I wouldn't have it any other way.... apparently....