Simon Edwards, head of product & purchasing for touring, Saga Holidays. 

The travel industry continues to face growing challenges, largely driven by Brexit and subsequent unfavourable exchange rates.  But, it’s not all doom and gloom; there are some emerging success stories for both Saga and the market generally.

As a result of the unsettled European environment, we are seeing passengers choose destinations further afield.  This presents us all with an opportunity to encourage customers to look outside of their usual comfort zone and experience those destinations which might be on their bucket list; now is the time to do it.

Long-haul touring holidays are performing exceptionally well at present and, at Saga, we are very much capitalising on this trend, to support any short falls in European volumes while also delivering higher spend to the brand.

What trends are we seeing in 2019?

Africa represents a significant part of our touring volumes and is a consistently strong performer in an ever changing market.  Interestingly, Ethiopia and Botswana have emerged as top destinations in this region for 2019, where we offer unique and highly differentiated experiences.

Looking west, Costa Rica has for many years now been in high demand within Latin America and there is no evidence of a slowdown in 2019.  The Galapagos is also is having a great year; which is understandable when we look at the experience customers have in these amazing destinations.   Canada is also a strong contender for top performing destination in 2019 with the Rocky Mountains being an ever-popular tourist destination with our customers.

Since our sponsorship of Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure in autumn 2018, we have seen demand dramatically increase for the Middle East and central Asia, with Uzbekistan the leading performer in this region.  Price points for tours in Uzbekistan are particularly attractive and in the current market, with customers seeking the best deals, it’s become a stand-out performer for us.

Despite the challenges faced in Europe, there are some destinations which are performing well.  Croatia and Greece (including the islands) have become a key contributor to our European volumes and we see this continuing into 2019 and beyond; even with Brexit looming upon us.

Lastly, I think it’s worth a mention for one of the returning favourites which has struggled in recent years.  As with many of the mainstream operators, we’re seeing demand for Egypt return to past year levels and even push beyond that.

Of course, for the over 50’s market its especially important for customers to have reassurance of guidance and safety when they choose where to holiday.  We know our age group are willing to travel and explore the world; we continue to focus on allowing them to do this in a safe environment and with a company they can trust.