12 December 2023, 14:00
The rise of solo holidays, tech-savvy travellers and a future as nomadic workers - Saga’s 2024 travel trends research shows over-50s shouldn’t be under-estimated.
12 December 2023: With Saga’s data showing a significant increase in solo travellers booking holidays next year, the lifestyle brand for people over 50 has been delving into that, and other trends with its customers for its 2024 travel research.
Top-line findings show:
- 20% of Saga customers plan to travel solo in 2024 and women are significantly more likely to travel on their own than men, as they look for adventure and independence.
- 47% of solos travelling in a group make long-term friends and 11% form a romantic relationship.
- Reasons for solo travel include no longer being prepared to wait for others and feeling ‘if not now, then when?’ and those travellers return home feeling proud of themselves.
- 56% of over-50s already hold a travel booking for next year and 39% plan to travel more in 2024 than previous years.
- Saga’s audience is far more digitally savvy than they’re often given credit for.
- By 2027 15-million people will be in ‘active retirement’ leading to more older people working nomadically (it’s not just for millennials)
The rise of the solo traveller and the reasons behind it
The brand, which offers a range of holidays including escorted tours through both Saga and sister company Titan Travel, independent trips as part of its tailor-made offering, hosted hotels, and cruises, has witnessed an increase of more than 20% in solo travellers booking holidays for 2024 versus 2023.
That growth, and the reasons behind it, formed part of Saga’s research into its customers’ 2024 travel habits, which showed that 20% of the nearly 3,000 of customers asked, plan to travel solo next year. And there is a significant split between the sexes – a trend consistent with last year’s findings - with 28% of women versus 12% of men travelling single.
82% of those solo travellers have already planned to travel outside of the UK in 2024, and of that, 68% are female. 91% are experienced solo travellers, who have already enjoyed an average of five trips, and 9% are travelling on their own for the first time in 2024. The average age of the first solo trip is 47 years old.
And the reasons are clear, with women proving themselves more independent and adventurous. 48% of females and 30% of males are saying they’d rather travel now, than wait for someone to come with them and feeling ‘if not now, then when?’, as they use solo travel to explore who they are and expand their horizons. Sadly, 35% cite the death of a partner as a reason they are travelling solo, but they want to continue to enjoy their travels as they did as a couple.
Long-haul touring holidays are the most popular types of trips with 42% of respondents. Cruises are also a popular option particularly with women and those over 70.
The reasons are both social and practical, with having someone to chat to or simply have lunch with among the top desires for solo travellers. However, any concerns about loneliness appear to be unfounded as 47% of respondents who have travelled on their own told Saga that they had made friends they’ve stayed in touch with, and 11% had made a romantic connection.
Group travel, be that touring or cruises, makes people feel safer too, with 31% of men and 43% of women stating safety as a concern with solo travel, along with 30% of people being worried about organising a trip alone.
The positive impacts of a solo trip also seem to last longer than the holiday itself. Solo trips result in a shift in self-perception, with 54% of travellers that Saga spoke to saying that their first trip alone made them feel proud of themselves – a sentiment that was stronger in women at 58%, than with men at 44%. And it was a source of respect and curiosity with 50% of respondents saying that other people had been impressed when they had heard of their solo travel plans.
The rise of the tech-savvy traveller
Saga’s research shows that online inspiration is incredibly important for their audience, with over half (58%) saying that travel company websites are the most popular places to seek holiday suggestions. A quarter are also engaged with travel brands’ social media platforms, online travel influencers or advertising on digital and social media accounts.
39% of respondents said they are happy to book a holiday online, with this increasing to 58% for 50-59-year-olds and short-haul trips are most likely to be booked online.
And Saga customers are no different to other generations when it comes to wanting easy online accessibility, with 61% stating that Wi-Fi access is extremely/very important to them, and 80% unhappy if they must pay for it. Almost all – 96% – expect hotels and cruise ships to offer Wi-Fi for free.
And that’s because 51% want to keep in touch with friends and family while on holiday and 22% will be sharing their holiday pictures on social media. This is significantly higher among the younger travellers at 39% of those aged 50-59, so is a trend likely to grow, but it’s also important to one in eight people over 80.
Increase in travel likely for 2024 and most want to experience something new
Other findings from Saga’s research found that 56% of respondents are already holding at least one booking for next year, but that they expect to take three holidays. 39% expect to be travelling more in 2024, a number which rises to 43% for people between 50 and 69 years old.
Popular destinations include the UK with two thirds (58%) planning a home break in 2024, and over a third (32%) planning to take an ocean cruise. European city breaks are also popular, in particular with 50-69-year-olds (22%). However, just a third (29%) want to go on holidays like the ones they have been on before - most want to see new places and to explore local culture.
Beyond 2024 – the new retirement and older nomadic workers
Additional Saga research** conducted through the brand’s insight company, The Big Window, identified that by 2027 there will be 15 million people in ‘active retirement’ – a banding that involves a combination of activity that is likely to include some paid work, as well as hobbies and volunteering. That, combined with changes in the working environment and a move towards more flexibility, is likely to lead to more older people continuing to work as they travel and becoming more digitally nomadic.
John Constable, CEO of Saga Travel Group, said: “Over 50s are an audience often ignored by many brands, including those in the travel industry, yet they make up 38% of the population and as our recent research shows, they are not to be under-estimated.
“Their desire to travel is unabated with 56% already holding bookings and 39% expecting to travel more in 2024 than in previous years. And we’re seeing a rise in solo holidays because they feel ‘if not now, then when?’ and want to have new experiences. Not only will they see the world, but it’s also a great way to meet new people.
“They’re also far more digitally savvy than they’re given credit for through both their booking behaviours and whilst on holiday. A skill that will put them in good stead as the number of active retirees grow in coming years who are likely to choose to work as they travel.”
Travellers who want to experience an amazing holiday that’s great value for money – be that solo or with others – can visit saga.co.uk for more inspiration. Holiday customers can book hassle-free tours with Saga or its sister company, Titan Travel, with included VIP transfers from home to the airport. The brand also offers hosted hotel holidays and customisable independent trips that are tailor-made for the traveller.
Cruise customers will find that 20% of cabins on Saga’s ocean ships are dedicated to solo travellers, and at least 12 cabins are set aside for them on the smaller river ships. Those cabins are appointed for one person, rather than the default two seen in most travel accommodation, so guests are not made to feel as though someone else is missing from the trip. There is also plenty of opportunities to meet other guests when travelling alone from on-board events to excursions.
Cruise guests can also expect an all-inclusive break, including dining and drinks, WiFi, gratuities, travel insurance, and a range of excursions. Those travellers taking an ocean cruise can also enjoy a nationwide complimentary chauffeur service from home to the ship and back, while river cruise customers can be chauffeured to either the airport or St Pancras and home again. Also included are flights or the Eurostar and transfers to and from the ships.
Journalists requiring more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please find below an infographic that visualises the key findings from the report.
Notes to editors
Notes to editors:
- *The Saga Travel Trends 2024 research was conducted in November 2023 with 2,823 Saga customers. Based on their responses a further in-depth survey was conducted with 467 solo travellers, including one-to-one interviews.
- **The additional Saga/the Big Window retirement survey was conducted in March 2023 with 2000 UK adults aged 50 and over.
Saga has been a trusted provider to customers over the age of 50 of cruises and holidays, as well as home and motor insurance and money products, in the UK for more than 70 years.