His'n'hers breaks boost the boom in singles holidays

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The Independent Travel

This summer a new breed of holidaymaker is the talk of the travel trade: the "lone rangers". They are young singles who want more than beaches, older singles exploring somewhere as part of a group and couples who have opted for his'n'hers holidays.

This summer a new breed of holidaymaker is the talk of the travel trade: the "lone rangers". They are young singles who want more than beaches, older singles exploring somewhere as part of a group and couples who have opted for his'n'hers holidays.

A study by Opodo, a leading online British travel business, has revealed a 24 per cent increase in bookings this summer for people travelling alone. The number of travel companies specialising in this market is increasing - and many of them are reporting a rise in single bookings by up to a third.

Even Mark Warner, an upmarket holiday firm traditionally geared towards families, is widening its appeal. Liz Butler, its marketing manager, said: "In the past two years our single market has increased by 20 per cent, which showed us that people are obviously happier now to travel alone."

With about 40 per cent of the British adult population single, attitudes towards travelling alone are changing. Sean Tipton, spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), said: "Whether they are married or single, people don't have the fear of travelling alone any more. They are not embarrassed or afraid to go off to far-flung places and don't feel the need to rely on family or friends."

There are even organised tours just for women who wish to holiday alone but within the security of a group environment. Walking Women is a company that organises walking tours and short breaks for women only. Melanie Hill, the company's manager, said: "Many women wish to travel on their own. Being part of an organised group gives them the courage to do so."

For married couples who choose to go separately, or have differing tastes, there is a wide range of organised holidays. Those interested in culture can tour Umbria, take up watercolour painting in Provence or learn Spanish in Salamanca. On all holidays the single traveller is part of a group - as one tour operator put it, "alone but not alone".

More travel agencies are appealing solely to unattacheds, be they young or old. Whereas a "singles holiday" used to conjure up images of drunkenness in Faliraki, the new breed offers far more. Travelsphere's "Just You" packages are specifically for singles and include excursions and dinner parties. Saga, Britain's leading organisation for people over 50, offers "specially for singles" holidays. With about 70 per cent of Britain's single adult population over 50, it's a profitable market.

For many the major disadvantage to travelling alone has been the single-person supplement. Although hotels still insist on the charge, more travel companies are waiving it. However, there is still some improvement to be seen in the quality of hotels' single bedrooms. Jean Jewell of the Single Travellers Action Group said: "Too often you are put in the poky cupboard room next to the lift shaft."

THE LONE RANGERS

By Kate Horstead

Emily goes to Turkey

Emily Hynes, 36, who works in public relations in London, will spend a week at a yoga retreat in Turkey later this month. She has travelled alone many times on backpacking trips around Europe, Thailand and Malaysia.

"My friends weren't available at the time I wanted to go, and I've always found it easy to meet people on these holistic holidays. It has a different atmosphere to a singles' holiday; it's more relaxed.

"Travelling alone is more challenging; you have to use your own initiative. You can choose to spend time alone, but once you've got to know people it's very much like a group holiday. Three-quarters of the people I meet when I go away are women on holiday alone. I think women are getting more confident with the idea."

Matt goes to India

Matt Smedley, 21, a medical student from Leeds, set off yesterday on a seven-week backpacking trip around southern India. He has travelled alone once before at the age of 18, as a voluntary worker in India.

"None of my mates wanted to go to the same place at the same time, and I really wanted to go back to India.

"If you go in a group, it is more secure and you always have someone else to rely on and to talk to. But if you're on your own you get a lot more freedom. You can go where you want, when you want, and travel with others you've met if they're going to the same place. You can be a lot more selfish because you don't have to compromise. A lot of people prefer to travel in a group as it's more comfortable. It takes a certain confidence to travel alone, I suppose."

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