Fifty years ago, when I started Abercrombie & Kent, if I had offered trips to go white water rafting or diving with sharks people would have looked at me as if I was mad – even more so if I had targeted the over-fifties.
But today no one blinks an eye when they see someone of a certain age preparing to ski down a black run or jump off a cliff attached to a paraglider.
The world of travel has changed tremendously since I took my first guests on safari in Kenya with a jeep and my mother’s silver ice bucket.
Back then I got an old army friend, who was a great engineer, to fix me up a truck with refrigeration so that we could have fresh meat, fruit and vegetables – and unlimited ice – in the bush. It was the first time this had been done and it worked brilliantly.
That was my first big decision and it worked so well that from that moment on I vowed to make sure that everything A&K did was better than anything anyone had experienced before.
Enjoy, explore, expand our understanding
Without a doubt, over the last decade, the over-fifties are travelling more and going further. They are now a powerful force in the travel industry.
Seventy per cent of our guests in America, one of our biggest markets, are over 50 and their favourite places to go include Asia, Africa, Australia and Antarctica, and we are seeing that sense of adventure all over the world.
Why is this age group travelling so far afield? People are now living a lot longer, are in better health and are preparing financially for this. So when they reach their fifties and the kids have left home they want to enjoy their money and explore in luxury.
Someone recently said to me that if he didn’t spend his money then his heirs would. I think a lot of people are beginning to think they have worked hard, brought their children up and now want to have time for themselves.
Decades ago, when their parents were the same age, travelling to the Galapagos Islands with the kind of experience we offer was almost impossible, both logistically and financially. But now it is within reach for many.
There are also so many travel television programmes around that many people now know what is out there and what they are missing, whereas 20 or 30 years ago this was not the case.
While many who travel are thrilled simply to be in a foreign country, our guests seek a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the place they are in, an experience of a more profound nature that expands their understanding of the world.
They want travel that does more than just provide a rest or a getaway – though we do that as well!
What I have always strived to do is to make great memories for people. Everyone is so busy these days that when they do get time to travel they want the very best experience they can have and that is what, I am proud to say, we provide.
Mark Twain urged us to “throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Embracing this has certainly kept me young, so no wonder the over-fifties are doing the same.