Just hours ago, the New York Times published an article that should bring a smile to the face of every single single person who might ever want to travel. It should also please people who, though not single, are also not wedded to another person every time they go touring or traveling. There are such people, you know, and their numbers seem to be growing.
Stephanie Rosenbloom’s article, titled “Singled Out (for the Single Supplement),” basically tells the travel industry to knock it off, though of course in a polite and reasoned way. The “single supplement,” in case you’ve never faced one down in a dark alley, is the extra amount charged to people who travel solo. It can be twice or even three times the amount that each person pays if they travel as part of a couple.
From a business person’s perspective, the reason for the single-supplement (at least the ones that are twice that paid by coupled people, though not those that are more than twice the amount) is self-evident. If the company can get, say, $1539 from each of two adults sharing a room (using the figure from Rosenbloom’s opening example), then if they let one adult occupy the room while charging the same amount, they would make only $1539 on the room instead of twice that.
As I told the Times, that way of reasoning may make sense in the short-term, but long-term, it’s a loser. Travel companies that get there first in terms of catering to single people are likely to build loyalty. That can be worth a lot, especially considering that close to half of all Americans are not married. The number and percentage of single people has been growing for decades and is continuing to grow. The rise of single people is not just an American phenomenon, either – it’s global.
Rosenbloom talked to people from the travel industry and shares their responses. Some, for example, “attempt to take the sting out of supplements by offering a halfway measure: they will waive the supplement if solo travelers agree to be matched with a roommate.” But sometimes there is some fine print involved. Also, not everyone wants to share a room. (Rosenbloom even gives a shout-out to the single-at-heart. How happy am I!)
The reporter has some advice for travel companies – they should try “dropping supplements and offering deals to solo travelers the way they offer deals to couples and families.” That way, they are not just squeezing more money out of the same number of people, but potentially multiplying the number of people who will have an interest in traveling solo and the financial resources to do so.
The Times article is not just complaining about travel companies that charge single supplements; it also acknowledges those that are addressing their potential single customers and other solo travelers. The article ends with a list of cruises and tours that are enlightened when it comes to the solo traveler – or at least headed in the enlightened direction.
Often I use this space to rail against people in the media who practice singlism. But I think it is equally important to praise and support those who stand up to singlist practices. If you agree, go to the Times article and Like it, Tweet it, post a comment, email it to your friends, or do whatever else you think is appropriate to get the word out.
By the way, Stephanie Rosenbloom has long been a voice for the single traveler. Some of her previous articles include:
[Notes. (1) I just updated the Singles Links and Resources section of my website. Now you can find lots of new listings, such as the wonderful Flying High Solo. (2) My latest elsewhere: “Growing fauxbivalence: Getting married and feeling embarrassed about it.” (3) I’m going to start collecting posts by theme so you can check out, at at glance, what I have had to say about various topics at different times and places. I’m posting these collections at my personal blog, “All things single (and more).” My first singles-relevant collection is about single parents and their children. I have also collected my posts about lying and detecting lies.]
UPDATE. Here are some other discussions of sectors in which single people get charged more per person than couples do.