Comment: Time passes quickly – make the most of every opportunity

Newly-vaccinated over 50s want to enjoy a much travel as they can, says Silver Travel Advisor’s Debbie Marshall

As you may already have read in Travel Weekly, Silver Travel Advisor is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a change of ownership. The exciting news is that current Gold Medal managing director Lisa McAuley will be taking over the helm later this year, bringing her many years of experience of working with the travel trade to the mature market.

Tempus fugit – time flies – indeed. It’s hard to believe that more than a decade has passed since I first sat around the kitchen table with a colleague, trying to describe a concept for a travel reviews, advice and inspiration website dedicated to older travellers. And it was thanks to my father and his friends who had inspired the idea: they seemed to spend most of their retired life going on holiday, and yet there was no dedicated travel resource created exclusively by and for people just like them.

A few months later the website was tentatively launched, and ‘silver traveller’ was coined as a term to describe those people who were certainly a little older in years, but young in spirit, with an appetite for travel in later life that was unlike any previous generation. And for many, with their healthy pensions and savings intact, they were happy to splash out on a little luxury as a reward for all those years of hard work.

Over the last decade, we have had the privilege to work with a wide range of travel specialists, promoting their products to our growing audience. We soon realised that older travellers didn’t just want a website but other channels too, so we broadened our offering to include a printed magazine, a podcast and a continuous flow of social media. We launched the Silver Travel Awards in 2015, the annual Silver Travel Industry Report for the trade and a successful training partnership with Advantage enabling its members to understand and serve the older generation.

When Covid hit, the business pivoted to provide free information and advice to hundreds of older travellers, helping them to secure refunds and advising them on their options and rights. We also sought to entertain and provide company and friendship during lockdown when many of our members were shielding and lonely.

The pandemic has also been an opportunity to reflect on life’s priorities, and led to the thought that our 10th anniversary might be the right time to hand over my own silver boots. Happily, this coincided with Lisa’s lockdown decision to become an entrepreneur. The rest, as they say, is history.

Future is bright

So what does the next decade hold for older travellers? A whole new generation are approaching their 50th birthday, and they look quite different to the 50-year-olds of 2011. They are certainly more tech-savvy, they are likely to be working for at least another 17 years thanks to the change in retirement dates, and they are unlikely to have final salary pensions. They also don’t think of themselves as anything like middle-aged.

By contrast, some silver travellers who were in their 60s a decade ago are now rather different people in their 70s. While many are still hale and hearty, retaining their vigour and curiosity, others have aged more markedly

over the decade, slowing down, feeling more cautious, having to face up to new health and mobility challenges, and adapting their travel plans accordingly.

However, what the thrivers and the survivors have in common is that they feel acutely that Covid has already deprived them of more than a precious year of later life. Newly vaccinated, they know that they need to enjoy as much travel as possible while they still can. The cruise industry, in particular, is benefiting from this market segment, with bookings into 2023 and even beyond.

If the past 10 years has taught us anything, it’s been about the brevity of life and the speed at which it passes by, the importance of health over wealth, and the need to make the most of every opportunity.

Here’s to the next decade of travel, and to Silver Travel Advisor continuing to fly the flag for the over-50s. This is their time.

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