The term ‘single supplement’ is negative and should be banned, says Debbie Marshall, managing director of Silver Travel Advisor

At the Travel Weekly Mature Travel Business lunch recently, our audience of industry professionals was captivated by Dame Esther Rantzen who spoke eloquently about her career and life experiences.

Many of us admitted to being old enough to remember That’s Life!, the consumer programme she presented for 21 years, with its misshapen vegetables and Victoria Wood creating musical magic at the piano.

Since those days, Dame Esther has been busy, most recently with Silver Line, which she created more than five years ago. The charity provides information, friendship and advice to older people, especially the lonely. But what has this got to do with travel?

The singles market is growing and about 30% of the 50-plus market travels alone. We are living longer and, many people find themselves single in later life, either through choice or circumstance. It’s a broad church, however, and the single traveller cannot be classified into one category, with further segmentation needed to better understand this diverse market.

Diverse market

The ‘silver splitter’ movement has created a whole new demographic of divorcees ready to embrace adventure and romance (there’s even a ‘Tinder for seniors’ app, Stitch).

On the other hand, there are older men and women who find themselves widowed and alone for the first time, and they may be rather more tentatively embracing single travel.

Then there are hardened singletons who have always chosen to go it alone, relishing the freedom and independence of making their own travel decisions.

And finally, there are the conscious uncouplers: people who are in relationships but do not travel with their partner, preferring to take holidays in a mixed group of like-minded travellers.

Operator programmes

Tour operators have recognised this growth area and have dedicated programmes for single travellers. Established specialists such as Just You and Solos are finding that the market is growing, with the introduction of new brochures from Wendy Wu Tours, Titan, Riviera, Saga and others. New cruise ships boast increased numbers of single cabins, (male) partners for dancing, and even areas for singles to mingle.

It can only be good news for single travellers that the industry is addressing their needs more comprehensively. The expression ‘single supplement’ ought to be banned: it is negative and implies that the solo traveller is problematic and must be penalised for going it alone.

Travelling solo is a way to make friends and socialise with like-minded people and is a wonderful antidote to loneliness. More than 3.5 million older people live alone in the UK, many of whom feel isolated, and the appointment of the first minister for loneliness shows how seriously the government is taking this issue.

Dame Esther’s Silver Line has now taken more than two million calls on its 24-hour hotline. She ended her lunchtime presentation with a moving request to support the charity and to help combat loneliness, so that the older generation have the respect and friendship they deserve.