Having spent years chasing the hard-earned cash of Britain's youth market, businesses are now waking up to the fact that consumers aged 50-plus are sitting on a pot of gold.

There are 22 million people aged 50 or over in the UK - accounting for £320bn of UK household expenditure in 2012 - and this group will only grow as the population ages; it’s expected to reach 29 million people by 2035.

Rich pickings could be on offer for travel marketers targeting this section of society, from empty nesters to retirees who seemingly have both cash and time to spare. We recently conducted primary research amongst more than 1,300 UK consumers aged 50 or over to provide a fresh perspective on their attitudes and behaviours, and insight into how businesses generally and travel companies in particular can effectively engage with this market.

It seems older travellers have itchy feet, according to the results. Freedom to travel is recognised as one of the greatest benefits of growing older, a factor cited by 39% of participants, followed by having grandchildren (36%) and independence (33%). Meanwhile, many include taking holidays within their activity repertoire, with some 27% of all 50-plus consumers saying they’d been on holiday either in the UK or abroad during the month before the survey ran. Value, quality and reliability are the most important factors influencing older consumers’ holiday purchasing decisions.

We also asked consumers to categorise their most recent holiday, with the top three types of break including beach holiday (24%), city trip (15%) and cultural or sightseeing holiday (14%). Meanwhile, 52% of people said their last holiday was taken in the UK compared to 47% who had travelled abroad. A greater proportion of those aged over 65 years old had travelled abroad on their last break (50%) versus respondents in their 50s (44%).

On average, those surveyed spent £565 per person on their most recent holiday, including paid-for accommodation, travel and incidental spending.

With this in mind, we have defined five fundamentals if you want to ride the wave of wanderlust amongst older consumers:

1. Don't make assumptions

50-plus consumers' spending is not just confined to traditional physical channels. Our research found that six in every ten 50- to 64-year-olds use social media - a ten-fold increase in eight years - and that 51% visit Facebook once a month or more.

2. Think practically about their needs

Saga, which offer an array of products and services exclusively for the over 50s, has tailored its website specifically for this age group including bold, clear fonts and easy accessibility options. The simple and attractive imagery and clear social media connectivity ensure the target market can engage with the company easily through whichever channel they should choose.

3. Think positively

Baby boomers now make-up a large proportion of the 50-plus market and have a totally different perspective on growing older. Most importantly, ageing isn't necessarily seen as a negative any more; 57% of consumers in our survey felt positive about growing older, so consider how you clearly express this in your brand communications.

4. Be relevant

It is important to understand that ‘silver spenders’ break down into two distinct groups as to whether they have a modern or classic view of growing older. Identify where your target audience lies first, then choose the right channels to market to them.

5. Understand their outlook on life

Unlike younger consumers who can be easily segmented into discrete age groups, our research revealed that the key differences within the 50-plus market lie between consumers' attitudes towards ‘growing older' rather than their age. Therefore, we identified six unique segments based on these attitudes to help retailers align their proposition to meet the needs of diverse mind-sets of 50-plus consumers. We called these distinct groups; Opportunists, Up to the minute, Rejectors, Traditionalists, Accepters and Creature of Habit.

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