That was the message from speakers at Abta’s Over 50s Market in Travel conference last week, as they discussed best practice for marketing and selling to this age demographic.
Ted Wake, managing director of Kirker Holidays, told delegates to “tailor the way you talk to your target market”, adding that it is often “the sales process itself” that will convince customers to book “rather than what you’re selling”.
He said Kirker recognised that its customers preferred to book on the phone rather than online and had therefore deliberately ensured its website was difficult to book with.
“We invest in our website but the brief [for our designers] was to make it impossible to book online. On the whole, our travellers are of a certain age and find the idea of booking online hateful. And we have a whole team of human beings to close the sale.”
Wake reminded delegates to ensure that they never asked a client their age, and instead focused on finding out about their needs and requirements.
“Train your team to speak slowly and respectfully,” he said, “and don’t repeat questions. You shouldn’t need to – you should already know a lot about what a specific’s client likes and dislikes are”.
Wake also stressed the differences between older and younger demographics, adding: “Younger clients flit around because they are concerned about price, but older clients have other priorities – price tends to come sixth on the list for older people”.
Robin Shaw, chief executive of Saga Cruises, agreed and added that customer loyalty was achieved through “a unique proposition and high service levels”.
He also reminded delegates about the growing solo-traveller market, adding that 20% of all cabins on its new ships are dedicated to single cabins – “that’s a first, no other line is dedicated to so many”.
And Shaw highlighted that despite many cruise lines preferring to focus on trying to attract the younger market, the sector still holds huge opportunity for the over-50s: “They have the time and they have the money. Cruising is very good for the over-50s market.
“I have no doubt that the UK cruise market will continue to grow and that it will continue to be dominated by the over-50s. Cruise operators will have to adapt and cater to the changing desires of this market.”