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Is the ageing population creating a new and fair tourism market?

Is the ageing population creating a new and fair tourism market?
Author: Elleanor Staley
1 Commentries
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 “the ageing travel market has to fulfil accessibility requirements before it can truly prosper” (Buhalis and Darcy, 2011:192). However, globalisation has brought forward a more accessible form of tourism with companies having to “rethink about how they will provide services to a different type and age of their clientele” (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 “industry wide acknowledgement” (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: “When I was a boy, it was so expensive to go abroad as it was a new phenomenon.” 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: “I would choose cruising now…because of the simplicity and ease of it” 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.
Is Tourism Fair for All?
Author: Remi Buckle
The title of this paper instantly caught my attention as I also conducted a paper regarding elderly tourists therefore I was interested to explore a different study perspective. Although my paper predominantly focuses on the negatives of International Retirement Migration, I think it is very important to address the importance of older tourists in today’s age as the market is highly underestimated in terms of significance within the tourism industry.

It was a strong opening explaining the reasons why retirees are living longer, predominantly due to enhanced healthcare and improved working conditions (Marmaris et al, 2010). It was interesting finding out that the recommended retirement age is still 65 years of age as the retirees who I interviewed for my study retired at a similar age and that was over 15 years ago. It was important that the researcher noted that retirees are heavily undervalued within tourism, especially as future generations will have an even longer life expectancy, therefore the market must be accommodated for now and in the future. A recent study has shown that those who wait to retire after the age of 65 may live longer as postponing retirement can delay the natural age-related decline in physical, cognitive and mental functioning thus reducing the risk of chronic illness (Wu et al, 2016).

I think the author’s decision to conduct an interview was an excellent idea as it creates a personal dimension to the paper. Moreover, it was valuable using unbiased questions as the reader is provided with a genuine overview of the subject in question. The findings from the interview represent that retired travellers have much more time to travel due to less commitments and there is also more choice available to elderly tourists as a result of the changing times. It was noted that the older tourist market are usually from the baby boomer era and companies have begun to notice that older tourists require more accessible products and services. In fact, the European Disability Forum (EDF) launched a campaign in 2011 named the “Freedom of Movement” this was a much-needed initiative to begin making tourist sites and transport more easily accessible for elderly and disabled tourists and by 2020, EDF want to achieve an age-friendly European Union to foster older people’s active participation in society (EDF, n.d).

It was interesting that the author’s participant believed that travelling had not become an obstacle due to aging but in fact thought that the tourism industry has adapted to suit elderly tourists’ needs. While the participant believes that there are no barriers within the elderly tourist market, other people may disagree. Therefore, I think it may have been beneficial to the study if the author was able to interview more participants to obtain more opinions on the subject. Overall, this is a superb paper and I agree that further research is necessary to establish ways of improving accessibility for elderly tourists.


Wu, C., Odden, M., C., Fisher, G., G., Stawski, R., S. (2016) Association of retirement age with mortality: A population-based longitudinal study among older alducts in the USA. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 70 (5)

Maimaris, W., Hogan, H. and Lock, K. (2010) The Impact of Working Beyond Traditional Retirement Ages on Mental Health: Implications for Public Health and Welfare Policy. Public Health Reviews, 32 (2) 532-546.

EDF. (n.d) Freedom of Movement: Our Campaign. [online] Available from http://www.edf-feph.org/Page_Generale.asp?DocID=13854&thebloc=27838 [Accessed 10th May 2016].