Solo travellers frequently face significantly higher per person costs and reduced choice when booking holidays, according to new research from Which?
Single supplements are a widely accepted practice within the travel industry, with these extra charges often levied by holiday operators to cover the costs associated with a solo traveller occupying a room intended for double use.
However, Which? found that those enjoying the freedom of a solo trip are regularly paying significantly more per person than those travelling as a couple, sometimes even when opting for a smaller room designed for single occupancy.
With figures from travel association ABTA indicating that as many as one in 10 (11%) travellers holidayed alone between August 2021 and 2022, hundreds of thousands of people may routinely be paying over the odds.
The consumer champion analysed thousands of package holidays from the UK’s two largest providers, Jet2holidays and Tui, to establish the average prices for a range of holidays to popular destinations including Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. In a recent Which? survey, Jet2holidays was named holidaymakers’ favourite provider for solo trips, with a customer score of 84 per cent. Though a few places lower in the table, Tui also scored favourably, achieving a customer score of 77 per cent.
Taking into account all holiday and accommodation types, the consumer champion found that on average, a solo traveller holidaying with Tui would pay almost half as much more (47%) than someone holidaying as part of a pair, with the average cost coming in at £1,147, compared with a per person cost of £781 for a couple.
Those booking with Jet2holidays meanwhile were found on average to pay 36 per cent more for their trip than those holidaying as a pair, with solo travellers paying £1,320 for a week’s trip, in contrast to the £970 paid by those in a couple.
The consumer champion also found examples of individual travellers paying more per person for all-inclusive package trips, despite the fact a solo traveller would occupy just one plane seat, and could reasonably be expected to consume half the amount of food and drink.
For a week’s all-inclusive trip to Majorca, departing in June with Tui, Which? was quoted £840 per person for two people sharing, and was even offered an upgrade to a larger, one-bedroom apartment for the same price. However, a solo traveller would pay £1,448 for the same package, but without the added benefit of an upgraded room – that’s a staggering 70 per cent more.
As well as bearing the brunt of higher per person costs, Which? found that those travelling alone are more likely to face restricted choice. Both Jet2holidays and Tui had notably fewer offerings for solo travellers – 10 per cent fewer in the case of Tui, and 20 per cent for Jet2.
Package holidays were far from the only category of trip where travellers faced increased costs, with cruises being among examples of the biggest discrepancies.
In one extraordinary case, the consumer champion found solo travellers quoted 87 per cent more to occupy a single occupancy cabin, when compared with two people sharing a larger, double room on a popular Mediterranean cruise route with P&O.
For the holiday departing in May 2023, Which? was quoted £749 per person based on a couple sharing a double room, inclusive of flights. To book the same room as a single traveller, the consumer champion was quoted 37 per cent more, at £1,198. However, if adjusting the booking to select a smaller, single occupancy room, the price increased by a further £200.
Elizabeth Knowlson recently took a coach holiday to Llandudno, Wales, with coach company Shearings. She was allocated a dirty room that far from met her expectations – a bucket was even positioned outside the door to catch drips from the leaky ceiling. While the company acted to rectify the issue and moved Elizabeth to a new room, it was a small single.
She told Which?: “I could simultaneously touch the opposite walls with outstretched arms. I don’t mind paying a single supplement, but this room was only fit for one person.” Shearings has since announced that it will be removing single supplements in as many as 27 of its UK hotels.
Jo Rhodes, Deputy Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“Single supplements are a common expense faced by solo travellers, and are often used to cover the cost of one person occupying a room intended for double occupancy. However, our research has found solo travellers routinely paying over the odds, even for smaller, single rooms.
“With inconsistent pricing across the industry, solo travellers can very easily miss out on the best prices. If you are planning a trip, make sure to shop around and wherever possible look for companies that waive single supplements.
“Take your time to compare the total price with the per person cost offered to a couple and check the cost of both single and double rooms. A single room can often save money on hotel stays, but may be a pricier option than a double cabin on some cruises.”
Notes to editors and rights of reply:
Which? gathered 13,323 package holiday prices from Jet2holidays and Tui in October 2022, for holidays departing in peak weeks in December 2022 and February, April, May and July 2023. Prices based on either single occupancy or two people sharing for a 7 day break, inclusive of all room types.
Four snapshot price checks on P&O and Fred Olsen 2023 cruises were carried out in October 2022. .
A P&O Cruises spokesperson said:
“We have removed single supplements on selected cruises which means that solo guests can book a spacious cabin at half the price than if there were two guests sharing. Where there is a single supplement, solo travellers will always pay a reduced price compared to if we had two guests staying in the same cabin. Across the P&O Cruises fleet we also offer single occupancy cabins, including a mix of inside, sea view and balcony cabins. These cabins are priced depending on demand for a particular cruise.”
A Tui spokesperson said:
“At TUI, we understand the importance of offering holidays that offer fantastic value for money for all customers. The price increases referenced in the report don’t reflect the travelling habits of our customers, with most solo travellers travelling outside of peak holidays and who choose single occupancy rooms.
“We offer a large number of holidays that cater for solo travellers with hotels offering us single rooms, with associated single occupancy rates. In addition, we also offer solo traveller discounts, including those single parents travelling with children. Where hoteliers only offer double occupancy rates, unfortunately the cost will be passed on to the customer.
“We will continue to work with our hotel partners to increase our availability for single occupancy rooms to meet customer demand. Customers who are looking for a solo holiday can visit our dedicated teams in our retail stores, or call our call centre, who can provide guidance.”
A Jet2holidays spokesperson said:
“We have recently been rated the top provider for solo holidays by Which? and we were recognised as a Which? Recommended Provider for solo holiday providers on the back of this. We are very proud of this recognition and do everything we can to cater for solo travellers including offering a range of adult-focused hotels, working with hotels to offer single rooms or rooms for sole use, and giving solo travellers £30 off their booking through a promotion code. Although many contracted hotels have single rooms or rooms for sole use, allocations do vary and can sell out quickly.
“The cost of the Jet2.com flight element is the same for solo travellers, however the price of the accommodation does mean there can be a difference in the overall price. We are working with hotel partners on this, and hope to announce further details in the future.”
“We always encourage our hoteliers to allocate double or twin rooms to our single guests. However, hoteliers only have a set number of each style of room i.e. double/twin and there are occasions when our single travellers will receive a single room.
“We proactively seek accommodation with low or no single room supplements for our guests, and only ever charge a supplement if a hotelier imposes this charge to us as a company. We are sorry to learn that Ms Knowlson was unhappy with the rooms she was given. Once Ms Knowlson raised concerns with the hotelier regarding her room, she was moved to room 59 (from 311). This room was more suitable for her needs as it has a walk-in shower. It is disheartening to learn that although Ms Knowlson accepted this room, she still remained unhappy. These concerns should have been raised with the hotel staff, so they could resolve this for Ms Knowlson as soon as possible.”
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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Press Release: Travel