PART 4

Strategies

You cannot lump them all together as one target consumer

If research shows that mature travelers, whether 50+, 60+, or 70+, do not recognize themselves in advertisements, this must be a starting point for providers to consider. An interesting point made by Debbie Marshall, director of Silver Travel Advisor, is that most marketing campaigns aimed at 50+ are produced by those in their 30s. Feedback from many sources highlights the widening range of activities that mature travelers across all age groups are seeking. There may indeed be continuing demand for trips associated with mature sectors, such as ocean cruising and city breaks, but this target sector is much more IT savvy than was the case even five years ago. They want to be inspired and are looking for something new.

Given the significance of travel and tourism to all countries worldwide, there has to be some form of strategic plan to make the most of all the existing and emerging opportunities for reaching and retaining potential travelers. While 2020 presents huge challenges for tourism globally, the situation with COVID-19 will eventually change.

Taking one country as an example, the strategic decision by Mexico to close 17 of its 21 Tourism Board offices around the world is an interesting discussion point. Whatever the result of this for Mexico in the future, it does open up a real opportunity for tour operators, travel agents, and a wide range of private travel marketing companies to take up where the Mexican tourist board left off. We have already seen how Mexico is a growing market, gradually moving up the various lists of places visited or being explored as a possible destination, so it is a significant course of action to monitor over the next few years.

While it raises many questions for the outside observer, there was an important reason behind this decision. Mexico’s stated motive (US Travel Association 2019) is to use the substantial $300 million saved in order to develop a rail link along the Mayan Peninsula, which is intended to promote tourism and economic growth in more rural and less developed areas of the Yucatán Peninsula. Given our discussions earlier about the need to find more travel destinations that will ease the pressure on the popular bucket list destinations around the world, and indeed to promote rail travel rather than air, this could well be a positive strategy for the mature travel sector.

For the United States, there are several issues related to losing market share that need a strategic approach in the coming years in order to raise their competitive edge. The decline in numbers of inbound tourists from Germany, Japan, China, and Canada needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Even if there is no decline in numbers at present, competition is growing from newer tourist attractions and those that take a positive approach to the trends identified.

There is so much data available on motivations of travelers to the United States, where they want to visit when they get there, and the overall content of their trip, which can inform new approaches to making the United States an attractive destination again. The same is true for all nations where tourism is a large part of their economic growth.

Data Collection and Collation

We have seen some detailed large-scale survey results already, from information and review sites, providers of products or services, and organizations that collect and disseminate data within the tourism industry. While providers will have their own sources of data, including input from their existing client base, there are clearly many more routes to gaining relevant data to support strategic decision-making.

The latest survey from DMA, Consumer Email Tracker 2020, provides some insights into habits of older users compared with those of younger age groups (DMA 2020). For instance, they found that e-mail is still the best way to attract and engage with customers in the 45+ to 65+ age groups.

The majority check their inbox at least once a day, 62 percent of those in the 55 to 64 age group confirm they do so, and 74 percent of the 65+ age group state they check daily. The majority use Gmail as their personal address and also prefer to use their PC rather than a mobile device to read their e-mail messages (Table 41).

Table 41 Preference to view e-mails on PC

Age group (years)% who prefer to use PC
45–5448
55–6461
65+73

The recent introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that states how personal information can be stored or used by providers of products or services, and the requirement for individuals to opt in or out of use of their data by brands, has not made this age group feel more confident. Less than half of survey respondents aged 55+ felt more confident about how their data is used now GDPR is in place, but more than a third said they were still unsure about how a brand had gained knowledge of their personal e-mail address.

DMA suggests that brand marketers need to make it clearer, and perhaps more explicit, what the opt in/opt out requirement actually means in practice. It would help to ensure any marketing e-mails received were seen as personal to them rather than just random advertising. The full report makes interesting reading with more detail about the effective use of e-mail marketing. It can be accessed via their website (DMA 2020).

EyeforTravel is one of many websites that discusses collecting and collating data to get a clearer picture of what potential customers actually want. In particular, it includes insights into how you can track users across all their devices they might use to research sites and even to track usage across different parts of your own business where there may be multiple or portfolio options that cover relevant material to their search. They stress the importance of personalizing messages and looking at geographic differences in booking patterns whether related to time of year, advance planning for specific events (such as the Rugby World Cup in Japan 2019—see later discussion), school or work shutdowns (EyeforTravel 2020).

