As the rapid increase of multi-thousand cabin liners in the 2010s showed, silver holidaymakers have long been a prime target for cruise operators. They are affluent, social enough to not mind being in a crowd, and love being entertained. Sadly, the Covid pandemic made many older people risk-averse and the ‘big ship cruising’ market suffered.

Small ship cruising fared altogether better. Representing a cruise line specialising in vessels with no more than 70 passengers (most less than 50), where hygiene is much easier to guarantee, Seafarer Sailing  were the first to have boats back on the water. Once Greece and the Aegean reopened, we ran a reduced but continual programme. Summer 2022 promises to see business return to pre-pandemic levels.

Island-hopping, rather like a road trip by sea, is still very much the name of the game. Greece, with its legendary ancient sites, is still the biggest pull but Croatia is gaining ground. Destinations like The Seychelles and Cape Verde Islands are also ideal for this kind of cruising, whilst the search for winter sun brings in ever more exotic places. For winter 2022-23 we are introducing French Polynesia for the first time alongside more established places such as Costa Rica and Panama.

The move to soft adventure

But we have noticed changes. There is a new cohort joining the sliver generation every year and, whilst they are people who are getting older, their thinking is younger, and they are more adventurous. We’re not talking zip wires and bungee jumping, but there is increasing interest amongst ‘silvers’ in our range of sailing holidays.

At one level this can be as relaxing as taking a cabin on one of our island-hopping sailing yacht charters, looked after by a professional skipper and hostess. Typically, yachts have 4 guest cabins (with aircon and private facilities) so it’s still a chance to meet people and be social. But time is mostly spent on deck in the fresh air with a new island to explore every day and a new waterfront taverna to eat in every evening – ‘fly and flop’ it is not. Whilst Greece is still the favourite destination, Thailand is growing in popularity.

‘Silver’s’ love to learn

Another shift in behaviour is that ‘silvers’ are increasingly looking to use their leisure time to learn more skills to enrich that leisure time and, outside of school holiday season, the age profile of those on our training courses is getting older. The urge to sail often starts from learning the ropes and helming for a bit on a cabin charter, through learning to be ‘competent crew’ up to becoming a fully qualified skipper on a Royal Yachting Association approved course with the next step often being skippering a yacht within a flotilla, whilst some progress all the way to buying a yacht to go exploring. We run training courses throughout the year in Greece and Croatia as well as out of Southampton.

There is also a lot of interest amongst ‘silvers’ for getting into a dinghy and other beach-based sailing activity.  The courses we run at our Nikiana Beach Club on Lefkas very much put the ‘activity’ into activity holidays with time spent on (and in!) the water as well as in the classroom (well, a corner of the beach bar!.) Once again, our tuition gives RYA certification that ‘silvers’ come back and build on the following year.

Multi-generation holidays

The other big growing trend in this market is amongst those looking for a multi-generational activity or soft adventure holiday where the grandparents pitch in with child minding the younger generation whilst Mum and Dad do things on the water. Everything to do with sailing and the sea, from flotilla sailing to a week at the beach club windsurfing or dinghy sailing works perfectly here both during high-season school holidays and for families with pre-school children in low season.

Going to market with the personal touch

Selling this kind of holiday to this kind of market brings unique challenges. Our products are generally not available in high street travel agents (if you can even find one). Assembling the various components of a sailing holiday takes time – it’s not a natural fit for e-commerce. So, the go-to-market strategy has to be more personal and always ends with several emails, and telephone or video calls.

Our sales funnel combines working an email database we have compiled over 20 years in business and turning up to meet and greet and press the flesh at boat shows. We find there is a huge amount of loyalty amongst older clients who love nothing more than the opportunity to come and see you, tell you about their last holiday and talk about the next (and boy, can they talk!).

Whilst it’s notable how increasingly digitally ‘savvy’ the silver cohort has become, there are some things, like holidays, they prefer to stay old-school and chatty about. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Find out more about Seafarer Sailing Holidays, the UK market leader in flotilla holidays, bareboat yachting and beach-based sailing.