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Senior Tourists -You are only as old as you feel!

Senior Tourists -You are only as old as you feel!
Author: Cindy Schmidt
2 Commentries
Abstract:

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The image of older people sitting on the front porch or playing 'bingo' is almost out-of-date; bearing in mind what senior citizens involve in their free time, seems to be not much different than to young(er) people.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.
Senior Tourism
Author: Lucy Blackburn
I have chosen to comment on this topic because it is very closely linked to the topic I chose for my paper.

It has a very well put together introduction explaining why this is a worthy topic to research, and how the stereotype of the older generation today is not the reality of what is actually happening, which matches up with what Saga (2009), a travel operator that offers deals only to those over 50, is trying to prove by stating that "32 per cent of people want to experience new cultures, 17 per cent are thrill-seekers on the lookout for adventure and seven per cent are keen on meeting new people." Also backing up the statement made about how "core motives of senior travel seem to be 'exploration and relaxation'. This also links with what is said in the paper about the older generation being more and more up to date, with things like technology and the internet, with interesting findings such as "37% of tourists aged between 55 and 74 years go online at least once a week for gathering information about holiday making (Eurostat, 2005)." Which is being taken into account by organisations such as Lonely Planet publications who offer on their website an 'older traveler' chat room, (Lonely Planet Publications, 2010), for older travelers to share their experiences.

However I would not agree with the statement about how "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 a lot of young people use the internet to book their holidays more independently than the older generation who are perhaps more familiar with travel agents and are more likely to stick to what they know as Ryan (1995) says about how "age is a predictor of familiarity". Especially if you look at a type of tourism such as backpacking, like I did in my paper, you can see how much the younger generation use the internet because the whole point of the travel is to be as Oppermann and Chon (1997) call them "pioneers of tourism development" and finding places that the travel agent don't offer.

Altogether it seems that the use of the internet is a growing activity for the older generation when it comes to exploring new destinations and booking holidays and that stereotypes should not always be relied upon especially when looking at the older generation as Gonzalez (2008) says they are often considered "dependent, weak, lonely and physically or mentally limited, when in fact in full possession of all their capabilities," meaning that they actually want to explore and travel and not just go to bingo.

Gonza┬┤lez, A, M, Rodrı┬┤guez, C, Miranda, M, R, and Cervantes, M. 2008, Cognitive age as a criterion explaining senior tourists' motivations. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research. 3(2) pp. 148-164.

Oppermann, M and Chon, K-S. (1997) Tourism in Developing Countries. London: Alden Press. Pp 154-155

Ryan, C. (1995) Researching Tourist Satisfaction: Issues, concepts, problems. London: Routledge. Pp 5
The Diverse 'senior' traveller
Author: Benjamin Dickinson
I've chosen to comment on this paper because of its close relationship with my own research with regards to the motivation of different groups of travellers. I found the point made with regards to information searching and the senior traveller very interesting.

The paper makes note that the older traveller makes and has plenty of time for research for travel purposes in reflection to the youth tourist whom it is noted relies on the use of a travel agent. However the paper does not provide clear definition of the age range increase and or decreases.

As noted by the author the population is ageing meaning that the market for older tourism products is much larger. It also means that the number of people classified as 'senior' or 'older' is much larger. Statistics show that the 16-24 and over 65's are more likely to not have a holiday than any other age group, suggesting that the number of people actually researching or using a travel agent is going to be particularly small anyway.

The 'baby-boomer' generation, is the generation that is not restricted by time nor money and the generation from which growth in demand has been experienced, these 'baby boomers' are retired but still have the means to travel and are the travellers that have motives of "exploration and relaxation" (Bokberger et al, 2008). There seems to be lack of focus between senior, elderly and retired travellers, of who are all classed as senior travellers, but represent diverse needs from tourism.

The statement with regards to travel choices being moulded by wealth and education rather than health is arguable. Naturally, health will always be a constraint and travel is not always possible in some medical circumstances. However moulding by wealth and education suggests that two compliment and work hand in hand with one another. But this would be incorrect in modern society, where by wealth is created through hard work and commitment rather than the academic background that a person has which is often further related to social class.

Wealth is always going to be a major factor and influence on a persons travel choice. Persons with limited budget, suggesting that these are pensioners, may not have the financial means to travel on a worldwide cruise. The worldwide cruise and the tailor-made itinerary are popular travel choices of the baby boomers, which do look for education and exploration experiences.

I agree with points made regarding how travel choices change through ones lifecycle. An area which i feel would be useful for more research to be conducted in would be the use of travel agents, of which has declined, because of the introduction and growth of the internet.

Bokberger, P & Leaser, C (2009) segmentation of the senior travel market by the means of travel motivations. Journal of vacation marketing, 15(4) 311-322.

Page, S and Connell, J (2006) Tourism, A Modern Synthesis. Thomson Press, London