Older travellers especially respond to trust and familiarity, says Debbie Marshall, managing director of Silver Travel Advisor

Every summer my father takes a holiday at the same hotel on Lake Garda, and every winter he takes another one at the same hotel in Lanzarote. Why? Because the staff greet him like a long-lost friend, always reserve the same room for him, and the barman remembers what he likes to drink.

He knows there will be no period of acclimatisation, no unexpected steep steps to climb and no challenges finding his way around. This gives him more time to enjoy discovering new places and trying different excursions.

He is not alone in returning to a familiar place he loves. I constantly hear stories from older travellers who always book the same cabin on their favourite cruise ship, and who are overjoyed to find the same waiter welcoming them to their table on the first night, remembering their favourite dessert and exactly how they take their coffee.

It’s also common for guests to return to the same villa time and again, often booking the same week the following year even before their holiday has finished, as well as boat hire and their favourite restaurant for a birthday celebration. That kind of loyalty is the dream of any travel business.

Conflicting evidence

For older people, the unknown can be stressful, change can be daunting and the familiar is restful and comfortable.And yet, recent research from brand technology agency Great State claims 52% of UK holidaymakers are not loyal to any one provider. It says this lack of loyalty to travel brands is most evident among those in higher income brackets, with almost three quarters of those earning £65,000 saying they never book with the same provider consistently.

It is not stated what the age bracket is of those surveyed, but my guess is they are largely under 45 – not least because these findings contrast sharply with our new Silver Travel research where we surveyed more than 1,100 members aged 50 to 85 and asked them to select key motivators when booking a holiday.

More than 70% stated that a previous good experience was their main motivation, 57% said financial protection was key, 50% selected company reputation and 47% customer service.

The fact that our members ranked previous experience as their leading motivation shows they are loyal to companies who fulfil and surpass their expectations. With an average spend of £3,000 on holidays during the year, it’s interesting that just 30% selected price as a significant motivator.

The travel triangle

Loyalty is all about trust, which links to what we call the ‘travel triangle’ for older people – certainty, security and service. Companies that deliver on these earn loyalty and repeat bookings, as well as recommendations and referrals.

And this is important. As any marketing expert can tell you, it’s a lot more cost-effective to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. In fact, many specialist businesses catering to an older demographic enjoy outstanding levels of repeat business with a rate of more than 60% not uncommon, which contrasts sharply with Great State’s findings.

Familiarity breeds contentment, and your loyal clients will be your best advocates. Look after them and they will look after you.