The golden age
At last, operators are catering to the needs of mature solo travellers
FASTER, higher, stronger — the Olympic motto could aptly describe the spirit of mature Australian travellers, who are displaying the kind of staying (and spending) power that inspires elite athletes and excites tourism marketers.
The appetite for adventure among the over-55s is redefining pricing structures for solo travellers, the way operators approach and treat older clients and the products they develop, such as multi-generational itineraries.
The most striking trend reported anecdotally by tourism operators in Australia is the rise of the single senior traveller and, in particular, solo women of a certain age.
In response, more cruise lines are configuring single cabins and offering solo fares. Operators such as APT have solo traveller clubs with exclusive offers, while AAT Kings offers to match travellers of the same gender for twin-sharing.
Mature travellers are a major force driving the sustained growth of the Australian cruise passenger market, with more of them embarking on several trips a year and for longer periods, says Brett Jardine, the general manager of Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (formerly the International Cruise Council Australasia). There’s an appetite among the over-55s for back-to-back voyages, reports Cruise Express managing director Meg Hill, and for expeditions to destinations such as Myanmar, Borneo and Antarctica.
‘ ‘ The term ‘ mature traveller’ does not have the connotations it used to,’’ observes Sujata Raman, the Australia and NZmanaging director of global travel company Abercrombie & Kent. ‘‘In our experience, today’s matureage traveller is active, relatively intrepid and interested in engaging with the culture and destination they are visiting. The requirement is for comfort in accommodation and cuisine, and [there is] absolutely no reluctance to experience new and different destinations.’’
Here’s a selection of adventures to suit. Vive la difference: In recognition of the diverse needs of mature travellers, Uniworld has solo savings and multigenerational family- friendly programs on selected boutique river cruises in Europe. Excursions in selected cities are offered at various paces. Among the packages, single supplements are waived on a 10-day Paris and Normandy cruise departing on May 3, from $5150 a person (save $2159); and on an eight-day Venice and the Po River cruise departing on August 4, from $3994 a person (save $1999). More: 1300 780 231; uniworldcruises.com.au. All the rivers run: Scenic Tours has a raft of packages on its European river cruises designed for solo travellers. Among them: a 15-day Jewels of Europe cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest from $13,585, departing May 13; and a 15-day Romantic Rhine and Moselle cruise from Zurich to Amsterdam from $13,305, departing September 4. Private butler service, WiFi, meals, beverages and sightseeing are included. More: 1300 723 642; scenictours.com.au. Lone rangers: Abercrombie & Kent has a portfolio of adventures designed for solo travellers. Single supplements are waived on a range of safaris in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana, while supplements are reduced dramatically on selected departures on escorted tours of Turkey, Egypt and central Europe. Singles pay no supplement for their own cabin on Sanctuary Yangtze Explorer’s selected four-day sojourns in China. And lone travellers can settle into their own luxury bolthole for no extra charge as the splendid Royal Scotsman train wends its way from Edinburgh past highland castles and across misty moors on diverse itineraries. More: 1300 851 800; abercrombiekent.com/travel-specials. We are sailing: Single supplements are waived on an eight-day Mediterranean adventure on the luxury windjammer Sea Cloud departing May 1. From $3678 a person (single or twin-share), this sailing follows no fixed route from Malta to Piraeus, Greece, relying on the wind to determine ports of call. Carrying up to a maximum of 64 passengers, Sea Cloud is small enough to stop at bijou ports such as Monemvasia, Milos, Hydra and Lavrion. More: seacloud.com. Best of British: Return flights from Australia to London are included in Cruise Express’s 18-day Glory of the British Isles cruise departing August 1. Add the sights of London and Glasgow to a 12-night round trip from Southampton aboard Caribbean Princess, taking in the Channel Islands, Ireland, Scotland and France. From $7490 a person twin-share or from $8990 for singles. More: 1300 766 537; cruiseexpress.com.au. Set your pace: For its escorted coach journeys, Insight Vacations has developed ‘‘easy pace’’ tours, with at least three nights at each destination and plenty of sightseeing flexibility, and ‘‘country road tours’’ that explore beyond the tourist honeypots, ideal for repeat visitors. Its 16-day Best of Eastern Canada and USA tour, from Toronto to New York City, costs from $4825 a person twin-share (save $244 a person on 2013 departures if booked by April 30) and save 5 per cent on single supplements. Until July 31, Insight Vacations’ 13-day Imperial Rajasthan tour from Delhi to Udaipur costs from $3295 a person twin-share and includes return economy international airfares to Delhi. More: 1300 237 886; insightvacations.com.au. Mountain highs: Bench International has scheduled eight-day hikes to the summit of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, for singles and women only. The climb takes the Machame route, a gradual ascent considered the most scenic and beautiful path. The singles-only climb departs July 13, from $2190 a person; the women’s-only climb departs November 16, from $ 1880 twin- share, $ 1990 solo. More: 1300 195 873; benchinternational.com.au. Mix and match: Book a quad-share cabin for $1330 a person with Companion Cruising for a seven-night Cruise ’n’ Groove sailing in the South Pacific and the online cruise company will match you with cabin companions. Departing Sydney on October 5, the 1970s music cruise aboard Rhapsody of the Seas features performances by original members of the Village People, the Temptations, the Supremes and others. Book by April 30. More: 0468 964 996; companioncruising.com.au. Kiwi capers: Luxury coach travel is interspersed with a Milford Sound cruise, a TranzAlpine train trip, concerts and a hangi on AAT Kings’ 10-day Contrasts of New Zealand First Choice guided expedition. For departures from October 18 to December 26, it costs from $2595 a person twin-share or from $3580 for a solo room; the company offers to match solo travellers of the same gender for twin- sharing. More: 1300 228 546; aatkings.com.au. Have guide, will travel: Solo travellers comprise 20 per cent of travellers on Trafalgar’s itineraries. Its new nineday Scenic Spain and Portugal First Class guided holiday costs from $1685 a person twin-share and from $2095 for a room alone, available for departures until October 19. Arrive in Jasper by train and Banff by dog sled on a 10-day Western Canada Winter Adventure; from $4650 a person twin-share or from $5670 for a room alone, available for departures from November 23 to February 8 next year. More: 1300 663 043; trafalgar.com. Eight reasons why: View eight ports in New Zealand, from the Bay of Islands to Fiordland National Park, from a private state room balcony on 13-night round trips from Sydney on a range of Sun Princess and Sea Princess departures from October to March 2014. The balcony upgrade is free in a package that costs from $1699 a person twin-share. More: 132 488; princess.com. Galapagos for gals: Abercrombie & Kent research shows women are the primary holiday decision makers, so it is offering savings of $US900 to women booking a sevennight cruise of the Galapagos Islands on MV Eclipse departing May 25. Carrying 48 passengers with berths from $US5385 a person, the MV Eclipse will have photographic workshops aboard and daily shore excursions guided by a naturalist. More: 1300 851 800; abercrombiekent.com.au.