The golden years of adventure: Navigating tourism post-55

The golden years are indeed turning into years of adventure, with the world becoming a playground for those who have spent a lifetime working towards it. For many, the journey is just beginning.

As the sun sets on our careers, many of us in the UK dream of spending our retirement years exploring new horizons. The concept of retirement has evolved significantly, especially with individuals considering early retirement. This shift has given rise to a new age of tourists: the post-55 adventurers. This demographic, often financially savvy and more experienced, are redefining what it means to travel in your golden years.

The shift in retirement trends
Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the average age of retirement in the UK is gradually decreasing. In 2021, the average retirement age was 64.7 for men and 63.6 for women, a noticeable decline from previous decades. This trend is partly attributed to better financial planning and a desire for an active lifestyle post-career.

Traveling post-55: The new norm
The tourism industry has witnessed a surge in the number of older travellers. A report by ABTA – The Travel Association, reveals that over 79% of people aged 55-64 took a holiday in 2023, while 49% of people aged 55-64 took a holiday abroad in 2023. For year 2024, 61% of the 55-64 age group plan to take a UK holiday, while 62% plan to take a holiday abroad. This age group, with their accumulated life savings and pensions, contribute significantly to the tourism economy.

The economic impact
The economic impact of this age group on tourism is substantial. According to a Mintel study, in 2019, individuals over 55 proved to be a more valuable demographic for the UK travel market compared to those under 35, embarking on 30% more trips and spending 52% more on their travels. They tend to spend more per trip compared to younger travellers, often opting for longer stays and higher-quality accommodations.

Preferred destinations and experiences
Europe remains a top destination for UK retirees, with Spain, Italy, and France being favourites due to their climate, culture, and accessibility. However, there’s a growing interest in long-haul destinations like Australia, Canada, and Japan, offering diverse experiences from wildlife safaris to cultural immersions.

Cruise holidays have seen a particular increase in popularity among this demographic. A survey by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) indicated that 75% of UK and Ireland passengers over 50 preferred cruises, citing the ease of travel and all-inclusive nature as major draws.

The rise of ‘slow travel’
‘Slow travel’ has become a buzzword in this age bracket. It’s about experiencing a destination in-depth rather than rushing through. This involves longer stays, off-season travel, and immersive experiences like local cooking classes or historical tours. Slow travel not only enriches the experience but also significantly benefits local communities and economies. An example of such slow travel is the Royal Caribbean 274-nights world cruise, which stops in 11 countries.

Health and accessibility
Health considerations are crucial for post-55 travellers. According to a study by Forbes Advisor in June 2023, the UK travel insurance industry reported that 53% of individuals in the over-55 age group purchased travel insurance policies, representing the largest proportion among all age groups. Destinations and accommodations are also adapting, offering more accessible travel options and healthcare facilities.

The environmental consciousness
There’s a growing environmental consciousness among older travellers. Many are choosing eco-friendly accommodations and transportation, and are more likely to participate in sustainable tourism practices. This shift is crucial in preserving destinations for future generations.

Preparing for post-55 travel
For those contemplating retiring at 55 and looking to join this adventurous cohort, financial preparation is key. It’s important to have a robust retirement plan and a comprehensive financial strategy in place. Consulting resources and planning ahead for such possibilities can open doors to a world of travel opportunities.

The landscape of tourism is changing, with post-55 travellers leading the charge. They are not just tourists; they are explorers seeking meaningful, enriching experiences. This demographic is proving that retirement can be a time of adventure and discovery, given the right planning and resources. As the UK’s population ages, we can expect this trend to continue growing, reshaping the tourism industry in exciting and positive ways.

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