ADARA is an example of a number of firms that provide Predictive Traveler Intelligence, in this case based on data provided by over 200 travel industry partners. Their approach is explained in detail in their recent publication “Travel Marketing Strategies: 18 Strategies for Conquering 5 Key Travel Marketing Goals.” While the intention is not to reproduce the whole report here—it can be found via their website of course—there are some critical elements that support the development of strategies based on our findings discussed so far (ADARA 2019).

Their approach is intended to help those responsible for marketing their travel services by using relevant data to understand patterns, trends, and behaviors of customers. We have already identified some patterns and trends within the target sector of mature travelers, but these are generalized across geographic borders and different data sources. The ADARA report provides a valuable starting point for anyone involved in developing marketing strategies for their travel organization.

ADARA’s definitions and categories of buyers are a useful starting point for deciding where these fit within a strategic marketing plan. Their categories are based on travel intentions, buyer characteristics, a profile of what they have booked before, and a closer breakdown of their shopping profile to help classify group tendencies. The information is assumed to be available through your existing online statistics, although, as with any research to identify trends, it may involve interpretation and evaluation of the data.

Travel intentions can be based on visitors to your site, such as:

someone who has recently searched for or booked a trip with you,

those who have already booked and are due to depart within the next one to three months, and

those who are already at their destination and recently booked an extra trip or activity while there.

Buyer characteristics are drawn from data for:

Travelers who were looking for luxury, top-end breaks where content is more important than the price

Bargain hunters who want a good deal, a value for money break—it may be that they want to take more trips during the year so want to spread the available funds further

The last-minute traveler, sometimes booking business trips, where price is not the primary concern

Profile based on the type of trip they have booked before, such as:

Leisure travel breaks

Business trips to a range of destinations

Whether they previously chose International or domestic breaks/vacations

Whether they booked luxury trips at the top end of price range or went for budget packages

If they traveled as a family group, as a solo traveler, or as a couple

Choosing and booking last-minute trips purely for leisure

Further segmentation can help to identify “look-alikes”—those who fit the profile of others to narrow down individual options and identify target groups:

multibrand shoppers who use a range of different channels to research and book a trip

those who have shown they are willing to buy an upgrade as part of their package, when they book, if offered the option to do so

those who choose a package at the luxury end and are prepared to upgrade part of the booking at a later stage

customers who wait until they have arrived at the destination before considering making an additional booking

shoppers who are loyal to a brand—they have an affinity with a certain brand and tend to be loyal to it when making their purchasing decision

As you can see, such market data (specific to your customer base) provides a detailed picture that will help define ways to reach the key travel goals you have identified. In particular, the data helps to focus on the segments that are likely to produce the greatest return on your marketing activity.

From ADARA’s research, they have identified the following “Five Key Travel Marketing Goals”:

Brand awareness

Customer engagement

Acquiring new customers

Direct booking conversions

Ancillary revenue

It does not matter which order you place these goals in as they are obviously linked to each other and are just as relevant if placed as a continuous circle. What they do require is detailed analysis of existing customers and traffic to your website and social media platforms, which is not such an easy task in reality.

As we have seen in earlier discussions, it is not enough to rely on consistent loyalty from customers. If the “Think with Google” survey results show anything valuable in this context, it is that fewer than 10 percent of U.S. travelers know which brand they will ultimately book with until they have done some wider research. Even with Elite Loyalty Program membership, more than two-thirds would pick a different hotel if it is available at a better price, and two-thirds of members of air loyalty programs would choose a different airline if the route, timing, and price were better.

The segmentation elements listed above demonstrate that brand promotion may need to be more focused and targeted toward selected groupings. This is important for existing customers as well as potential new ones, and as mentioned previously our mature target sector is extremely varied in profile. As with all marketing activity, one approach will not necessarily fit everyone you are trying to reach.

Customer engagement is an interesting point that needs further analysis. Current research results have shown more contradictions here than on any other subject. The ADARA report (from 200 travel industry partners) says 87 percent of customers wanted more personalization in communications and campaigns but only 64 percent said they got it. This report does not differentiate between age groups and so may not reflect the position for the mature sector.

