Thomson, BA, Hertz and MSC Cruises were among those lauded at the inaugural Silver Travel Awards. Juliet Dennis reports
Travel companies highlighted the opportunities of the over‑50s market for the trade at the inaugural Silver Travel Awards.
Thirteen companies were honoured at the awards, voted for by 6,500 consumers aged over 50, all members of advice, review and information website Silver Travel Advisor.
Denis Wormwell, chief executive of Shearings Holidays, which won best coach operator, said: “Third-age customers are a massive market. In the next 10 years there will be a 28% increase in the number of over-65-year-olds; they represent two-thirds of the country’s wealth and take more holidays than anyone else.”
Age UK statistics show the number of over-65s will rise by 49% in the next 17 years to more than 16 million.
Giles Hawke, executive director at MSC Cruises, which scooped best cruise company, said the growing number of adventurous, mature travellers was an opportunity for the trade.
“MSC’s age group is generally slightly younger but, by its nature, Silver Travel Advisor encourages people who are more adventurous. Our travellers are free-spirited and mix with a very international market. Agents have a great opportunity,” he said.
Tony Ineson, business development director at Warner Leisure Hotels, which won best hotel group and best limited‑mobility provider, cited the large market of active, older travellers who enjoy live entertainment breaks.
He added: “We are not afraid of saying we are for the over-55s and we are doing more live entertainment breaks with acts like Billy Ocean to attract new customers.”
Alex Roberts, marketing director of Great Rail Journeys, which won best rail holiday provider, underlined the importance of quality and service to the mature market, saying: “It’s not about selling cheap holidays.”
A panel of judges also awarded Grand UK Holidays founder Paul Bennett for his exceptional achievement in the sector. He set up the over-55s specialist at the age of 23 using concepts not widely used at the time.
“I’m proud to say we have never charged a customer for a single supplement; in 1983 that was unheard of,” said Bennett.
The needs of the mature market have changed, he added. “When I started off a typical holiday would be a week with a couple of excursions; now it’s about enticing people into different experiences.”
The Silver Travel Advisor website was set up four years ago. It has 40,000 members, registration for which is free.
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