Comment: Older travellers may like a good moan but they are very loyal

Digital Drums’ Steve Dunne outlines why travel companies should target the silver market in 2023

I’ve just returned from a 28-night cruise, sailing from Southampton to the Caribbean. As a cruise it was fabulous and the brand involved, P&O Cruises, was outstanding – from the service and food to the entertainment and educational talks.

My fellow guests, of which there were more than 2,000, were what marketers would describe as the “silver market”, and being among them for 28 nights gave me unique insights into a sector that’s being hailed as the one to target by travel brands and destinations.

I have heard, in recent years, many theories about this sector. Time-rich, cash-rich and relaxed now that the pressures of life are behind them – these are just some of the things I’ve been told.

On my cruise, living cheek by jowl with my fellow guests, I learnt a lot about the sector, confirming much of what I had been told. Other things, however, fell short of how I’d been briefed on the market, plus I came across a few things that nobody had ever mentioned.

The first striking element about the silver market is an obvious one. A 50-year-old has little in common with an 80-year-old. The silver travel sector isn’t actually a sector – rather a collection of market segments, each with different outlooks, interests and motivations. Only a foolhardy brand would treat the different segments the same.

On a 28-night cruise you have to be time-rich. It’s a long time to be away from home and the only segment of the market that can comfortably do this is the silver travel market. Everyone around me on my trip had no problem at all with time. It was a big tick next to what I had heard about the sector.

Frugal affluence

Another marketing box often highlighted about the sector is how cash-rich it is. That may be true, but in my recent experience, cash-rich doesn’t mean spend, spend, spend. The silver market, from what I saw, values being frugal as perhaps one of the most important characteristics of a person. Getting them to spend freely might not be as easy as some would have us believe.
Certainly, prices are more closely scrutinised than I would have imagined.

Among certain segments of the sector, health is a huge topic of debate. Unbelievably huge. As someone who fortunately hasn’t any ailments to speak of, it often made me feel left out. Aches and pains that one would normally keep to oneself are paraded around publicly, like the battle scars of an old warrior. And I had no idea that so many within the silver market are experts on medications and treatments. Many a swimming pool session seemed to involve my fellow cruisers dispensing medical advice or reviews on all sorts of pills and potions.

Market traits

Naturally, things are slower in the silver market. Theatres and restaurants take longer to fill, or, conversely, fill much earlier than would normally be expected. And seats at the ends of rows or close to exits are prime real estate.

One thing, though, which I had never heard said about the silver market, and something that a travel brand targeting this sector needs to take into account, is the love of a good moan. It’s too hot, too cold, too sunny, too cloudy. Be it Wi-Fi or water, sunbeds or food, prices are too high or the choice is too limited.

The interesting thing, though, is that the moaning, as I gradually learnt, doesn’t mean they are unhappy – it’s just what they do. It’s a sort of silver travel market social-bonding process, not to be confused with a major customer service failure.

However, through all these observations one thing shone brightly at every juncture: brand loyalty. The silver travel market is perhaps the most loyal market to a brand. Despite the moaning, they loved the brand and most were repeat customers who had enjoyed decades of holidaying with the company and didn’t plan to stop. Despite the gripes, most have bookings in place for 2024 and 2025.

So, for what it’s worth, if I’m asked why you should target the silver travel market, it’s simple: they are incredibly loyal and will stick with you through thick and thin.

Share article

View Comments

Jacobs Media is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.