Comment: The UK offers much for the silver market

Debbie Marshall, managing director at Silver Travel Advisor, says the mature travel website’s research shows why the UK is an ideal destination for older holidaymakers.

In our latest Silver Travel Industry report, we surveyed more than 1,000 members, with some interesting findings about the UK tourism market.

A quarter (25%) selected the UK as one of their top three preferred destinations. What’s more, 35% said that they would holiday in the UK because of Brexit and/or lower currency exchange rates.

More than 60% said they would not take a holiday where there have been recent terrorist attacks.

All these statistics endorse the three non-negotiable pillars of travel and holidays in later life: security, certainty and safety, and the increasing tendency to become risk-averse and stay closer to home.

This is good news for the UK domestic market, as the older population continues to expand at an unprecedented rate: 800,000 people turned 70 in the UK last year, which is a record, and octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians are at an all-time high.

There will be more than half a million people aged 100 and above by 2050.

While mobility and other health challenges cannot be ignored, the desire for a holiday, or even just a change of scene, remains strong even in much later life.

There is a trend for adventure and exploration to the far corners of the world, largely for people in their 50s and 60s, especially in the early stages of retirement.

The next generation will have nothing like the spending power of their parents, even though they will have a great deal more time on their hands in later life.

However, not all pensioners are wealthy globe-trotters, and the appeal of UK holidays is just as strong for those who have “done roaming”.

Take Hilary Bradt, legendary explorer and author of Bradt Guides worldwide. These days she lives in semi-retirement, celebrating our great British network of footpaths and bus routes, writing slow guides to Devon, and quite rightly says that there is no place like home!

The UK offers so much for different segments of the silver market.

Multi-generational and blended family holidays are trending, and soon we will see four-generation holidays as the norm.

Celebrating big birthdays and anniversaries are a perfect opportunity for the family to get together, and the easier logistics of UK holidays make this possible, often with the grandparents footing the bill.

Accessible travel is another growing sector, and a market which can have high spending power.

We’re pleased to see new entrants to this sector such as Limitless Travel with their care-assisted and fully accessible coach tours.

Lastly, let’s not forget the happy home-birds who simply wouldn’t holiday anywhere outside the UK for any number of reasons, and are the perfect market for coach tours, festivals, camping holidays, theatre breaks, turkey & tinsel, pet-friendly holidays and much more.

While their globe-trotting and back-packing years may be behind them, the mature traveller is only an older version of the person they used to be.

They still want to be treated with courtesy and they still have travel ambitions, even if less venturesome than before.

As 82-year-old broadcaster John Carter said: “There may be snow on the roof but the computer in the attic is still working.”

Disrespect that at your peril!

Tips for selling to the older market:
Employ older people who can empathise with the people they are selling to
Train staff to present facts clearly and slowly
Never patronise and be patient
Be aware of the physiological signs of ageing and the fact that many disabilities (such as hearing and memory loss) are hidden
Try to think like an older person with more limited walking ability when making holiday suggestions: are there a lot of steps to the property, is a ground floor room available if there’s no lift, are the facilities close to the room?
In marketing materials, avoid colour combinations which are hard to distinguish
Always use a large font for those ageing eyes.
Use interesting and authentic photography of real people

• Debbie Marshall will be speaking about tourism trends at the Future Global Opportunities for UK Tourism conference on June 28.