Introducing the single-parent traveler

renda Elwell is a single mom who traveled solo with her kids for 20 years but chafed under the realization that she and single parents as a group were "woefully neglected by the travel industry."

So Elwell did something about the problem: She wrote what may be the definitive book on single-parent travel, The Single Parent Travel Handbook (GlobalBrenda Publishing, Secaucus, N.J.). Agents can order the book at www.globalbrenda.com at a discounted price of $12.99, a savings of $5.

After completing her CTC thesis on Marketing Travel to the Single Parent, she opened her own company, Single Parent Tours.

Family travel editor Kaleel Sakakeeny talked with Elwell about the needs of the growing single-parent market:

Travel Weekly:You say that more than one-quarter of all U.S. households with children are headed by a single parent. How does that translate into numbers?

Elwell: There are 16.5 million single-parent households in this country and many more noncustodial single parents. This is a huge "nontraditional" market.

TW:What do single parents want that they're not getting from the travel industry?

Elwell: The single biggest need is to eliminate or at least reduce the single supplement charge. About a year ago, for example, Sandals Hotel contacted me to help them develop a single-parent family program for their family-oriented Beaches properties.

Their previous attempts at attracting single-parent families were unsuccessful.

I told them to do three things: Eliminate the single supplement; create family-fun activities that kids and adults do together; and create activities where the adults can interact as adults while the kids are entertained separately.

TW:What's the profile of these single parents?

Elwell: They come from all income brackets, but typically they're between 30 and 50 years old and take one to two vacations a year. The majority, two-thirds, fly to their destination and the other third drive.

TW:How can travel agents best sell to this market?

Elwell: From a marketing point of view, I'd look into www.parentswithoutpartners.org, churches and synagogues. Or agents can come to us.

TW:Let's talk about Single Parent Tours [Phone: (201) 866-9991; Web: www.singleparenttours.com]. You pay 7% commission but that includes a commission on meals, as well. How does it work?

Elwell: As we confirm trips, we post them on our Web site. We indicate the price for a single parent with one child or two or three. Agents can book these through us and collect the 7% on meals and trip price.

To contact reporter Kaleel Sakakeeny, send e-mail to [email protected] .

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For more details on this article, see Quality Time crafts programs for single parents.

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