My curiosity got the better of me so I enquired about its contents and the young woman told me that it was her wakeboard… which then prompted more questions from me, as I was none the wiser. The passenger in front of her was checking in golf clubs and when I boarded the aircraft I noticed that there were numerous tennis rackets being crammed into the overhead lockers. How times have changed from the days when the most energetic we got on our family holiday was blowing up the pink flamingo lilo.
A recent report released by the Office of National Statistics stated that 7 and 10-day holidays have become more popular than two-week breaks, and what we have found to be a growing trend here at Uniworld is customers wanting to fit as much as they can into their shorter vacations. Yes, they still need some downtime, but they are also keen to cram in amazing, immersive activities and they are certainly not looking for a sedentary holiday.
Many of the experiences that customers are seeking out are energetic in nature. In fact, a report last year by business intelligence specialist Future Thinking found that nearly 50% of baby boomers are willing to pay a premium for innovative products to stay fit, which is a brilliant opportunity for the active travel market.
We have bikes on our ships and these are incredibly popular – guests either choose to take them out and explore independently, or they join a bike ride hosted by one of our amazing guides. Our guests often rate the cycling experience as one of the highlights of their holiday. Often it will have been the first time they have got on a bike for many years and there can be an immense feeling of satisfaction, fun and camaraderie.
Additionally, active travel company Butterworth & Robinson offers organised cycling trips linked to some of our itineraries, which have proved immensely popular. A few years ago a river cruise line would never have been considered as a partner for an activity operator.
And active holidays aren’t just something baby boomers book. A recent report issued by Goldman Sachs suggests an area millennials are prepared to spend their money on is fitness and wellbeing. They exercise regularly, so when it comes to holidays they want to maintain their activity levels and enjoy immersive experiences, and this is a great potential revenue stream for travel agents who promote to this audience.
There are many companies who offer amazing activities but too often in marketing messages put the emphasis on the hotel or the cruise ship – along with the destination – rather than the memorable experiences guests can participate in.
I may now know what a wakeboard is, but I have just recently spotted something called blokarting in the U by Uniworld brochure. I think I’ll leave that one to the millennials and stick with a tennis racket.
Kathryn Beadle is UK managing director at Uniworld