Enough of Gen-X, Y and the Boomers; here comes the senior market
Consumer society has not always been responsive to the needs of travellers aged 60 and up. And yet, this customer segment is flourishing as the world’s ageing population creates a major demographic shift. When they are healthy and free of time constraints and financial obligations, older consumers are an ideal clientele. Now is the time to examine the characteristics and preferred leisure activities of seniors, an emerging consumer market.
At what age does one become a “senior”?
There are numerous terms to describe individuals of a “certain age”: seniors, senior citizens, Golden Agers, pensioners, retirees, the elderly. The age at which one assumes the title of “senior” varies from 55 to 65, depending on the study or statistic. To distinguish seniors from Baby Boomers (those born between 1947 and 1966), who are currently 41 to 60 years old and have already been examined by the Tourism Intelligence Network, this article will focus on drawing a portrait of those aged 60 and up. Naturally, any predictions, even short-term ones, will inevitably include some Baby Boomers as they are slowly entering this market segment, creating what some have called the “senior boom” or “senior surge.” However, the seniors of tomorrow will definitely be very different from those of today.
The silent generation
At the present time, the 60+ market segment is populated by members of the “silent generation.” Marked by the war and thus, in many respects, less spoiled than later generations, this generation can be characterized as follows:
- instilled with a sense of duty
- respectful of authority
- looking for stability
- thrifty and cautious
- often neophytes when it comes to information and communications technologies
These are, of course, generalizations, and they apply in varying degrees, depending on the age of the individual in this cohort. For example, many 60-year-olds are familiar with or even experienced in information technology, unlike those aged 75 and up.
In Quebec alone, there were 1.5 million people aged 60 and over in 2006, or 20% of the entire population. According to the Institut de la Statistique du Québec, this number will grow to 2.27 million by 2026 to represent 28% of all Quebeckers. The Print Measurement Bureau (PMB) estimates that 621,000 Quebeckers aged 60 and up have taken an overnight vacation trip within Canada in the past 12 months, with 475,000 of these trips taken in Quebec. During the same period, 356,000 Quebec seniors travelled outside the country.
Percentage of Quebeckers aged 60 and up
who took at least one overnight trip in the past 12 months
Visiting friends and relatives
The preferred type of accommodation for seniors travelling in Canada is the home of friends and relatives (44%), followed by a hotel (25%); amongst the general population, the favourite accommodation is a hotel.
The primary activities of these travellers are visiting friends and relatives (54%) – which is higher than the percentage recorded for the entire population –, sightseeing (38%) and shopping (25%). Furthermore, the percentage of golfers is higher among seniors (7%) than it is among the overall travelling population (4%).
Walking, cultural activities and golf
Generally speaking, those aged 60 and up also engage in a number of leisure activities that can be easily practised when travelling: walking and biking, live theatre, classical music concerts, museum visits and golf, for example (Figure 4).
Percentage of Quebec seniors participating in leisure and sports activities
The foreign destinations most often visited by Quebec seniors are listed in the following table. When compared to Quebeckers of all ages, a higher percentage of seniors have gone to Florida and Italy.
Top destinations of Quebec seniors who have travelled outside the country in the past 3 years
The senior market also represents:
• one-third (32.5%) of all Quebec coach travellers (for trips within Canada)
• 30% of travellers who have taken a cruise in the past 3 years
• 57% of those who use travellers’ cheques
• 25% of the clientele of Quebec travel wholesalers (65 and over)
Products adapted to seniors
Some companies are targeting this booming market. At Boston travel agency Vantage Deluxe World Travel, the median customer age is 71 and trips and travel components are selected to meet the needs and desires of this clientele. For example:
- trips are longer than average
- itineraries are less full, meaning that sites can be visited at a leisurely pace
- cruise ships are smaller, with spacious cabins
- customers can travel alone or be paired with a travel companion
As the AG2R Group notes, to accommodate travelling seniors, one must provide secondary services:
- transfers to and from airports
- baggage transportation or even shipping bags in advance
- especially attentive and warm receptions in hotels
Some Quebec ski resorts offer lifetime passes to those aged 70 and up. These seniors must first purchase a regular season pass, which is then automatically renewed the following year. Older skiers practise the sport with friends, who are sometimes younger, or with family members, so they bring “paying” skiers with them. They also tend to visit resorts during less busy periods.
Seniors around the world
Thanks to scientific progress, human beings are living longer, healthier lives. The age pyramid is slowly becoming inverted in most developed countries. In conclusion, here are a few facts and figures about the senior phenomenon around the world:
- By the year 2050, more than one person out of five, or 22% of the world’s population, will be aged 60 and up, compared to only 10% today. The number of people over the age of 60 was 602 million in 2000; this number will rise to nearly 2 billion by 2050.
- In the United States, some 37 million people are aged 65 and over, and 9.2 million of them are aged 80 and up.
- The Americas are home to 75 million seniors (those born before 1945).
- France was home to 200 centenarians in 1950, 3760 in 1990 and 18,962 as of January 2007. According to the Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques (INSEE), this number will rise to 150,000 by 2050. France now keeps a list of “supercentenarians,” that is, those over the age of 110.
- In the United Kingdom, recreation accounts for the largest share of household spending among seniors, more than lodging and food.
- In the very near future, seniors will represent the largest customer segment for the travel industry.
– Durand, Amandine. “Seniors: les agences de voyage spécialisées,” L’Internaute. [www.linternaute.com] Last accessed December 14, 2007.
– Hunter-Jones, Philippa and Adele Blackburn. “Understanding the Relationship between Holiday Taking and Self-Assessed Health: An Exploratory Study of Senior Tourism,” International Journal of Consumer Studies, Vol. 31, No. 5, September 2007.
– Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2006.
– Institut de la statistique du Québec, Si la tendance se maintient… Perspectives démographiques, Québec et régions, 2001-2051, November 2004.
– Mesmer, Philippe. “Bienvenue dans un monde senior,” Vivre en 2020, Le Monde, hors série, October 2007.
– Pak, Cabrini and Ajit Kambil. “Over 50 and Ready To Shop: Serving the Aging Consumer,” Journal of Business Strategy, 2006, Vol. 27, No. 6.
– Print Measurement Bureau, 2007.
– Seniorjournal.com. “Travel Agencies that Target Senior Citizens May Best Meet Special Travel Needs,” Senior Citizen Travel & Vacation, September 10, 2007.
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