Trish Sare knows the first question a single person will ask when inquiring about one of her company's adventure tours: "Who else is travelling?" Sare, director of BikeHike Adventures Inc., says the reason is simple: "Solos want to travel with other solos." Although her Vancouver-based firm doesn't solely serve solos, by catering to them it has turned single customers into one of the main drivers of her company's sustained revenue growth.
BikeHike woos people travelling alone in two ways: by offering several singles-only tours and singles-friendly policies for all its tours. The key policy is what it doesn't do: charge a single supplement that can jack up the cost of a trip by $1,000. (BikeHike avoids this by asking same-sex travellers to share a room.) Word has spread so widely about the firm's warm welcome to singles that they typically make up more than half its clients—even on the majority of its tours open to anyone. Given the ever-growing number of solo travellers, says Sare, there's still huge potential across the travel and tourism sector to attract more business from this group.
That's old thinking from an era when the dominant group was the family
And many opportunities exist far beyond this sector to target the surprisingly underserved singles market. The 2011 census showed that Canada has 3.7 million one-person households, up by 10% since 2006. These households now make up 28% of the total, having just overtaken those of couples living with children. By 2021, forecasts Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., one-person households will become the leading category. Yet, business hasn't adapted to this shift. That has left a big opening for firms that tailor products and pricing to appeal to singles.
Demographic and attitudinal changes are driving the rise of the singleton. Many boomers are joining the ranks of seniors living alone, who account for half of one-person households. Young people are marrying later or never; divorcees and the widowed are in less of a hurry to remarry. And more adults of all ages are wanting to live on their own.
Yusuf Gad, president of a5MEDIA Inc., a Toronto-based marketing agency for SMEs, identifies some sectors that are responding to the growing singles market. Developers of the megawave of downtown condos largely target this group, as do nearby bars, restaurants and fitness clubs. Makers of cars and home furnishings are offering smaller options. And even in the suburbs, some restaurant chains are projecting a more urban vibe to attract singles who dine out regularly with friends.