Today, the world is more accessible than ever before. From the Amazon rainforest to the Sahara Desert, from the Australian outback to the Galapagos Islands and from the Egyptian pyramids to the North Pole (or South Pole), if you want to go – you can. The world really is your oyster.
Gone are the days when travel was only championed by either the very wealthy back in the early twentieth century, or backpacking youngsters on the Hippie Trail from Europe to India in the sixties. With more time on their hands and a little more experience under their belt, it’s the over 50s who are taking the travel sector by storm – and they don’t show any signs of slowing down.
According to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, Britain’s older generations now account for 58% of travel and tourism expenditure, up from 49% just five years ago.
With younger generations often tied down by limited holiday, mounting career pressures, perhaps a young family or hefty student loans to pay off, the over 50s are the new intrepid explorers on the block. Booking flexibility and higher savings, coupled with better health and longer lifespans than former generations, means there is an ever-growing and highly lucrative over 50s travel market.
There are currently over 23.6 million people aged 50 years and over, over a third of the total UK population. What’s more, it is estimated that by 2020, there will be more people over 50 than under 50.
Growing “old” isn’t what it used to be. The word is being constantly redefined. People no longer want or need to spend their formative years running down their pension savings in modest inconspicuousness.
The older generation today refuse to be side-lined and they have more wanderlust than ever before.
The ‘wow’ factor
While some over 50 travellers may simply want to ‘veg’ out in a luxury hotel for a week, a great deal of the older, more experienced travellers I’ve spoken to over the years are planning to do much, much more. They’re exploring vibrant cities, swimming in ice cold springs, hiking at dawn, eating new foods and learning new languages. Or at the very least, one of the above.
As journalist and television presenter Joan Bakewell said, travel for the over 50s, needs to have “the wow factor”. With age, comes higher standards. Not in terms of seeking luxury or expensive travel, but in terms of seeking a higher quality experience – one that gives a sense of fulfilment.
Freedom to choose
One fantastic aspect of travelling over the age of 50 is the ability to go whenever the idea arises. Of course, if you’re still working that may not be the case. But for those in retirement, the rulebook can go straight out of the window.
Fancy a last minute Tuesday-Friday mini break to Rome? “Nessun Problema”.
Flights and accommodation are often cheaper outside the weekend and less jam-packed too.
Overcoming the hurdles
While young travellers risk bedbugs in hostel beds, the over 50s have their own bugbears to overcome.
The business of travel insurance for anyone over 65 can be tricky. Insurers make no allowances for anyone, so shop around. Check out Nick Trend’s regular comparisons of the best offers in insurance.
Then there’s the issue with car hire companies. Lots have an upper age limit, sometimes 65, sometimes 70. Again, shop around and do your research or ask your travel agent to organise this for you.
Fitness is something to consider. Having said that, when I hiked the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand with my husband and 60-year-old Dad last year, it was the latter who was full steam ahead telling us slow coaches to pick up the pace. The next day he was waking us all up early to go swimming in Lake Taupo.
Of course, lots of people over 50 will have some physical limitations, so just take care of your body and remember to take all medications/insurance details with you.
A study by over 50s insurance specialist Staysure found that the tropical paradise of the Seychelles is now the number one destination for over 50s followed by the Maldives and the USA.
Over three quarters (76 per cent) wanted to explore foreign countries including culturally rich Cuba, and the Far Eastern climes of China and Japan.
Immersing oneself in local culture was the most popular activity with 86 per cent enjoying sight-seeing and visiting museums and galleries.
The research also found that 71 per cent of over 50s are inspired to visit a holiday destination after they’ve seen it on the big screen. Blockbuster movies such as Exotic Marigold Hotel, filmed in India, Out of Africa filmed in Kenya and Mamma Mia set in Greece have enticed travellers to sample their idyllic scenery first hand.
Staysure CEO Ryan Howsam, said: “A growing number of over 50s are choosing to live abroad and visit all corners of the world. They aren’t all just sitting on the beach either – they’re keen to discover local customs and cultures, make lifelong friends – and even fall in love. Many are choosing to go away with friends, or even go it alone, which can be an amazing experience for those who have never done it.”
With over 50s travel spend having grown by £10 billion a year since 2011, it is clear the desire to voyage, tour and explore the world is stronger than ever with the older generations.
In fact, a survey of over 50s found travel at the heart of most people’s bucket list goals.
The number one priority was to “see more of the world”. Second was to “learn a new language” and fifth was to “move abroad”.
As the Hans Christian Anderson famously said: “To travel, is to live”. And it looks like the over 50s are living life to the full.
By Jessamy Baldwin
“Jessamy Baldwin is an avid globetrotter and Bristol based freelance journalist. She has a BA in English Literature, an MA in International Journalism and writes about travel, health & wellbeing, entertainment and food among other topics. She has worked as an English teacher in Malawi, a news reporter in the Channel Islands, a freelance journalist and deputy editor in London and a communications advisor/columnist in New Zealand. Having travelled to over 30 countries, she is always on the look-out for her next adventure.”
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