Laura French looks into the tours, cruises and hotels offering solo travellers their own room at no extra cost.
Solo travel is firmly on the up. Over the past year more than one in six people chose to holiday alone, according to Abta research – up from one in nine in 2017, and only one in 16 in 2011.
Traditionally that meant paying a single supplement to cover the cost of a double or twin room for those wanting their own space – but no longer is this the case. More and more tour operators, cruise lines and hotels are scrapping single supplements or offering reduced rates to entice solo travellers wanting to meet like-minded travellers without having to slum it with a stranger. So who offers what, and how can you use it to sell to this burgeoning market?
Tours have long attracted solo travellers, but it’s only over the past couple of years that the mainstream operators have really started to embrace the market.
Wendy Wu Tours brought out a new Solo Tours collection, offering a guaranteed single room at no extra cost on six trips, which range from a 14-day Captivating China tour, priced from £3,590, to an 11-day Highlights of Japan trip, from £5,490.
Titan Travel has a similar deal with its Solo Travel tours and holidays, giving clients a room of their own without an additional fee in destinations ranging from Sri Lanka to Armenia, Ethiopia to Canada and India to California. Riviera Travel also has a Solo Traveller collection, with no single supplements on trips spanning the likes of New York, Costa Rica, Israel, New Zealand, Greece, Italy, La Gomera and beyond.
Great Rail Journeys likewise offers no single supplement deals on a collection of its trips, including a 10-day Glacier Express & St Moritz trip through the Swiss Alps (from £2,695), and a Highlights of Tuscany tour complete with cooking and wine-tasting in Chianti (from £1,795 for 10 days).
Closer to home, walking specialist HF Holidays – which says 50% of its bookings are for solo travellers – offers single rooms at no extra cost and double rooms for a small supplement on nearly all of its trips in the UK, while Grand UK Holidays’ Just for Singles! coach trips give solo travellers their own twin room in the likes of Snowdonia, the Peak District, Eastbourne and beyond without charging any extra.
It’s the solo specialists that were the real forerunners of the trend, of course. Just You has offered no single supplements in twin or double rooms on all of its trips since its launch, with destinations spanning every continent and the biggest growth being seen in South America, India, Africa and the Far East, according to the operator.
Solos Holidays offers a similar deal across its tours, cruises and single-centre (Clubsolos) trips, giving single travellers the chance to explore everywhere from Albania to Panama, Saint Lucia to Cambodia, without being penalised for having their own room.
Ask the expert
“We conducted a survey that found 65% of people believe they are financially penalised for travelling solo, which can be a huge disincentive to booking. In response we created Solo September, working with partners to offer no single supplements and support single travellers.
“Reports from our website and our partners show a sharp increase in solo travel over the past few years. Booking trends from several of our solo partners show that solo travel is particularly popular with women travellers aged over 50. Many cruise partners have noted a particular rise in solo travel on their holidays, as it’s safe and easy to meet fellow passengers.”
James Clarke, UK general manager, Travelzoo
Tour operators aren’t the only ones jumping on the solos trend, with cruise lines also spotting an opportunity to get in on the game.
Emerald Waterways is now offering no-single-supplement deals on 10 of its river itineraries (on five cabins per sailing). Options range from a nine-day Enchantment of Eastern Europe cruise along the Danube from Croatia to Serbia (from £2,895) to an eight-day Sensations of Lyon & Provence itinerary along the Rhône (from £3,095 per person).
Tauck waived the supplement on Category 1 riverboat cabins on all of its itineraries and departures for this year – while offering reduced supplements on other cabin categories on selected sailings – while European Waterways also waived it for the year on 40 barge cruises in France, Holland, Scotland and beyond.
CroisiEurope meanwhile offers no-single-supplement deals in double cabins at certain times of the year, with current options including a five-day Venice cruise departing October 29 and priced from £603 (down from £890), and a five-day wine-tasting itinerary in Burgundy, departing November 19 and priced from £959 (down from £1,089).
Riviera Travel has dedicated Solo Traveller river cruises whose USP is no single supplements throughout the ship on selected dates and itineraries, with eight-day trips ranging from the Douro (from £1,799) to the Nile (from £2,139) via a yacht cruise in Croatia (from £2,499). Beyond the rivers there’s plenty more for those going it alone; Aurora Expeditions is attempting to lure independent adventurers by scrapping single supplements on several of its 2020 Arctic voyages on new expedition ship Greg Mortimer (applicable to Aurora Stateroom and Balcony C Stateroom cabins), bookable through Explore. The line also offers a ‘cabin mate finding’ service, pairing up solo travellers on departures where the no-supplement offer isn’t available, in destinations ranging from Patagonia to Iceland and Greenland.
Hurtigruten is also offering a limited-time deal offering solo travellers their own room at no extra cost on certain expedition itineraries, including a 17-day Christmas cruise round Antarctica (departing December 13, from £6,082) and a 23-day extravaganza combining the Falklands with South Georgia and Antarctica (from £10,064) for true explorers wanting to go it alone.
Hotels are also starting to up their solo offering. Inghams has an impressive range of no-single-supplement hotels, including the four-star, ski-in, ski-out Saaga Spa Hotel in Ylläs, Finnish Lapland, and the four-star Hotel Champs Fleuris in Morzine, France.
Mercury Holidays likewise offers no single supplement twin and double rooms in several of its resorts, ranging from the Dolmen Hotel Malta – a luxury beachfront spot set in St Paul’s Bay – to the Leonardo Plaza Cypria Maris, a four-star adult-only hotel overlooking Paphos harbour in Cyprus.
Those wanting to go more exotic should look to Kihaa Maldives; the resort offers a solo traveller package combining a stay in a Reserve Beach Villa with a snorkelling session with manta rays and whale sharks, a 60-minute spa treatment and return airport transfers, all for $1,500, without charging extra for the solo room.
Over in Thailand, Premier Holidays says tented jungle camp Elephant Hills also does away with the fee, offering guests a luxury tent to themselves and the chance to care for elephants in the lush-green wilds of Khao Sok National Park.
But queen of the solos offering has to be Saint Lucia’s BodyHoliday, whose September Solos campaign targets independent travellers with a schedule of daily treatments, hosted solos dinners and dedicated fitness classes. Caribtours offers a week in a Standard Garden View Room with no single supplement from £2,449, including flights and transfers in September 2020, for clients after a dose of me-time on sparkling turquoise shores.
Best of the rest: Solo cruises
Fred Olsen offers one of the highest proportions of solo cabins on the market, with 190 across its ocean fleet, including 11 suites. No-single-supplement offers are also available on twin cabins at certain times of the year; 12 itineraries are running the offer from now until March 2020.
AmaWaterways has dedicated single staterooms on four of its European ships, with itineraries on the Seine, Dordogne, Garonne, Rhone, Rhine and Moselle. It also offers occasional no-single-supplement deals on twin or double rooms.
Saga Cruises has 109 single balcony cabins on Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure, and 44 single cabins on Saga Sapphire. It also hosts singles drinks parties, lunches and meet-ups on port days to get solos mingling.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages has single cabins across its whole fleet, as well as an on-board programme of events designed for solo passengers, including a welcome cocktail party.
Norwegian Cruise Line was the first of its kind to offer solo staterooms and public spaces, and hosts meet-ups and bar crawls dedicated to passengers travelling by themselves.