Whether you know them as senior citizens or "super adults", the 65+ crowd is traveling now more than ever before. According to AARP, it was estimated in 2016 that most Baby Boomers are expected to travel at least a short distance for leisure within the next two years. Those numbers are expected to remain high well beyond 2020.
It’s looking like the Boomers are in the midst of their biggest travel boom. Now is the time to find out if your company is ready to offer an enjoyable experience for customers regardless of their age or ability level.
If you're not sure, not to worry. Here are some tips to help you offer a better travel experience for every customer that books with you.
1. Keep it comfortable
Naturally, customers who are booking a tour with you have an adventurous side to them. You don't need to change your activity list, just look for slight modifications so your guests can enjoy their trip. Here are some great ways to make their experience a more comfortable one:
- Limit direct sun exposure where possible. If you're offering a seated tour, such as a bus ride, offer them a spot in a cool and shady seat.
- For seating, make sure they always have a comfortable seat that supports their back. Offer small throw pillows if necessary.
- Take regular breaks. You should do this with any tour group you're leading, but especially for those who might not be quite as active.
- Offer water and other beverages. You could go the extra step and turn this into a nice upselling opportunity by offering a cocktail hour for a small fee in a cool location after the tour.
2. Map routes that are accessible for all abilities
Be mindful of the fact that some senior travelers may rely on the use of a mobility tool, such as a cane or walker. Your route should be safe and accessible to everyone taking your tour, so work to avoid routes that would make it too difficult to walk.
For those who may not be as mobile, offer convenient ways to get around that don't limit the experience of the tour. Choose routes with convenient wheelchair access, even offering a complimentary wheelchair if necessary. If the tour requires a long stretch from major points by foot, offer a shuttle.
3. Prioritize safety
As discussed in our article about adapting tours and activities for disabled travelers, first aid is a must. Regardless of the overall health of the group you’re guiding, you should be prepared for any unforeseen medical needs that could arise.
Basic aid is common sense, but you should make sure your team is up-to-date on their medical training including CPR, First Aid and potentially AED. You can find a course in your area by asking at a local hospital or within a medical organization like the American Heart Association.
4. Don't underestimate Boomers' tech knowledge
Adapting your tour isn't just about the hours spent enjoying it. Your customers' experience starts before they've even booked their trip with you. The 65+ crowd are online and looking for convenient ways to plan and book their trips.
According to Pew Research Center's recent study on smartphones:
"Asked if they feel that their phone represents “freedom” or “a leash,” 82% of smartphone-owning seniors described their phone as freeing, compared with 64% of those ages 18 to 29."
This means that your more senior customers are online, so you need to be there too. And you need to have a smart and practical presence while you're there. This includes having a booking-optimized website that works well on any device.
As we've also observed through a recent Think with Google study, more leisure travelers are booking their trips and activities with their smartphones. It shouldn't be surprising that with that kind of freedom, 88% of travelers with smartphones will switch to another site if yours doesn't satisfy their needs.
You should also not neglect the many online tools available to you. According to TripAdvisor's study for 2016, 55% of Baby Boomers research using online review websites when selecting tours, activities, and accommodations.
Image: REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Senior citizens remain one of the fastest growing demographics in tourism. These travelers know what they want and are more than willing to get it. They are not looking to be patronized or pushed aside, so if your company isn't making room for their needs, prepare to lose their business.
This is a generation that knows how to travel in style and they're ready have some new adventures. That includes everything from the activities they choose to the way they shop for their trips. If you work to adapt your tours to accommodate this booming crowd, prepare to benefit from all the enthusiasm they have to bring.
Looking for more information about travelers?
Read our 2017 Travel Trends report, updated with this year’s most important behaviors and interests in a variety of markets.
Written by Sara Napier Burkhard
Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.