The purpose of this article is to show that there is an emerging market of an older population. Furthermore it will be considered how senior tourists seek for information on the Internet and whether there is a correlation between education, information seeking and choice of destination.
Key words: Senior tourist, Internet, education
The emergence of a constantly growing older generation is not a new phenomenon in the world's society and has therefore an impact on the tourism industry. Many older people over 55 years are more likely to travel around the world than ever before. It was revealed that people over 60 years feel at least 10 years younger and they are shifting towards more active pursuits with a strong focus on health and fitness (Hornemann et al., 2002, cited in Bokberger and Leasser, 2008, p. 313). They are not only physically on top form but also mentally fit.
The image of older people sitting on the front porch or playing 'bingo' is almost out-of-date; bearing in mind what senior citizens involve in their free time, seems to be not much different than to young(er) people. After World War II there was an ongoing rise in life expectancy because of a better health system, economic wealth, social security and in general better life circumstances. The older generation and therefore potential tourists become an ever-growing economic sector. They are dynamic and want to see the world and are not only travelling within the country but also to far away destinations around the world. Moreover, core motives of senior travel seem to be 'exploration and relaxation' (Bokberger and Leasser, 2008, p. 321).
To gather information about a destination it is important to know that many senior tourists are up-to-date and use the Internet. Although not all of the elderly people know how to use the Internet, in 2005 37% of tourists aged between 55 and 74 years go online at least once a week for gathering information about holiday making (Eurostat, 2005). It will be interesting to see how this number of percentage will increase over the years. Remarkably, in a study of Luo et al. (2005) there was no significant difference about information seeking between senior and non-senior tourists concerning the Internet. One would have assumed that there would be a greater difference on how younger and older people search for information. However, tourists under the age of 50 are even more likely to get information from travel agencies as opposed to tourists who are older. It could be argued that senior citizens have more free time to actually browse the Internet and search for information compared to younger people who are still working all day and enjoy giving over all the responsibility to a travel agency to get all the information about a destination.
As mentioned in the beginning, there seems to be a correlation between education, information seeking and choice of destination. Senior tourists, who are more educated or had high professional positions, are more likely to travel to more far away destinations. These senior tourists are also more engaged in a detailed information search, before making a purchase decision. Using therefore the Internet seems to be a trend for older people, who are also called 'silver surfers'. In contrast, older people with less education find publications and direct mails helpful to get informed and do not use the Internet. Does that mean you are more interested in a destination when you are more educated or can sophisticated senior tourists simply afford an Internet access? Unfortunately, research has lacked to look into that kind of area into more detail. However, it gives the impression that travelling, for senior tourists, is not really a matter of health but rather a matter of wealth and education. Presumably, there will be many senior tourists with little aches and pains but that will not deter them from travelling since it was shown that this age group is surprisingly active and dynamic.
Taking everything into account, the assumption, of senior tourists travelling even more in the future, can be made. Their travel patterns will probably change because their experience in travelling will increase over the years. For the older generation the Internet will then be considered as a normal tool for seeking information because the following generation will be familiar with it and future developments in technology will probably play a greater role for older people as well. It will be interesting to see how the correlation between senior tourists, their information search behavior and their destination choice will change or if the statements, as mentioned in previous sections, will still be relevant. However, senior tourists should not be underestimated in being up-to-date since this paper has emphasized the saying you are only as old as you feel.
Boksberger, P. E. and Leasser, C. (2009) Segmentation of the senior travel market by the means of travel motivations. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 15 (4), pp. 311-322.
Eurostat, (2005) Community survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals [online]. Available from: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/ (Accessed: 23 April 2010).
Luo, M., Feng, R., Cai, L. A. (2005) Information Search Behavior and Tourist Characteristics. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 17 (2), pp. 15-25.