Grand UK Holidays sales director Harold BurkeThe over-55s are a potential ‘credit crunch’ busting force ready to lead travel agents towards the ‘economic upturn’.

They are largely less affected than other markets by the downturn, having more disposable income and leisure time.

Agents can product-match between generations – self-drive holidays are popular with those in their 50s and early 60s, for example, but as clients get older and perhaps less mobile, escorted tours with luggage handling services become more important.

When considering the over-55s market, evaluate your agency’s strengths and weaknesses as you cover these aspects:


Do the research

Research the age demographics of your catchment area customer profile as it’s important to know the potential size of your market.

To specialise in the ‘grey market’, understand which are the right products and services to earn the reputation of a local specialist.


Find the right product

This can depend – unless you are using the web – as much on your location as matching your customer profile.

Cruising, coach holidays, long-haul and winter sun are among the most popular choices for the over-55s.

There are big differences between the ages – someone approaching retirement in their late 50s is more likely to be web-savvy, while those in their 70s and older might never use a computer.


Make it happen

Putting up an enticing window and brochure display is just one small step.

The key is to ensure staff have good product knowledge, understand their target market and proactively target them – don’t just wait for people to walk through the door.

Your staff should know the over-55s have a high proportion of solo travellers so single supplements are an issue.

Consider special interest and hobby holidays, from bingo and ballroom dancing to Turkey and Tinsel breaks at Christmas – often booked at this time of year.


Get out and about

Establish a relationship with local groups and retirement associations and provide coffee mornings, tea dances and holiday presentations.

This will get you directly involved with members and ensure they book their holidays with you.

Once you have the contacts, plan your own special departures.

We have several agents who run exclusive coach holidays with Grand UK Holidays and they are reaping the benefits through repeat business.

Group tours are an easy way of generating revenue from a large number of clients, especially outside peak seasons.


Good service gets results

The older generation really values the services provided by agents and much prefer to book holidays face to face.

Agents should abide by the Disability Discrimination Act anyway, but be aware that issues such as wheelchair access, hearing aids and large print are increasingly important as clients get older.


Web help

Grand UK Holidays is the only Abta-bonded tour operator sold through the travel trade which caters exclusively for the over-55s. It has more than 1,500 appointed travel agents. It operates escorted holidays and coach tours, cruises, self-drive tours and holidays by air throughout Britain, Europe and beyond.

Glenton Holidays offers escorted tours, self-drive holidays and cruises for mature travellers in Scotland and North East England. It also has a dedicated singles programme called Good Companions.

The Coach Tourism Council provides a wealth of information for consumers and the trade as well as news updates about the coach tourism industry.

Find out about issues concerning mature consumers from Age Concern, which merged with Help the Aged in April 2009. Grand UK has signed a deal to operate holidays on behalf of Age Concern as it understands the needs of this market sector.

Millennium claims to be the UK’s only marketing consultancy that specialises exclusively in targeting and talking to consumers aged over 50 online and offline.

Aimed at the baby-boomer generation, Sixty Plus Surfers offers deals and information for the mature market, from books and food to travel and clothes. It has a monthly newsletter and you can even follow on Twitter.


About Harold Burke

Harold Burke has more than 35 years of experience in the travel industry, starting out in the early 1970s with the Manchester-based Co-op before moving on to roles with Pontins, then Butlins/Haven/Warner.

He joined Grand UK Holidays as sales director in 1999 and the company specialises in escorted holidays exclusively for the over-55s.