The sector craves more active holidays, author Kathy Lette tells a Travel Weekly event. Benjamin Coren reports
Mature travellers want to experience “adventure before dementia” as the sector craves more active holidays as opposed to fly and flop, according to Kathy Lette.
The Australian author, who penned the novels Puberty Blues, Mad Cows and How to Kill your Husband (and Other Handy Household Hints) championed the joys mature women can experience while travelling.
She said: “In all of my novels, and everything I write, I always champion women because it’s still a man’s world. It’s been 100 years since Emmeline Pankhurst led the suffragette movement and we still don’t have equal pay, we’re still getting concussion hitting our head on the glass ceiling – and we’re supposed to clean it while we’re up there.
“I’ve just turned 60, and at this big birthday milestone my bucket list is longer than War and Peace, and if I don’t start having adventures, fun and mischief now, then when? I imagine a Zimmer frame could seriously cramp a girl’s style on the black ski run.”
Lette said some people say the name of over-50s specialist Saga stands for ‘Send A Granny Away’, but was quick to add that she and her peers are in “granny age” and were “not old and decrepit.”
“For my grandma’s generation and my mother’s generation, turning 60 was practically a death knell, it signalled time to retire, collect your bus pass and disappear into a beige fog of doily knitting and jam making, a case of send in the crones,” she said.
“We have talked a lot about the older market and talking down to them, but they are my age. They are feisty, funny, flirty and dirty.
“We 60-year-old women have not passed our use-by date. Instead of thinking about all the things I should stop doing, I can’t stop thinking about all the things I haven’t done – skydiving, bungee jumping, wing walking, mud wrestling and walking on the moon.”
Lette suggested that mature women “don’t want a chequered past, we want a chequered present”.
She added: “The UK population is top heavy with older people. We are in the middle of a middle-aged revolution. Eventually, the sheer fact of wealth being concentrated in the older age bracket will mean that advertisers, businesses and the world-at-large will have to shift from the veneration and adoration of youth to appreciate the fiscal punch of thriving sexagenarians.
“A survey I saw discovered that 87% of solo travellers are women and not all of them are single. Some are in a partnership, but they don’t share the same passion for travel; basically, women my age are allowing that ageing angst to fly under the anxiety radar. They have money, time and a huge appetite for new experiences. Either on top of Mount Kilimanjaro or under a stud muffin at a whipped cream orgy in Copenhagen.”
Lette said many people in her generation believe “age is completely irrelevant”, and said: “I travel with my girlfriends a lot. I just did a cycling trip with Ruby Wax in Bordeaux, I go with my sisters to a lot of places and it’s always something active.
“Women like talking and walking because then you can be burning off the calories while catching up. We want to keep fit and have a lot of fun.”
Lette said: “I expected to feel like a human version of an orthopaedic sandal at 60 – comfy, well-worn and unremarkable. Being adventurous in bed would mean knitting while watching Newsnight. Sixty sounded so ancient. If a 60-year-old woman was a building, surely she’d have subsidence; she’d be listed? But now the age is upon me I don’t feel antiquated at all.
“I feel like swinging from chandeliers with a toyboy between my teeth. The combo of experience and a youthful attitude has afforded me a devil-may-care attitude, which is truly liberating.”
Lette’s perspective is perhaps one worth keeping in mind when putting together your next solo tour package for an older traveller.
Kathy Lette on travel
My new novel next year, called HRT – Husband Replacement Therapy, is set on a cruise around the Pacific and its about three sisters who go travelling and rediscover their sexuality, their friendship and their fun gene.
I want to go on a cougar cruise where young men go free, [and] they are called cubs.
I wouldn’t choose something for the age group, I choose it for the adventure.
The worst trip I ever did was when I was in Dubai. It should be called “do-buy” because that’s all you do, buy stuff!
When you have kids, you are looking at fly-and-flop holidays, but women have this reawakening that hits you just after the menopause and it’s like a second act – it’s bloody fabulous.
You want to get out of your comfort zone, but be in a bit of comfort. I do not want to
go camping, but glamping is a whole different thing.
When you go on holiday, you want to get away from your family. I’m in a different stage
of life. I’m not saying blokes aren’t fun, but they should still be up for adventure.
Opportunities in the mature market
Richard Twynam, managing director, Azamara
“Our baby-boomer audience want to do more than cruise. If they are going, for example, on a cruise that stops in Chile, they want to see the Atacama Desert and the salt flats.”
Claire Ross, head of specialist products, Kuoni
“The grandparents, their children and grandchildren are all travelling together more. We are seeing a lot more multigenerational travel.”
Michelle Laverick, head of sales and marketing, HF Holidays
“Don’t underestimate the strength and determination of the over-50s market. They are fit and healthy and they want to mix that with culture and creativity.”
Joe Ponte, managing director, Explore
“The average age of our customers is 54. Their responsibilities change when the kids fly the nest and they ask, ‘what do we want to do?’”
Lynne Kirby, managing director, Enable Holidays
“Agents are nervous about selling [mature travel]. You must
ask tough questions so that you can understand their needs and deliver.”
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