Harold Burke, sales director at Grand UK Holidays and just for groups!, highlights the opportunities in the over-55s sector
There is no doubt that the mature market will continue to grow and provide the travel industry with endless opportunities to grab a share of this lucrative sector.
In the early 70s, when I first started in the industry, you could more or less shoe-horn the bulk of mature travellers into a couple of boxes: traditional coach holidays and the emerging winter-sun market.
This made them easy to target and, back in those days, mailings and press advertising always made the phones ring.
But those days have long since gone, with each new generation taking the industry nearer and nearer to an almost total independent traveller scenario.
There is still much for the industry to be cheerful about, however, as the benefits of the package holiday will always appeal to those who want the comfort and assurance of knowing that they are in safe hands and have financial protection in place.
That said, it is clear that today’s emerging generation of mature travellers have a completely different outlook when it comes to planning their holidays.
They are up there with their kids, having grown used to internet technology, and they have no qualms about booking flights, hotels, car hire and anything else you can think of online using their phone or tablet.
That’s great news if you’re an airline, cruise line, hotel, or car hire company but not such good news when you’re trying to sell someone a packaged tour.
To survive in this ever-changing market, you must have a business model that can recognise and adapt to new trends and find your niche in the market place.
The future for many companies targeting the mature traveller is less likely to be about the mass market.
The signs have been there for quite some time with mainstream and independent tour operators introducing products that focus on niche markets.
The exciting thing about a niche market is the ability for it to grow.
Take, for example, the rapid growth in rail holidays and holidays for solo travellers.
It’s interesting to see the likes of VisitBritain working with operators and destinations to develop tours by rail – and we’re doing likewise.
Within each different market sector there are niche areas in which you can specialise by targeting groups of people with shared interests.
Solo holidays represent just one growth area where the opportunities are endless.
Think of any special interest or activity and there is likely to be a singles market for it and they are known to travel far and wide.
And the groups market too is seeing growing demand for different experiences, themed breaks and special ‘hobby holidays’.
We find that our garden-themed UK breaks are always popular but we must keep adding fresh options each year, and we also update our range of history and nostalgia-themed tours to match the ebb and flow of changing trends.
Seen on screen
Something as simple as trends relating to TV programmes present a major growth area so we’ve added itineraries that include destinations that are ‘seen on screen’, such as our Isle of Wight tours.
These are hits thanks to the Victoria drama on ITV and the new movie Victoria & Abdul, part of which was filmed in Osborne House – the queen’s holiday home on the island.
In Cornwall, our customers can see sites associated with Wycliffe, Poldark and Doc Martin, while in Yorkshire they can visit locations seen on Heartbeat and All Creatures Great and Small, among others.
Trips to the theatre are also regular favourites – we take customers to Harrogate to enjoy the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival each year, for example – and we’ve added new entertainment options such as the Spirit Of Wales show in Cardiff.
Tour operators and group travel organisers are spoilt for choice as attractions and venues add more variety each year to cater for the growing demand for different experiences and specialist activities.
Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event or something to tick off their bucket list, niche is the word!