The Buying Habits survey (ATTEST 2019) noted that 79 percent of millennials found personalization acceptable but 44 percent of baby boomers did not. For it to be a successful part of the strategy, the background data has to be reliable and of sufficient depth to really help distinguish the customer profile.

Attracting new customers is always a key goal, particularly as brand loyalty is not an absolute long-term concept, as is converting those who have shown an interest but not completed a booking. Again, the ADARA approach is a useful one, thinking about repeat buyers, “look-alikes” with similar buying patterns, and reaching out to prospective new customers (Table 42).

Table 42 Key goals, target groups, and ways to reach them

Key goalTarget groupWays to reach them
Increase booking conversionsIn-market, who have recently searched or booked onlineWebsite/e-mail/app/social media/direct mail
Fill unsold inventoryPrevious last-minute leisure
Bookers/in-market group
E-mail/app
Increase off-season bookingsPeak season non-bookers with off-season offersSocial media
Increase bookingsDirect bookers—leisure and businessWebsite/e-mail/app/social media
Attract new customers In-market/according to value score system—non- bookersWebsite/email/social media
Retarget those who abandoned the booking pathDirect bookers/according to value score system that shows high likelihood of bookingWebsite/e-mail/social media/direct mail

While this reflects standard marketing practice, it is vital to stress the importance of appropriate, detailed data collection in order to produce a clearer picture of different segments within the potential customer base.

ADARA produces a wide range of statistical reports and more detailed case studies that illustrate the practical application of their research findings. One that is relevant to this discussion is the following case study of travel insights into the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.

Case Study: ADARA Report—Rugby World Cup Fan Travel Insights 2019

This is a fascinating look at travel planning and booking actions related to a specific global eventthe Rugby World Cup held in Japan from September 20 to November 2, 2019. It focuses on inbound flight bookings that include a minimum stay of five days during the event or at least two days afterward. The main nations they (ADARA) identified as popular rugby supporters for this study were:

Australia and New Zealand

UK, Ireland, Italy, France

Canada

Argentina, Uruguay

South Africa

Over the period of the event, travelers from these countries made up between 5 and 20 percent of inbound visitors, rising to over 30 percent once play started on September 20 and approximately 40 percent just before the November 2 final. It is fascinating to see in Table 43 the percentage rise in visitor numbers to Japan (compared with the year before) related to country of origin, especially from Ireland!

Table 43 Percentage rise in visitors to Japan for Rugby World Cup based on country of origin

September 2019% riseOctober 2019% rise
Australia32.248.4
UK37.263.5
Canada41.955.7
Ireland293.3394.3

Around 40 percent of visitors booked between October 2018 and August 2019, early but not cheaper and actually spent more on airfare than those who booked nearer the time. However, 22 percent of these did stay for longer—for at least 21 days. Nearly half of visitors during this event, 47.8 percent, did not book until September 2019, just before the start of play, and 17.8 percent stayed for more than 21 days.

Those from Europe were more likely to visit as couples, but for those from Australia and New Zealand it was more likely to be as groups of three or more; 40 percent of those from Europe booked business or first class air travel and therefore spent much more on their air fare at an average of $2,356. Those from Australia and New Zealand, in closer proximity to the host country, spent on average $1,619, with 13.6 percent of them traveling business or first class by air, and those from other countries spent on average $1,359, with 9.3 percent of them booking business or first class flights. Note that they all spent more on fares than the usual average cost from their home country to Japan.

As a marketing consideration, it gave an opportunity to target offers related to a specific event of interest globally. Although these figures do not relate to age group of travelers, there would certainly be a mix of ages attending given the costs involved and timescales that those in full-time work would have to consider.

Barriers and Concerns to Address

Discussions so far have focused on identifying and defining the mature travel sector, looking at historical information to produce a customer profile that will support strategic marketing decisions. Their buying habits and preferred options for deciding what sort of trip they want, as well as where they might gain inspiration to try new brands, are a critical element of their final booking.

Before moving on to the discussion of further strategic options, it is necessary to look more closely at what the barriers are to the customer deciding to book a trip and the concerns they already have that might make them hesitate to go ahead and book with confidence.

