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Older travellers willing to take more risks – but insurance tops concerns

People aged in their 60s and above are travelling abroad more, visiting new destinations and getting involved in the independent booking online revolution. But the cost of travel insurance is still a major worry that holds some senior citizens back from travelling overseas.

These are the findings of a new report from Avanti, a specialist travel insurance provider, which offers an in-depth analysis of mature travel trends. Based on a survey of more than 1,000 people based mainly in the UK and drawing on official EU tourism industry data, Avanti’s study reveals that the numbers of over-65s travelling abroad each year is up by 35% compared to 20 years ago.

It found that certain European destinations have enjoyed massive increases in the number of senior citizens they welcome over the same timeframe. Romania, for example, has seen tourism from older British travellers increase by a staggering 2,120% since 1998, with neighbouring Bulgaria also benefitting from a similarly massive 1,398% rise.

But while this suggests that older people are enjoying new destinations, some old favourites are also reaping the rewards. Numbers of over-65s from the UK visiting Spain, France and Italy have risen by 200% over the past 20 years, too, and now account for more overseas visits by British pensioners than the rest of the world combined.

A similar blend of old and new was evident in how older people go about booking their holidays and trips abroad. Six out of ten told Avanti they now book their travel independently, up from roughly half two decades ago. This suggests that the trend for using online comparison and booking sites like Booking.com, Skyscanner, AirB’n’B and more has influenced senior travellers, too.

However, the numbers of over-65s booking independently was notably below that of younger age groups. Three-quarters of 16 to 24-year-olds, for example, now book independently. The fact that two in five older travellers still like to book package deals through a travel agent or tour operator suggests the convenience, service and perhaps added protection against risk (e.g. having your holiday covered by ATOL if something goes wrong) continues to hold an appeal for senior citizens.

The cost of insurance

When asked what their biggest concern was surrounding overseas travel, an overwhelming 85% of over-65s said the cost of travel insurance. This is an on-going issue for older people who find that, as many insurance companies apply year-on-year price hikes based on a customer’s age, they eventually reach a point where insurance costs more than the holiday and they can no longer justify the expense. A recent Which? study detailed how people can expect to pay six times more for travel cover in their 80s than they did in their 50s, with the increases accelerating sharply the older they get.

The concern is that, despite being generally risk-averse in their travel habits, some older people might be tempted to head abroad without travel insurance rather than miss out. Avanti’s survey found that 58% of women aged over 65 would be prepared to take the risk of a day trip to France without insurance.

Brad May, chief marketing officer at Avanti Travel Insurance, said: “It’s true that travel insurance does get more expensive as we get older as the risk of something going wrong increases. But no matter how long or how far you’re travelling, it’s important to make sure that you and your plans are covered with travel insurance. Accidents can happen to anyone, at any time, and without adequate cover, people could be leaving themselves unprotected.

“We’ve all heard stories of people risking their life savings and losing their homes over the cost of emergency medical treatment abroad when they haven’t covered themselves properly. Having reassurance and trusting your travel insurance can feel priceless in comparison to the cost.”