Is the Hotel & Travel Industry Ready to Serve Age 50+ Consumers?
By Neale Redington Partner, Deloitte | October 28, 2008
Imagine climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Impressive, right? Now, imagine climbing it at age 74.
In a recent New York Times article, it was reported that a 74 year old traveler spent the past several years on various adventure vacations, including climbing the 19,300 foot Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro and pitching a tent in a sandstorm in the Gobi Desert. She has also traveled to Mongolia, Madagascar and Peru in recent years and is planning trips to the Andes and Ethiopia.
Apparently, this age 74+ adventure enthusiast is not alone. Travel industry experts note that a growing number of older travelers are seeking out more active and adventurous destinations and that unlike previous generations of the elderly, they tend to be more fitness oriented and far more receptive to adventure travel. At least that's the finding of some of the new travel firms that now specialize in serving the age 55+ market.
What does this mean for the travel industry? Increasing longevity creates new economic opportunities in the near term. According to a U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey, consumers age 50+ have accumulated more wealth and have more spending power than any other age group in history. In addition, they spend more than $1.7 trillion on goods and services each year.
The current consumer market has seen a wave of campaigns focused on youth, with little attention paid to the aging buyer. Baby boomers in the US have long battled advertising and cultural stereotypes of aging that depict older Americans as frail, burdensome or disagreeable. However, we are undergoing a shift. Now, U.S. baby boomers are said to be focused on products, services, and information that speak to their search for healthy lifestyles, diet, exercise, comfort and image. Consequently this is reflected in their choices of travel destinations, hotel accommodations, and dining.
In addition to travel ventures like Elder Treks, mainstream companies such as Ford, Fidelity, Home Depot, the Gap, Disney, Saga are beginning to tap into the opportunities and changes that drive consumer choices in the aging baby boomer and age 50+ market. This means there are tremendous opportunities and economic imperatives to better serve this market. To profitably seize the opportunities, managers must understand how senior markets evolve and adapt products and service offerings along multiple dimensions to meet the needs of senior consumers.