Concerns

Concerns about the choice of destination persist. ATOL protection is higher on the list of concerns for UK travelers over the last three years, particularly with unknown changes following the Brexit agreement and withdrawal from membership of the EU (Silver Travel Advisor 2020). Travelers are worried about the increasing instability of travel providers, whether these are hotel chains, tour operators, or airlines—a major issue at the time of writing as the impact of COVID-19 travel bans become apparent. Some destinations are considered less safe at a personal level (crime, violence, political unrest), an issue regularly referred to by the more mature travelers. It is considered to be easier, and safer, to join a group or organized trip than book elements independently, so this may well have an impact on the growth of sites such as Expedia or Booking.com for this sector though not necessarily for younger age groups.

Customer Reviews

A closer look at the thousands of reviews posted on the Silver Travel Advisor website highlights the most common elements mature readers look out for from reviews of accommodation, travel, and package tours.

Reception and public areas, the first impression that a visitor gets on arrival, are a regular feature of what the mature customer is concerned about. Viewers of these reviews want to know whether the reception and check-in area is inviting—what are the first impressions? Is it a comfortable area to sit in and relax or is it draughty, small, and cramped or too dark?

A regular complaint about accommodation is that there is no lounge area separate from the music and entertainment areas, so conversation is impossible. Free Wi-Fi that can cope with the volume of guests on site is now expected by visitors globally, and one of the biggest issues is being charged for the service in the guest room with it only free in a public area. As the use of so many devices is now the norm across all age groups, this is increasingly a major concern for guests.

Lifts and stairs need to be accessible for those with large pieces of luggage or mobility aids, although it is important not to assume that “mature” means they automatically have disability or mobility issues as clearly this applies to all age groups.

Bathroom facilities are relevant irrespective of age group, so the main issue that arises is whether they are clean and that everything works. In the author’s experience, poor water pressure, toilets that do not flush properly, or an immovable shower head seems to be a common occurrence!

Reviews regularly feature issues about noise between rooms, whether natural sounds such as snoring or other guests having the television on too loud late at night. Noisy plumbing systems are also mentioned frequently.

Noise outside the accommodation such as traffic or building works, which the hotel may not be able to control, is often cited as an issue. Noise inside the building, such as guest or staff room doors banging shut because no soft closures are fitted, is something that guests expect to be within the control of the accommodation provider.

They all sound like lots of small things, but they are the features that regularly appear and therefore present a negative review. The point is whether any senior staff member has ever stayed in one of their standard rooms overnight in order to appreciate why this feedback is important.

As each country or tour operator has their own criteria for allocating a star rating, it becomes more difficult for the customer to know what to expect and it potentially leads to negative feedback. Location is critical for any traveler, and the first impression basically confirms (or not) that it is where the provider said it was, whether in relation to town centers, travel links, or popular attractions. Comments are regularly based on transport links, particularly public transport in the home country if not traveling overseas, and transfer times from the port, airport, or rail station to the final destination.

Safety outside a resort, accommodation, or venue is important whatever the age group, but the issue is regularly raised in reviews. Whether city or rural locations, as mature travelers increasingly like to explore new places using public transport as well as on foot, it is inevitable that feeling wary of surroundings will add to negative review scores. This is not necessarily in the control of tour operators or service providers, but certainly local authorities do have to take it seriously as part of their tourism strategy.

Example

The main city areas in Malta are generally clean and tidy. However, St Paul’s Bay is often dirty with trash collections ineffective. This has been more noticeable over the last three years. It makes it feel less safe though this is not necessarily the case, but it has been a real issue in many reviews even with travelers who have been visitors to the islands for many years.

It is important that people feel their views are taken on board by the service providers, yet experience suggests there is often a standard response from them saying “thank you for your positive feedback” even though it was anything but positive. Clearly the volume of responses from customers can be considerable, but it is a significant element of customer satisfaction.

Barriers

In the Solo Traveler World survey, “Reach the Solo Traveler”, they found that 60 percent of adults who went on holiday alone in the last five years said they do not feel catered for. In both this survey (Solo Traveler World 2019) and that of Silver Travel Advisor, 52 percent of solo travelers said they were interested in an escorted tour and feel it is therefore safer and easier to see places that they would not travel to on their own.

The biggest barrier or negative issue facing solo travelers is the single supplement. Over half are put off booking because of the level of single supplement, and 69 percent said that the most important feature of trips they did book was that there was no supplement charged. Feedback from many sources suggests that they prefer to book a double room for single occupancy if possible as accommodation designated as single room is generally the worst in the hotel but may cost almost as much as a room for two people. When the choice is offered for a solo traveler to consider sharing, more than 77 percent said they would never share a room even with a same-sex person.

