Adventure travel – how those over 50 are leading the way

Couple of women have fun and play with the wind standing out of the top of a convertible car and playing with coloured pareos - cheerful people traveling and enjoying the outdoor on vacation

Post-pandemic, how are people choosing to travel again?

A while ago, here at Silver we undertook some research, delving into our readers’ travel habits, amongst many other things. And whilst the only option to achieve a 100 per cent score was ‘I holiday in the UK’, (no wonder our retreats are a hit!), a very close second for those over 50 was adventure travel.

The box they ticked said ‘Jump on a plane and work it out when we get there.’ You crazy kids! Our respondents were keener on adventure travel than cruising, all-inclusive holidays, or the increasingly-popular 3G (multigenerational) travel. All of which came up closely behind.

This survey was undertaken in 2021-22, hot on the heels of numerous lockdowns. So perhaps it was to be expected that people would want to get out there and do something wild. But is that still the case? I was keen to explore this further, so I went to the ABTA Adventure Travel conference in London last week, to see whether people still felt the same way. Spoiler, they do. But here are some of the takeaways.

Firstly, solo travel is HUGE

More than one speaker reported that solo travel is up. And it’s important to highlight that this is a lifestyle trend generally. Living alone is also up, and marriage is down. Going solo is something we’re doing more of across the board.

With regard to our own age group, solo travel is a particularly big focus for women. But travelling as a ‘solo’ in a group is also a thing on the increase. So you travel ‘alone’, in small groups, making new friends, and effectively beating the supplement issues that can make travelling alone so stupidly expensive. Interestingly but perhaps unsurprisingly, over 50s and over 60s dominate solo travel search terms online.

Image shows a woman in a great outdoors setting, light behind her, facing away.

Climate issues and sustainability inclusions

I don’t just mean that travellers are looking for holidays that tick the sustainability box. There is a concern that traditional destinations may become less popular because of the heat/weather conditions. Already it’s six degrees hotter than usual for this time of year in places around the Mediterranean. And people are concerned about fires, droughts, floods, and other weather-related issues.

Expect to see increased holiday and travel options opening up in areas like Scandinavia, and also to see different dynamics in terms of activities. As part of the adventure travel options, you’ll now find a lot of walking, engaging with unspoilt destinations, committing to activities that support destination environments and so on.

…travel is an extractive industry. Operators are essentially selling someone else’s home as an experience, and things are vanishing, like Venice.

But we need to be careful about how this is undertaken. During a panel discussion, Thomas Power, CEO at Pura Aventura, urged the industry delegates to remember that travel is an extractive industry. Operators are essentially selling someone else’s home as an experience, and things are vanishing, like Venice.

Adventure travel needs to be accountable, and not add to historically destructive travel. Engage travellers with the destination ahead of arrival so they understand the impact of their visit, he said. Holidays are hedonistic and travellers don’t want to think! We need to make being sustainable on holiday feel luxurious and effortless.

Shockingly, travellers recycle less when they’re not ‘at home’, because they perceive it as not being their problem. So tour operators and travel companies need to plan on their behalf, make the decisions for them. Try flying them there and training them back. Spend longer in the destination to reduce the carbon intensity, and give back to the destination. Flying for short breaks are the worst for carbon footprint.

Read more: sustainable travel, walking the tea trails in Sri Lanka

A few stats about travellers…

From the UN Tourism, Market Intelligence, Policy and Competitiveness Department:

76% want more sustainable options
43% will pay more for accommodation with a sustainability certification
75% seek authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture

Other takeouts

  • People do want comfort even though they won’t say so. So although they say they want to go wild and adventurous, they wouldn’t admit it but they mean as long as it’s got a comfy bed, probably a swimming pool or beach, and some home comforts.
  • Long haul is the growth market. People are looking to really get away, not just pop to Europe for a week or ten days.
  • There is a much higher demand for holidays generally, post 2020. No shock there, but projected figures for 2025 see the growth outstrip previous performance in 2019 and earlier. An adventure travel boom is coming.
  • Short lead times. People are booking impulsively; there is far less booking for a year, two years ahead.
  • ‘Teenager Experience Demand’. Families with older kids are heading for adventurous holidays, with the destinations often chosen by their teenagers or adult children. This is particularly true where the Bank of Mum and Dad, or Granny and Grandad, is footing the bill.
  • ‘Expedition cruises’ is a growing market, where you can visit really far-flung places like the Arctic. Frankly I truly doubt seals and orcas need this sort of human intrusion, but apparently no corner of the planet is safe from human travellers.

Overall message

Acknowledged by almost every speaker at the conference is that there’s a crucial need to protect the destination environment or there won’t be a destination to go to. So whilst a travel boom is expected across all travel sectors, not just the adventure products, it’s incumbent upon the operators to ensure that destinations and habitats are protected.

Because although the consumer wants sustainable options, they don’t want to have to think about it for themselves.

To see full details about all the speakers at this event, click here

Read all about it

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About Sam Harrington-Lowe
Sam is Silver's founder and editor-in-chief. She's largely responsible for organising all the things, but still finds time to do the odd bit of writing. Not enough though. Send help.

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