Over-50s fuel surge in late summer holiday bookings amid ‘vaccine confidence’

Over 50s are fuelling a surge in summer holiday bookings in anticipation that they will be vaccinated against Covid by then.  

Holiday and tour operators have reported a doubling in demand from older Britons expecting to be inoculated by the summer or early autumn in a phenomenon described as "vaccine confidence". 

After a year when most have had to cancel holidays, they are making up for it with longer and bigger summer breaks, often with family from whom they have been isolated through the pandemic.  

TUI, the UK’s largest tour operator, said half the bookings on its website are currently by the over-50s, previously a smaller market for the company.

Thomas Cook said it had taken more bookings so far in January from those aged over 50 than in any full month since it relaunched its holiday programme in September.  

National Express’s coach holiday businesses said bookings made by those 65 and over had increased by 185 per cent in the last fortnight compared to last year.  

"Since the announcement of the vaccine, it’s given our customer base, predominantly those over 65, increased confidence to book and have that summer getaway in 2021," Jit Desai, the head of holidays and travel at National Express, told the BBC.  

"We launched the brochure for spring-summer 2021 just this weekend gone, and on Monday we took a week’s worth of bookings in a day and that’s continued so far.

"What the vaccine does is give certainty and confidence. That then allows the customer and ourselves the ability to plan ahead. Many we’ve spoken to have had the first jab. They know in 12 weeks they’ll get a second. It gives them certainty that they can enjoy and look forward to their 2021 holiday."  

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Typical are Colin Child, 71, and his wife Patricia, 69, from Dewsbury, Yorkshire. They had booked three overseas holidays in 2020, all of which they had to cancel, and have now booked a holiday in Turkey with Thomas Cook for June.

"We don’t normally book package holidays, but we saw a good deal that is five star. It’s for my wife’s 70th birthday. We haven’t spent much in the last year, so we’ll push the boat out in 2021," said Mr Child.

"By June, I’m sure we will have had the injection. We have been careful, because I’m in the vulnerable age group."

Andrew Flintham, the managing director of  TUI, said the trend provided a glimmer of hope, adding: "We’re seeing a customer base or age group that wasn’t booking before, that is starting to book. The over-50s, we assume, is on the back of the vaccine news.  

"People are booking later into the summer, hedging their bets, more July and August and a lot of demand for September and October. People are booking longer holidays, we’re seeing more people booking 10 or 11 or 14 nights rather than seven. People are maybe catching up on what they’ve missed."  

There were also more large, multi-generational group bookings, and Mr Flintham said: "It is family time we’ve all missed. We can’t get away from our own families, but our broader families we can’t see, and that’s feeding into our choices."

There is even demand building for 2022, with long-haul up 90 per cent according to Saga Holidays, which specialises in breaks for over-50s. It said it suggested an appetite for once in a lifetime holidays.

Andy Squirrell, the managing director of Titan Travel said one of its 2022 tour dates had sold out 13 months before departure.

Hayley Chambers, the head of customer operations at Thomas Cook, said: "It’s clear there’s been a return in people who will benefit the most from the vaccine rollout booking their holidays for this summer and beyond.

"We’re seeing older couples splashing out on dream holidays to far-flung places like Barbados as well as the firm favourites of Greece, Spain and Turkey. I am sure we will see even more once confidence grows further."

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