We are continuing to see a new trend emerging in the travel market; the surfacing of a group who have been brought up to wait until they could afford the good things in life, and who by consequence are now having some of the most exciting experiences of their lives.
The over 50s are the becoming the ‘experience collectors’ of our society; those who wouldn’t have dreamt of going overdrawn or using credit to buy a holiday in their youth, so have waited until they can live out their travel dreams in true style.
The key with this age group is the fact that they can have experiences on their own terms. Generally speaking, the over 50s enjoy a greater financial freedom which comes from years of hard work and savings and a physical freedom as a result of the kids leaving home and the onset of retirement. With these restraints removed, now is the time for these consumers to be active, to live out the experiences they’ve been dreaming of for years, and best of all, to do this with fewer financial restrictions.
This group has a very different motivation for travel than that of their younger counterparts. In their pursuit of experience, the over 50s expect a holiday that will enrich their lives and provide a lasting memory, rather than a few weeks of respite from a busy and stressful lifestyle. These consumers are not likely to have had gap years as teenagers, so are fitting the long haul trips and voyages of discovery into their later lives instead. The difference being of course that the hostels and backpacks have been swapped for starred hotels and wheeled luggage.
However, a desire for a longer, more fulfilling journey shouldn’t mean that the over 50s are mistaken as thrillseekers. These trips are less about bungee jumping and extreme experiences, and more about soft adventure, e.g a cruise or a themed holiday. The fact that these travellers know who they are and what they want in life also translates into their holiday plans; it’s common for this age group to choose trips which incorporate an interest, such as walking, cooking, photography or wine tasting. Consequently, more and more travel firms are branching into the over 50s market to offer specialist breaks to exotic locations, offering themed excursions, educational tours and lecture experiences.
It’s also important to remember the attitudinal differences between younger and older travellers. The over 50s will compromise less on service than younger people, and seek more controlled environments. They can be set in their ways, and their financial status often means that they can afford the luxuries of comfort and certainty, leaving the ‘we’ll see what happens’ attitude to the younger market. This manifests itself in many holiday features, from transport options (taxi rather than a bus) to sightseeing preferences (organised tours rather than ad hoc adventures).
As the general population gets undeniably older, brands need to diversify their offerings to tap into this lucrative market. Marketing to this audience has to adapt. The over 55s have been one of the internet’s key growth groups with usage increased by 40% between 2006 and 2007 for this audience. Strategies to acquire, convert and retain these travellers have also matured in recent years. Whether its printed brochures and DM or search, email marketing or Web development, developing and fine-tuning your marketing is becoming ever more critical as this audience grows and develops.