Colum McLornan founded Friendship Travel in 1999, when he organised a season of house-party style holidays in Turkey.
This summer, the company offers Hosted holidays on Rhodes, Paros, Zante, Skiathos and Cyprus; in Turkey, Mallorca, the Costa Brava, Sicily, Corsica, Croatia and the Canaries plus the Caribbean, as well as escorted trips to Africa and the Far East.
The company sells to single travellers across the island of Ireland and the UK. Many holidays feature direct flights from Belfast and Dublin: some are also accessible from Cork.
“The market has changed a lot in the last 20 years,” says Colum, “but I still get the same buzz when I find a small and friendly hotel for one of our Houseparties, and in meeting guests as I travel around the Med.
“When I started Friendship Travel, single people were pretty hard done by, having to pay a single supplement for the privilege of a room above the kitchen, or being asked to share with another single traveller.
“Our guests are guaranteed a standard double or twin bedroom to themselves, with no supplement to pay: that’s what single travellers expect and deserve,” says Colum.
Other trends that Friendship Travel has seen in recent years include a move towards hotels of four- and five-star standards, a preference for adult-only hotels, and for holidays with added value, from wine with dinner to sightseeing.
“We are proud to be independent and have grown through word of mouth recommendations,” says Colum. “We have many regular guests, but we are always conscious that for some people, this is a leap of faith on their first holiday alone since they split up with, or lost their partner.
“The most rewarding thing for our Hosts, and for me, is seeing a nervous first-time guest go home relaxed and smiling at the end of a great week.”