Over 50, overseas and under-insured: Older travellers cause the most trouble for the Foreign Office


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The Independent Travel

Over-50, overseas, overambitious and under-insured: those are the travellers causing the biggest headaches for the Foreign Office, a conference in London was told today.

Louise Proudlove, the head of the FCO’s Consular Assistance Department, said that older travellers on adventure holidays sometimes take risks by failing to admit to pre-existing medical conditions when taking out travel insurance.

She said: “There are more and more British nationals of that age travelling, and being adventurous, which is fantastic. But we do see cases where people haven’t declared exactly the right health conditions – and unfortunately that means they don’t get the coverage they were expecting to get.

Speaking at the Adventure Travel Conference 2014, Ms Proudlove said the financial consequences can be dire: “They’re really sad cases, really distressing, and you see people losing a lot of their own savings, re-mortgaging their house even.”

A survey of 1,086 consumers conducted by Wanderlust magazine for the conference found that almost two thirds of adventure travellers are female, and one in four is retired. The leading demographic for adventure operators is the 55-64 year age band.

Lyn Hughes, editor-in-chief of Wanderlust, said: “Over-50s are at the forefront of adventure travel at the moment. While the stereotype of an adventure traveller might be a young backpacker, older travellers are the people with the time, money and curiosity about the world to travel to new frontiers.”

The survey also found that 85 per cent of respondents plan to travel as much or more in 2014 as they did last year, and a similar proportion expected to spend more on travel.

One destination experiencing a surge in popularity this year is Iran. Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers, said: “The new president and the warmer relations with Iran are sparking real interest. Several of our tours have already sold out.”

The Foreign Office currently warns against “all but essential travel” to Iran, saying that British travellers face “arbitrary detention” and are at “greater risk than nationals of many other countries due to high levels of suspicion about the UK.”

The other outstanding destination revealed at the event was Burma. Ashley Toft, managing director of Explore, said: “We were one of the first tour operators into Burma after the tourism embargo ended, and it has become one of our hottest destinations. It has a certain mystique because of the situation there over the past 20 years.”