Older people are travelling more than ever. According to a new survey from over-50s travel insurance specialist Avanti, the number of UK residents aged 65 and over travelling abroad has risen by 35% in the past 20 years, faster than the rate of growth in the over-65s population in that time.
Similar trends are being seen all over Europe. By 2020, EU figures suggest that people aged 60-plus will account for a quarter of all overseas visitors to the continent, as well as travel between European countries.
However, there is also evidence to suggest that the overseas travel trend amongst older people is not as strong as it could be. Avanti’s stats highlight, for example, that while over-65s represent 23% of the EU population, they represent just 18% of EU citizens who travel outside their own country annually.
So what might be holding senior citizens back from booking those trips abroad? Avanti’s research reveals some interesting figures which hint at a range of economic and cultural differences from country to country.
Health and money
In Spain, Germany and France, for example – three of Europe’s wealthiest economies – health concerns were the most common reason given by people aged 65 and over who had not travelled abroad in the previous 12 months (cited by 40%, 37% and 33% of respondents from those countries respectively). In Bulgaria, Hungary and Greece, by contrast, money (or a lack of it) was the most common reason for not travelling, cited by 49%, 46% and 43% respectively.
However, while it was behind financial concerns, health was also given as a reason by 36% of Bulgarian senior citizens and 33% of Greek, so on a par with France and Germany. And to confuse any straightforward interpretation that older people from Europe’s wealthier countries are less likely to be put off travelling by money concerns, 41% of survey participants from the UK said finance was their biggest obstacle to travelling, while just 12% mentioned health – the lowest figure in any country surveyed.
Just to provide a further point of contrast, in Italy there was little to choose between the number of older citizens who cited money as a main reason not to travel abroad (27%) and those who mentioned health (28%), while a similar proportion (26%) also said they simply had no interest in going overseas. Other countries with a similar level of disinterest in overseas travel amongst their older citizens included Spain (also 26%), Germany (22%) and UK (20%), while by contrast these figures dropped to 1% in Bulgaria and 3% in Hungary.
Health travel insurance costs
Overall, then, health and money stood out as they key reasons why older people across Europe might choose not to travel. And Avanti’s survey also revealed how, for many senior citizens, these two concerns collide in one very specific area – the cost of travel insurance.
Across all age groups who took part in the survey, 75% of respondents said that the price of travel insurance was likely to be the main financial concern for older people looking to travel abroad, rising to 85% of people aged 65 and over. This suggests a remarkably high level of awareness of an issue that has become increasingly prominent in recent years – that older people are getting priced out of overseas travel not by air fares or accommodation costs, but by punitive hikes in travel insurance premiums slapped on because of their age.
Insurance companies, including travel insurance providers, have been given exemptions from anti-discrimination laws passed across Europe over the past decade of so, such as the UK’s Equality Act. From a travel insurance company’s perspective, the rationale is that older people are more likely to fall ill or have an accident while abroad. As medical care in a foreign country is often very expensive, travel insurance providers view older travellers as a bigger risk, and have lobbied hard to be allowed to continue charging them more for policies.
However, questions are now being asked about just how fair the price increases applied by many insurance providers really are. A recent study by Which?, for example, found that the cost of single-trip insurance policies could double for travellers from the ages of 64 to 70, while keen holidaymakers in their 80s could expect to be charged six times more for an annual multi-trip policy than they were in their 50s. The sum effect is that many older people are finding that the cost of travel insurance is making going abroad unaffordable.
What many older travellers object to in particular is that these high price hikes are applied by insurance companies across the board, regardless of whether there is anything in their medical history to suggest they represent a higher risk. Surely a fairer service is that already offered by specialist ‘senior’ travel insurance providers, where policies are offered on the back of individual medical screening, and the details of cover as well as the cost are tailored to meet the needs of the individual.
For more insights from Avanti’s study of travel trends amongst the over-65s, click here for the full article.