Supplement free is clearly the significant factor in making the final choice of where to go. Several cruise companies, such as Fred Olsen, have designated 10 percent of their cabins on certain liners for single use and Travelzoo features several partners who offer supplement-free trips.

Recent surveys also show that the new super-sized liners are not as attractive to many long-term cruise fans as was originally thought. Another issue associated with ocean cruising is additional costs on board (cited by 17 percent in Silver Travel Report 2020), whether these are transparent during the booking stage or not.

For those with mobility restrictions, 33 percent say transfer to and from airports and 25 percent say the airport itself presents difficulties, plus 20 percent cited access to attractions or events. For coach travel, the mature traveler is looking for smaller groups, more comfortable coaches, and therefore more at the luxury end of the coach travel market.

One of the biggest challenges for the mature traveler is the cost, or even availability, of travel insurance. Many providers finish standard insurance cover once you reach the age of 70; some providers in the UK have extended this to 80 years without additional cost (Barclays Bank plc current account Travel Plan, for example), but the biggest concern is about a declared existing condition.

Examples stated by survey respondents include the fact that because they have reached the birthday limit, they are now considered a bigger risk than they were the day before and insurance premiums went from £100 to £350! Many quotes refer to the “don’t care” attitude of the travel industry and insurance providers, particularly where a long-term condition has been successfully managed for many years by standard medication—blood pressure or angina, for instance (Silver Travel Advisor 2020).

Given the demographic profiles at the beginning of this book, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. After all, this mature group is considered to be the one with high-level disposable income to spend on vacations and a keenness to travel and explore new places. For example, the Industry Report 2020 notes the range of quotes requested for insurance cover for 65+ include dogsledding, storm chasing, hang gliding, potholing, and heli-skiing. Interesting when you consider this alongside the earlier reference to most of the 60+ age group not recognizing themselves in adverts aimed at them.

Strategies

There are particular criteria that define the mature travel market and, as we have seen, particular elements of their demographic profile that differentiate between the 50+, 60+, 70+ age groups as well as lifestyle and travel preferences.

It would seem that segmentation is important, making sure there are hotels and accommodation facilities that meet the individual and group requirements. As we have seen already, it is vital that the potential customer feels comfortable with the persona presented by the company and that the company knows what they are looking for.

Rocky Mountaineer, the luxury train experience in Canada, recently carried out research to identify traveler profiles and find out what guests wanted from the onboard experience.

Around a third of guests (31 percent) identified with the “relaxed vacationer” persona of this luxury service. The majority of guests, 79 percent, agreed they read the onboard Milepost newspaper and 83 percent took it home with them (whether they had read it or not). A more significant finding for the company is that 68 percent felt that a digital app with real-time map and information would add to the whole onboard experience (Rocky Mountaineer 2020).

This persona of the brand can be further extended to reflect the characteristics of the region and tap into the perceptions of the visitor, whether real or imagined. This might be offering a stay in an historic chateau, castle, or manor house for customers seeking the romantic ideal. To the west of the UK, Wales has traditionally built tourism around ancient myths and legends, heroic princes and ruined castles, and the mystical atmosphere associated with mountains, lakes, and a rugged coastline. Each region around the world has its own persona or characteristics associated with it. To extend the reach and scope of future travel destinations for the mature sector, more specific marketing activities that link these elements of characteristics and persona with a new focus will, perhaps, be needed.

The reference to the persona of the brand, how the firm chooses to portray itself as someone the customer can relate to, is found in other examples. Amrita Gurney of CrowdRiff, for instance, discusses adding visual content to online marketing campaigns, particularly the importance of visual content that reflects the persona of the company, what they want to portray, and the different routes to reach the target customer. Several examples are quoted, including a clear rise of 28 percent in follow-through by visitors to a site when it changed the proportion of images from only using their own to a mix with user-generated images (UGIs).

UGIs have become more powerful as viewers are looking for examples of the “real” destination rather than what they see as more formal marketing images. While your own generated images are owned and controlled by you, high resolution and to your own specifications that can incorporate professionally made video material, there is often an impression that photographs produced by users of the facilities give a more realistic picture of what to expect.

