This paper discusses the relationship between the ageing population and tourism. Retirees account for a high proportion of those who travel abroad, especially with regards to the increasing life expectancy of recent years. This paper will examine both the barriers to entry that these people face, but also the developments that ease access, through the use of primary and secondary research.
Ageing population, barriers, accessibility, restrictions, development, globalisation.
The growth of the ageing population is a phenomenon that has dramatically increased in recent years due to specialist health care and safer jobs, which have led to the decline in the mortality rate. Meaning this increasing global share of older people indicates that people are simply living longer. This is beneficial for the tourism sector, with the recommended retirement age falling at 65 years old (GOV UK 2016) meaning there are many more years of life left in people because they are living longer.
Capella and Greco (1987) backed this idea with their research on 65 and overs taking a vacation at least once a year; a number which has steadily increased since then. Even though the growth of older people; categorised as 60 years and above, has gone from 9.2% in 1990 to 11.7% in 2013 and is estimated to reach 21.1% of the total population by 2050 (United Nations, 2013) this market is still undervalued in terms of importance by the tourism industry due to its complex nature.
Dominating markets such as cruise travel have made it easier for older travellers due to the ease of the travelling process but â€œthe ageing travel market has to fulfil accessibility requirements before it can truly prosperâ€ (Buhalis and Darcy, 2011:192). However, globalisation has brought forward a more accessible form of tourism with companies having to â€œrethink about how they will provide services to a different type and age of their clienteleâ€ (Buhalis and Darcy: 2011:174).
Alongside this, there are hundreds of new destinations now accessible by easier means, which were not heard of when these people were younger (Grant, 2007). Therefore, the appeal to these customers to go on cruises or specialist travel to interact with new environments offers a more personal experience to them. This is through the idea that they have grown up seeing these places be discovered and thus having an attachment to them. Therefore, the idea that they would not be able to travel to these locations due to their age and the restrictions that come with this, would be highly unfair in this technologically advanced society.
An interview was conducted with a retired man who was found to travel frequently. The objectives of this research was to examine and understand the personal relationship that an older person felt about travel, and by using their experiences try and find a link or contrast with the secondary research already conducted. The questions focused on being unbiased to gain insight into both sides of accessibility.
The participant felt they had more time to travel and explore since retiring because there was more time available to them. There was an increase in how many holidays that they took in a year from after they retired. The secondary research presented ideas that there were less barriers to travel for older populations making it easier for them to go abroad than it was in previous years. Buhalis and Darcy (2011) found there to be a new market to tourism with this baby boomer era and therefore companies had already changed their products and services to cater to these needs. This â€œindustry wide acknowledgementâ€ (Buhalis and Darcy, 2011) means companies are creating experiences designed with the older person in mind to make travel easier and more accessible for all. The participant found there was more on offer to them now as an older traveller, than when they were younger due to the changing times. Participant: â€œWhen I was a boy, it was so expensive to go abroad as it was a new phenomenon.â€ But now this change to everyone going on holiday means companies have to adapt to make it accessible and fair to all.
The findings matched the research question as the participant felt that travelling had not changed or become an obstacle just because they got older. The travel market adapted and grew alongside them, participant: â€œI would choose cruising nowâ€¦because of the simplicity and ease of itâ€ presenting its ease of accessibility for older generations.
In conclusion, there are ongoing issues with barriers within tourism, especially in terms of disability and mobility with older people. These issues with accessibility make it harder for all to be able to enjoy the same experiences. However, the importance of how vital it is for tourism to be accessible for all is something which is becoming well known in this industry, and development is occurring from this. The older generation provides a high global share of the population and with younger retiring ages, the tourism industry has a great opportunity to grow further into new markets. However, though these developments are in place, there needs to be further research into the needs and demands of older people in order to appeal to and satisfy such a diverse market.
Buhalis, D. and Darcy, S. (2011) Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues. Channel View Publications.
Buhalis, D., Darcy, S. and Ambrose, I. (2012) Best practice in Accessible Tourism: Inclusion, Disability, Ageing Population and Tourism. Channel View Publications.
Grant, B. (2007) Searching for satisfaction. Australasian Leisure Management, 62, 30, 32.