Singleton lament

By Adam Raphael

Why do singles get such rotten deals from hotels? Easy answers there are none to this frequently voiced complaint. But it would help if hoteliers paid more attention to the woes of singletons. All too often they feel they are regarded as a nuisance.

‘I am becoming increasingly exasperated by being treated as a second class citizen when I am travelling on my own,’ wrote one GHG reader recently. ‘We are given the smallest bedrooms or those with the tattiest décor, or those tucked away at the top of an out-of-the-way staircase.’

Those who have been recently widowed resent the fact that their new status means that they have lost not just a husband, but also their standing as a guest. ‘One of the things that makes single rooms such a problem is that they are ok for work trip, but my leisure trips are on my own since my husband died,’ wrote another GHG reader. ‘There’s an added sense of melancholy if the room is depressing, overlooks the dustbins/ventilators/exit to the bar.’

That mirrors the experience of another GHG reader. ‘Twelve years ago my father died and for the first time in my mother’s life, she had to be put up with being treated the same way as I have frequently been all my adult life’. And yet another sad story: ‘I now sometimes take my elderly father away, and there’s also a sense that the very old (who may have plenty of money to spend on hotels with their gold-plated pension) are not always very welcome. So looking for two single rooms in a nice place (or double rooms without a vast tax on single occupancy) is quite a challenge. Travelling with my 90-year-old father it certainly makes a huge difference if the staff are friendly. You’d be surprised how often no-one offers to carry his bag (he has a walking stick) and I have to end up lugging his bag (occasionally with the assistance of a kindly fellow-guest).’

Are such complaints typical? The fact that they pop up in the GHG’s postbag regularly suggests that there is something wrong. I realise that hoteliers need to make a living, and that singles are not the most profitable part of their market. But it is wrong to discriminate against them.

Let me give an example. THE BLAKENEY, a traditional seaside hotel in Norfolk, is loved by readers of the Guide, and indeed won a César award in 2017 as family hotel of the year. But it makes an additional charge for single occupancy. That means that if all its single rooms are taken, someone travelling alone wanting a room has to pay not only the rack rate for a double room but an additional charge on top of that. The hotel’s defence is this: ‘This charge is made for the hotel to stay cost effective.’ I accept that a hotel will make less money from a single occupying a double room. Food, drink, and other extras are a key part of a hotel’s revenue. But I don’t think this policy is right and I can understand why singletons are irritated by it. Nor do I believe it is in the long-term interest of this excellent hotel.