Some interesting examples from CrowdRiff include a competition on social media for visitors to upload images of places not usually on the tourist trail of a city, a selection were chosen to go into a small booklet which then became so popular they had to repeat the competition and went on to publish many more copies. The result was that all places featured in the booklet saw an increase in visitors. Another example of a Visit Canada campaign, aimed at attracting U.S. tourists, used UGIs to produce a short video that resulted in an unprecedented increase in views of the site. Their latest article online discusses how to measure the impact of the visuals you choose to use in marketing campaigns (Gurney 2020).

We have seen how the use of UGI has grown in importance for those still at the planning stage. Although just outside our target age group, 72 percent of U.S. millennials refer to UGI to help them plan the content of their trip, so as they form the basis for future mature travel, it is an element that is likely to continue to grow.

Wish Trip Enterprise—a tourism experience management company based in Israel—has some valid points about brand and image management. They start from the premise that “Travelers are looking for unique experiences not necessarily pre-packaged deals,” although as we have seen this may not necessarily be true for every part of the target mature sector.

As with CrowdRiff, they say that it is important for the brand to be associated with UGIs rather than standard marketing material. They stress that “emotional connection between destinations, visitors and others seeing the content” is then stronger. They have found that consistent branding can increase revenue by up to 23 percent, particularly if it includes as much in-destination content as possible (Hein 2020).

Wish Trip is also keen to encourage providing visitors with “digital trails” to follow on phone or the web, often including GPS navigation. They note that pdf downloads of map and trails are not necessarily useful for younger people who “don’t know how to read a map!” Interesting to see how this would be received by the mature traveler who is more likely to be map-savvy. They have a tourism experience management platform which they say will help tour operators and providers track activities and demographic profiles of customers.

Some successful strategies already in place include tying trips in with significant dates during the year. World Cup (football or rugby) and other international sports events such as the Olympics have always seen a surge in demand for supporters to travel further afield. Japan was particularly positive about their role as host in 2019, for instance. In 2021, we recognize it is 120 years since the Commonwealth of Australia was formed and 245 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, United States.

Each year there are celebrations worldwide that can inspire the traveler to consider destinations they might not otherwise travel to (Titan Travel 2019–2020). The following list is just a small sample of celebrations or events that can be an added incentive for a prospective traveler to search online and go on to make a booking:

The Mardi Gras in New Orleans, United States, in February

The colorful Hindu festival of Holi in India in March

Stunning displays of tulips in the Netherlands in April

The Inca Festival of the Sun in Peru, South America, in June

The exciting Calgary Stampede in Canada in July

Being part of the grape harvest in Douro Valley, Portugal, in September

Whale watching off the coast of South Africa in October

Summary

As we have seen, booking any form of travel or package is a complex process for the customer who has so many variables to consider before making a final choice. Unlike anyone using an online platform to buy a specific product, it is not so straightforward to compare, say, dimensions or properties of a product such as a dishwasher in the same way as you would an overseas trip for a solo or mature couple traveler. If the typical time scale for starting to research and book a vacation is three to six months, as noted in the ATTEST Travel Report (Attest 2019), this is generally not an impulse buy.

The ATTEST Travel Report 2019 covers a wider demographic, but it also identifies significant points that need to inform any future strategy. The main findings for the 55+ age group are that they are less concerned about the stated star rating for accommodation or a package tour, preferring to make their choice based on reviews and images, but social media had the least impact on their final decision to make a booking. The point was also made that bed and breakfast or all-inclusive packages are the preferred option, a smaller proportion preferring self-catering facilities, but across all age groups in the survey the vast majority were not interested in booking half board or full board packages without access to drinks and snacks included in the price. This is a growing shift in booking preferences and will have an impact on development of future offerings to the client sector.

Some of the main points that have emerged from our analysis include the “obvious” ones to those already in marketing professions. However, the analysis also highlights more recent changes in customer buying habits of the mature traveler that should be part of future strategic decisions. The main points include:

Be specific about who the target actually is. This may be by age group, but this must be broader than a category of 50+, 60+, or 70+. There are more specific criteria that better reflect the potential customer.

What is the best route to reach them? We have already seen that e-mail is still a favorite method and various social media platforms a growing avenue to find out about new brands. This is particularly important at the planning stage and also to reinforce their views about the various options they are considering.

