It’s hard to believe that our website launched in February 2011 with just Debbie Marshall and Taki Sirianos around the kitchen table, and a desire to provide an information and advice source for older travellers, soon to be coined Silver Travellers. Jennie Carr soon pulled up another chair, and the wonderful John Carter, legend of TV, joined as Patron later that year. Slowly the team grew with our first ever prize winner, Alan Fairfax, deciding to jump the fence and join us as our inaugural Advisor.
By April 2012, Silver Travel Advisor was working in partnership with Age UK, based at their offices in Tavistock Square and broadcasting on their radio station The Wireless. This collaboration brought many unexpected travel queries and questions, often regarding health issues and the accessibility of holidays. Just one year later, Silver Travel Advisor had 20,000 members – we were delighted!
2014 was something of a surprise with our first ever mention at the British Travel Awards – a Bronze for the Best Travel Reviews Website: Debbie only noticed when looking through the results to see which of our partners had won!
Jennie Bond very kindly hosted the debut Silver Travel Awards in 2015 in the Dinosaur Gallery (was the pun intended?) at the Natural History Museum, as part of Age UK’s Vitality Ball. Tales are often told of the number of steps the team raced up and down with boxes of brochures, pop up banners and crates of trophies. Calf muscles took a pasting and crucial event lessons were learnt that evening, including the importance of sturdy flat shoes even under a ballgown. We also launched our bi-annual magazine, The Silver Traveller, which featured Lorraine Kelly, Hilary Bradt, Diana Moran (aka the Green Goddess) and Esther Rantzen.
After five years of successful growth, we felt Silver Travel Advisor had evolved into a trusted voice of mature travellers, and thus in January 2016, the annual Silver Travel Industry Report and Breakfast Briefing was launched, following a survey of our audience. After croissants, coffee and networking, the travel industry heard what you, older members of the travelling public, felt about holidays and travel. This annual event continues, its latest format being held online ‘virtually’ in February 2021.
2016 brought more ‘firsts’: Debbie spoke at the ABTA Convention in Abu Dhabi about the importance of Silver Travellers, and we won Silver at the British Travel Awards. Our own second Silver Travel Awards took place at the British Transport Museum hosted by Amanda Redman, with several travel industry leaders being seen fulfilling their dreams masquerading as bus conductors and train drivers.
In response to partner company and travel agents’ requests, the Silver Travel Training and Research division was created in 2017 to inform the industry about the specifics requirements of the over 50s. With many marketeers and reservations staff in their 20s, there was plenty for Jane Silk, our researcher and trainer, to share. The collaboration began with the Advantage Travel Partnership which gives our members access to well-trained, independent travel agents. The Silver Travel Awards in 2017 took place at Madame Tussauds, with Aled Jones leading the event. Waxwork George Clooney featured in hundreds of selfies that evening. Donald Trump in a few less …
The following year in 2018, John Suchet stunned the audience at the National Portrait Gallery when he performed his very own version of the moonwalk before presenting the Silver Travel Awards at which a superb ‘Michael Jackson’ lookalike wowed the audience. Our wonderful Silver Travel Book Club began this year too, with fact and fiction publications to be won each month. And in November that year, Silver Travel Advisor won its first Gold for the Best Travel Reviews Website at the British Travel Awards. The entire team was elated as the general public vote for these awards and so your votes endorsed our website, for which we thank you. We have gone on to win Gold again in 2019 and 2020.
January 2019 brought wonderful milestones – 100,000 members and 150,000 individual contributions to the website. The Silver Travel Cook Club began, whetting your appetites for international specialities, as well as offering recipe books as prizes each month. Our magazine continued to grow in size and distribution and the 2019 Silver Travel Awards, hosted by the brilliant Dame Esther Rantzen, took place at BAFTA where ‘Marilyn Munroe’ serenaded John Carter who blushed a delicate shade of pink on receipt of his award for Silver Service to the travel industry.
In 2020, the world of travel was blighted by Covid-19 and lockdowns. We worked tirelessly throughout the year to keep you informed, entertained, helping many of our members secure refunds on cancelled bookings.
Undaunted in spirit, our Silver Travel Awards went virtual, presented by the sparkling Gyles Brandreth at the Wallace Collection in September, and in the same ‘keep calm and carry on’ way, the 6th Silver Travel Industry Report is online in February 2021. No croissants or coffee to share this time!
We’ve also just launched a partnership with BOOM radio, showcasing a travel podcast each month, as well as the Silver Travel Explorers Club, looking at cruise ship ports of call around the world, so despite all the challenges, exciting developments continue.
Now with 122,000 members, 67,000 social media followers and over 80 travel partners, the future looks positive, and will be even brighter once we can all travel again. We look forward to meeting you again at shows and exhibitions in the future: you are our inspiration and our raison d’etre.
Read more about the Silver Travel Advisor Team.