According to a recent report from Silver Travel Advisor, an advice and reviews website for mature travellers, by 2050 there will be around 500,0000 centenarians in the UK. People are now travelling well into old age and mature travellers are a lucrative as well as fast-growing market – but how can agents sell to this sector in a way that doesn’t come across as patronising or assumptive?

“Multi-generational holidays have always been a large part of our customer makeup. In recent years we’ve seen the overall average age of our customers rise which in part is due to this trend”


Don't stereotype

Fly and flop holidays or an escorted coach trip are now outdated stereotypes for the majority of older travellers – but are agents sufficiently geared up to communicate and sell the alternatives? And who says what constitutes old?

Debbie Marshall, Managing Director at Silver Travel Advisor, says: “What we have found is that a lot of mature people would prefer to deal with like-minded agents who can empathise with their own individual travel needs and respond to these accordingly.”

Last year Debbie and her team put together a classroom training programme for agents and currently under development is an online course, but for now a partnership with the Advantage consortium allows Silver Travel Advisor to reach more agents across the UK. Here’s her overview of the mature market:

Over 50

This age group is now rarely considered as a 'mature traveller'. Clients in this age bracket are still working and likely to be physically fit but can now draw down their pensions (or part of).

Marshall adds: “Those in this market are at the tail-end of the baby boomer generation and will have financial means through property and their careers. It’s an affluent and active market who wants to travel and experience the world.”

Here, the concept of the ‘Silver Gap year’ applies. People are undertaking longer trips and doing things like ski seasons, volunteering overseas and taking sabbaticals – all virtually unheard of when this generation was in its 20s.

Adds Marshall: “Another element of this market is affectionately referred to as ‘silver splitters’, that is those travelling alone. The divorce rate is highest in the over 50s, so there is a growing solo/singles travel market, as well as others who just want to solo travel.”

Over 60

In this decade retirement traditionally takes place, making a huge change to day-to-day life. Health and energy levels may increase along with disposable income and time.

Says Marshall: “This is the biggest-selling opportunity for agents. A large percentage of this group can take multiple holidays and travel at any time of the year. The tendency towards truly independent travel diminishes – they like comfort and often want the level of organisation an agent can offer.”

Over 70

It’s in this decade that medical conditions can creep in. People may become more restricted and need to take it a little more gently. Travel insurance prices also tend to go up, especially if travellers have previous medical conditions, but agents can point their clients to organisations like Age UK who offer advice on finding the best deals.

Debbie adds: “One trend we have noticed for over 70s is that people tend to be steering away from airports. Popular holiday types include cruising, city breaks and UK-based holidays.”

Over 80

For octogenerians, mobility issues are obviously more prevalent, with requirements for ramps, flat-access rooms and grab rails amongst other requirements. There are organisations out there, such as Enable Holidays, that offer a range of worldwide holiday products which fulfil these requirements.

Top selling tips

Pedal power: Don’t discount active holidays for older clients. Cycling holidays have exploded in popularity in recent years and there are some great options, ranging from mountain biking to sedate pedalling through French vineyards.

Escorted tours: Escorted or guided tours often resonate better than coach holidays. Explain that escorted touring holidays and river cruises, with their more detailed itineraries and range of activity options, help customers get under the skin of a group of destinations on one trip.

Milestrone celebrations: An increasing number of travellers are booking trips to celebrate special occasions and for older travellers these become more significant - such as the start of retirement or milestone birthdays and anniversaries.

Keep it in the family: Tour operators are responding to an increasing demand from multi-generational groups, such as those taking the grandchildren away or three generations travelling together on the same holiday.

Tick off that bucket-list: Whether it’s a trip to Australia to see the grandkids, conquering Kilimanjaro or driving Route 66, retirement is often the first chance to action long dreamt of travel plans. Always ask what the ‘dream holiday’ is - you may be able to make it happen!

On the rails: Suggest a rail tour as a different but easy way to see a country or region. The rail specialists have plenty to offer – such as Rail Discoveries’ nine-day Italian Riviera tour, from £1,295pp and including a cruise to Portofino.

What's new?

Tour operators: Backwaters has launched a programme of day cruise itineraries to the French heartland. The company’s new-build hybrid-engined vessel is designed as an observation lounge on the French inland waterways network. Guests spend the morning cruising the waterways, enjoy a local boulangerie-prepared lunch on board, served with regional wines, then head off for afternoon excursions by coach. The same accommodation is used throughout the trip for seven-night itineraries and split across two properties for the 14-night itineraries.

Inghams was awarded a Silver Eye Award from Silver Travel Advisor for its new bespoke guided e-biking programme in Kitzbühel. The tour encourages guests of all cycling abilities and fitness levels to access and enjoy the world’s biggest e-biking region. The programme includes five guided rides per week.

Described as a chance to “experience life beyond The Real Marigold Hotel”, Saga’s new Great Indian Rail Journey includes the Golden Triangle region, a visit to the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the hill station of Shimla and a tiger safari. Guests experience six train journeys, all in air-conditioned comfort.

Training: Advantage Travel Partnership is to host its first- ever travel agent training session for selling to the over-50 market (October 16, 2018). Run in partnership with Silver Travel Advisor, agents will learn about this market sector, the opportunities it presents, how to profile the customer and specific skills for selling to the mature traveller. On completion agents become an accredited Silver Travel Advisor Agent. Advantage members can book online for £175pp.

Where to book it

Saga’s 15-night Great Indian Rail Journey is priced from £2,099pp, based on an April 22, 2019 departure with Virgin Atlantic flights from Heathrow to Delhi. Regional flights from Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow are also available. Price includes VIP door-to-door travel service, return flights, half-board accommodation, porterage, tour manager, and optional travel insurance.

Bspoke Tours’ Kilimanjaro Rongai Route presents a physical and mental challenge. The seven-night expedition, designed for retirees, culminates in a crater climb to Uhuru ‘Freedom’ Peak. Priced from £2,849pp, it includes flights, two nights in a hotel and five nights of full service camping, breakfast, most other meals, park fees and transfers.

An accessible tour of Vietnam, which includes Hanoi, Halong Bay, and the Mekong Delta, with Enable Holidays costs £2559pp (October 11-24, 2018). The operator has over 500 holidays In 50 countries, and provides accessible accommodation, adapted transfers, airport assistance and more.