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Senior Travel Highly Profitable for Destinations

Youthful elderly people in Greece, especially when they have a satisfactory pension, are beginning to change the traditional image. They now have a social life as they go to the theater or the cinema frequently, they meet friends for meals, and they travel – to the extent that their finances permit.

It’s not surprising that the market sees over-65s as a new, dynamic consumer group and thus is adjusting to this changing state of affairs.

Tourism is the sector where the signs of this change in the way of life is the most evident. Over the past few years, travel agents have observed a steady rise in the number of elderly people traveling in Greece and abroad.

In the next decade, this group is expected to bring a new dynamics to tourism, and in the normal course of events, they will become the chief clients. Many local travel agents have already started to create programs specially for pensioners in the months of March-May and September-October. The more elderly people travel, the more they will extend the tourist season. Travel agents that adapt quickly to these new facts on the ground will conquer the market.

Sensing the change sweeping the entire western world, multinational companies have already begun to develop special products and services targeted exclusively at people over 60.

Academics, however, feel that Greek companies have not yet responded to the new situation. “In this country, the problem is the large number of low-income pensioners, without that meaning that this group is out of the running,” they say. “There should simply be long-term planning and an integrated marketing strategy that will create low-cost products and services.”

At the recent World Travel Market held in London, delegates were told that the travel industry is not catering for the needs of 50+ holidaymakers. “We are totally underestimating the magnitude of the business change created by a large number of wealthy, healthy people released from the constraints of work with the desire to enjoy themselves,” said Dick Stroud, a specialist in this field.

“I think that smaller, niche companies have begun to understand that the 50+ generation is worth targeting.
“I see very little evidence that the larger travel companies are recognizing the opportunity.”

Mr. Stroud said that people retiring now are more affluent than any proceeding age group. More importantly, succeeding generations will not have benefited from rampant property inflation, stock market growth and well-funded pensions.

“Travel companies must decide how the changing age and wealth profile could affect their business,” he said.

In the UK, the 60+ category accounts for 20% of the population compared with 12% in 1950. By 2020, Western Europe will have more than 40 percent of its population over 50.

The over-50s own approximately three quarters of all financial assets and control close to half of consumer discretionary spending power. However you analyze these numbers the 50+ are a growing and disproportionately wealthy segment of society.

In a recent Understanding Fiftysomethings study, holidays were seen as being synonymous with retirement among the higher income groupings.

“Contrast all this with the fact that 80-90% of all advertising campaigns make 18-35 year olds their prime target,” said Mr. Stroud. “The world of marketing remains youth-centric, even though market evidence suggests the economic center of gravity is getting older. The travel industry is no different in failing to realize this.” He said that there is not a particular type of travel that is paramount for older people. Their requirements will span the full spectrum of what is on offer. In the past it may have been easier to predict the pattern of travel and leisure requirements at different ages, he said.

In the same vein, another study during World Travel Market showed that although they might appear to be penniless, the youth of today have enormous spending power that the travel industry should seek to harness.

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