‘Vaccination readiness’ is building momentum for a travel bounceback, says Silver Travel Advisor’s Debbie Marshall
What might be described as a media frenzy for the over-50s started with the BBC reporting that coach and other tour operators are seeing a surge of brand-new bookings from silver travellers, raring to get away as soon as they have had their vaccines, following on from previous reports that older travellers lead the queue for jabs.
National Express Holidays reported a remarkable 185% year on year increase in bookings for UK coach tours made in the last two weeks by the over 65s. Tui said more than 50% of its bookings were from the over 50s, an age group which managing director Andrew Flintham claimed wasn’t booking before. The Daily Mail picked up the story and detailed the comprehensive new protocols for coach tours – reduced capacity, face masks, fogging systems, temperature checking, all of which provide confidence that holidays will be safe.
The Times went upmarket with Scott Dunn reporting new bookings to the Maldives by the over 65s; and the Sunday Times travel supplement had a full-page headline on the cover proclaiming that the over 50s are leading the charge for ‘revenge tourism’ (making up for lost time), with Sunvil’s Chris Wright describing “an excitement in the air with older clients”. And the story even made it to the Financial Times, where Ted Wake from Kirker described an uptick in interest from more ‘experienced’ clientele who show a real ambition to visit their favourite cities as soon as they have had the vaccine.
Our own research carried out this month, with the Advantage Travel Partnership, endorses this. Current analysis reveals that 75% say the vaccine will give them the confidence to book and travel within six months, and 44% want to make the most of any new freedom to travel more. Full details of these findings will be released in the Silver Travel Industry report on February 9.
Vaccine readiness is the new buzzword; vaccine confidence the new mantra. And while the Ryanair “jab and go” advertisement may have appeared over-simplistic and irresponsible, travel companies who really understand the older market are becoming more surefooted in their marketing: Saga blazed a trail with a 16-page cruise brochure inserted into the weekend papers.
There was a twist to the tale though as Millennials blame the Boomers (again) for wrecking their lives. After sacrificing their education and careers during the pandemic to protect the old, how do older folk say thank you? By jetting off on holiday before anyone else and spending even more of their kids’ inheritance. OK Boomers, we’ve had enough now.
So was this good news story simply PR puff, as some claimed? I don’t think so. The vaccination programme is building momentum fast. The stoic queue of octogenarians with a wide range of walking aids pictured this week at the Excel centre (where once X-Factor hopefuls stood) will soon be replaced by an increasingly sprightly queue in their 70s, 60s and 50s. Whitehall sources have reported that all 32 million over 50s could receive their first dose of the vaccine by late March.
What a joy for retired folk to browse through holiday brochures and book future trips with increasing confidence. Say pensioners Mark and Margaret Sloan in the Times: “We’re desperate to get out there. We’ve got a garden, but we’ve still got cabin fever. Every day is the same, you get up and wonder what to have for lunch and dinner. That’s about it”. Here at Silver Travel Advisor, we’re seeing members with five and more booked trips in the diary right through to 2023. And these are big bucket list trips, as well as UK coach tours and short-breaks.
Ultimately though, it’s all about hope. We’re all locked-in and locked-down and a jab in the arm is not a passport. The vaccine does not guarantee that you can travel around the UK or get on a plane any time soon as Dominic Raab is quick to remind us. But it’s a ray of sunshine, allowing people to dream and plan. And in the middle of a grey locked-down January, that goes a long way to reinvigorating the soul and having something to look forward to. Go Boomers!
The Silver Travel Industry report will be presented on Tuesday February 9. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an invitation to the virtual event.