Hard copy continues to be an effective way to reach customers and has a longer shelf life. It is potentially more expensive to produce but serves as a reminder to the potential customer of what is available when they are still at the research and planning stage.

As travel agents continue to be the preferred choice for booking a package or more complicated set of requirements, clearly hard copy continues to be a vital element for them to showcase options.

It is interesting that different surveys have found the mature traveler is really not impressed by celebrity endorsement! While younger groups are avid followers of celebrity endorsements on social media, it is vital that it is not assumed to be worth the spend for the mature target group. As before, personal safety and security is a critical issue for all travel agents and tour operators to consider.

Overtourism

Overtourism is increasingly an issue the travel sector must take on board in future marketing strategies. Already the most popular destinations, including Venice, Barcelona, and Maya Bay in Thailand, are either closing to large-scale cruise or package tours or restricting visitor numbers so the tourist sector must take care of how they offer such options.

City breaks are consistently seen as a favorite option for the mature traveler, but these major city attractions, and many other European destinations, are now suffering significant problems with the supporting infrastructure. The impact of high volumes of tourists on local residents, particularly numbers of short-term visitors when a cruise ship docks for just a day, cannot be ignored.

The list of the most visited monuments in the world in 2019 (K. Buchholz, statista.com) included The Forbidden City in Beijing, China, in first place followed by Versailles Palace in France and the Taj Mahal in India, although it was noted that waiting times for these attractions run into many hours. The National Mall in Washington DC is a regular feature of “most visited” lists as are the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Even rural areas are suffering from overtourism, seeing a continuous stream of walkers on long-distance designated paths or the exposed ridges along the top of hills and mountains, all showing clear signs of erosion and damage requiring constant maintenance and repair.

It does require a concerted effort by tour operators and service providers to ensure such places can continue to be enjoyed by tourists from around the world without destroying them in the process. For the 60+ mature traveler, the most popular attractions may not necessarily represent a problem as they are seeking new and different places to visit. As a target sector, finding new locations is, therefore, a significant opportunity.

Ecotourism

There is a growing movement among tourists and tour operators to show how tourism is benefiting local communities visited. This is a positive element for tour operators who include content that draws on skills of the local people, helps their local charities, and uses local guides wherever possible (Titan Travel 2019–2020). The ABTA report also found 50 percent of respondents thought the green credentials of the provider important or essential when choosing their trip, and 62 percent specifically wanted travel companies to ensure the visit helps local people and their economy (ABTA 2019).

This eco-friendly factor is not just a Western issue but something visitors to Asia, Africa, South America, and the Far East are asking about. Train travel is a good example of choice made on the basis of environmental impact—“train bragging” the journey not the destination (Condé Nast)—but is also a more leisurely way to explore a new destination. Slower travel means more time to connect and spend money with the local community and businesses. The train is a greener option than air travel, of course, with electric trains showing even lower CO2 emissions.

Sustainable travel is high on the agenda for both travelers and providers within the tourism sectors. Globally, those in the mature age groups are taking more vacations, trips are perhaps more varied than previously, and whichever country of origin, people are spending more money. The crucial trend into the future is sustainability—a difficult issue when considering air travel, although airlines are searching for lower emissions through new technologies.

The various elements of “sustainability” must include reference to the environmental, social, and economic impact, with 87 percent of tourists preferring brands that demonstrate their commitment to a sustainable approach (J.W. Thomson [Condé Nast 2019]). For instance, G Adventures shows “ripple scores” that represent the proportion of the tour’s spend that stays in the destination. ABTA’s 2019 campaign “Make Holidays Greener” involves commitment to waste management through Reduce–Reuse–Recycle.

The industry is trying its best to counteract some of the negative elements of worldwide travel, although this may seem to be at a more superficial level, such as reducing use of single-use plastics, using compostable packaging where possible, and encouraging individuals to reduce their own throw-away habits. However, this must be seen against the backdrop of overtourism we have already seen in earlier sections.

In the first two decades of the 21st century, the focus on environmental protection is a growing concern for the public and for the tourist industry as a whole. Air travel remains a concern, but destinations are increasingly stressing the measures they take to be eco-friendly as this appears regularly as an issue when making the final holiday choice.

