At the time of completing this book (January–February 2020), the escalating spread of the coronavirus is having a devastating impact on global travel. This has particularly hit flights and cruise ships with trips canceled and whole regions on a quarantine “lock down.” It remains to be seen how this will affect travel and tourism industries around the world. However, having a clearer picture of the demographic profile and preferred travel options of an aging population will help to kick-start the industry as the crisis recedes.
One of the most respected organizations in the UK, Silver Travel Advisor, has 112,000 members who regularly view their website, plus thousands more who follow them on social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter [www.silvertraveladvisor.com]. They note that “Today’s 70-year old’s show little sign of slowing down.”
They have produced an annual Silver Travel Industry Report for five years now, based on survey responses from members—1200 for 2019 Report, 2500 for 2020 Report—including analysis of data from major players in the tourist industry. Although this provides a comprehensive picture of the mature travel market in the UK, it clearly has a broader impact as it highlights trends on a global scale.
Based on UK statistics, the 55+ age sector is the largest group of holidaymakers, making up 35 percent of overseas holidaymakers in 2018. This is the highest of any age group and 17 percent higher than the 25- to 34-year age group. In the United States, 48 percent of customers booking vacations and short trips are 51 to 70 years old, more than double the 20 percent in the 36 to 50 age group [USTOA]. However, note the later discussion about what different client groups are looking for and whether they plan trips independently rather than go via a tour operator. So this is a significant sector to consider when tour operators are deciding their marketing strategy for the future.
A recent survey by The Mail on Sunday is very revealing: £9 billion was spent by British travelers with an average trip expenditure of £3216 based on 3.5 trips a year. This is just the UK market, so, clearly, this is a growing potential market, and results are likely to be similar in other countries. In the United States, for example, $17 billion was spent on tourism in 2017 through 2018 [USTOA], baby boomers spending around 27 days a year on travel/vacation. By 2019, U.S. domestic travel increased by 2 percent to $2.29 billion and international travel by $79.6 million, representing a 3.5 percent increase over 2018.