While luxury-end providers can ensure their accommodation uses energy-efficient equipment and they can show they care about the use of natural resources (such as Maxx Royal Resorts in Turkey that feature this in their advertising campaigns [Condé Nast 2019]), this is not always the case at economy-level resorts and accommodation. It must be a significant element of any future strategy at a global level.

Responsible tourism is becoming the mantra worldwide and must be acknowledged by all sectors. Demand is increasing, this demographic of 50+ age group is clearly expanding as is their desire, and ability, to visit the attractions on their “bucket list.” Less likely to be in full-time work (although around half a million over 60 years are in full- or part-time employment), longer trips are a possibility including “gap years” for older travelers. Clearly there is potential to expand tourism and identify new and exciting destinations in the future for many mature travelers (USTOA). They represent 60 percent of travel spend and are likely to book earlier, at least six months before the planned trip—so there are lots of opportunities for targeted marketing material.

What of the Future?

There is a feeling that while some less-populated destinations are opening up, many of the popular long-term “must see” places are becoming restricted and actually reducing globally. Overtourism does not help, and while travelers are seeking more undiscovered, eco-friendly destinations, experience suggests such places do not remain “undiscovered” for very long. As we have seen, cities such as Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Dubrovnik are trying to find ways to manage the negative impact on their infrastructure. While we know long-haul flights may be problematic, many of the destinations involved do rely heavily on income from tourism.

So, while new and exciting destinations are opening up, the demand for access to the well-known tourist attractions worldwide continues with no sign of reducing. Nevertheless, the industry has to find a way to balance this demand with the need to take environmental damage and erosion seriously.

This particular sector appears to be forever curious, bucket lists are getting longer, and they are looking for cultural experiences, adventure, and a wide range of activities as vacation content. Multigeneration breaks are likely to increase, probably including three to four generations to celebrate milestone events or anniversaries. Cruising is continuing to grow in popularity as the choice between no-fly ocean cruises or fly to pick up point for the start of the cruise opens up and appeals to a wider group of new passengers.

There will need to be more accessible holiday provision and as the aging population will inevitably grow, there will also need to be more solo holidays for single travelers.

As the “wish list” or “bucket list” would appear to be changing in content, emphasis, and importance, it represents an opportunity for all those in travel/tourism industries to demonstrate their commitment to assisting clients in finding their dream trip while protecting an increasingly fragile planet.

The global impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

At the beginning of 2020, a major coronavirus flu epidemic emerged and made travel to or from China and the Far East almost impossible. As the COVID-19 virus spread globally, at an unprecedented rapid pace (at the time of writing), there has been a significant, and in many cases devastating, impact on all travel plans, whether for leisure or business, and for tourist destinations all around the world.

Everyone involved in tourism and travel industries have been affected, particularly the airline, cruise, and hospitality sectors that have been particularly hard-hit. An in-depth analysis of the impact of COVID-19 is outside the remit for this book, but a further volume in 2021 will consider “Tourism and COVID19” in more detail.

There are many questions about the potential outcome for the industry that cannot be answered at this time.

Demographic Changes

There is evidence already that the death rate from the virus is higher among the older generations globally. It is not restricted to this age group of course, but it will be interesting to see how the demographic profiles of countries featured in this book will change. In the UK, there is a census of the population every 10 years. This is due to take place in 2021 so will provide data for the ONS that can be compared with previous figures discussed here (ONS 2018–2019).

Economic Impact

Changes to investments and potentially pension funds can have a major impact for the mature sector, reducing available funds for travel. This can lead to reducing the number of trips taken each year and the annual spend. In addition, many businesses are trying to find ways to deal with the downturn and unemployment is rising, so again, this can have an impact on the leisure sectors.

Ecotourism

Will the restrictions on travel currently in place change the views of mature travelers as we are already seeing a positive impact on nature and wildlife as travel-related pollution falls? It can have a major impact on how and when we travel as well as on the choice of destinations.

Impact on Travel and Tourism

It remains to be seen what the sector will look like at the end of the crisis. New marketing strategies will be needed to accommodate such fundamental changes to attitudes, buying habits, and choices customers will need to make if their circumstances alter significantly.

While this book was written before the pandemic took hold globally, it is now vitally important that providers step back and start to reconsider their marketing strategies to be fully prepared for when it all ends. But at some stage people will be able to travel again.

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