Table of Contents
Special interest Tourism: Senior Tourism
The focus of this report is special interest tourism, and particularly senior tourism. Present demographic changes illustrate that there is a progressive number of older populace all over the world, which initiates stringent social and economic issues. As a result, there is currently a continual endeavor to avert these problems through the implementation of various approaches. One of the most prominent approaches that has proven to be effective in enforcing a positive effect among senior citizens or the elderly in terms of quality of life is travelling. This report aims at providing a reflection on the present and potentially future state of senior tourism. Fundamentally, the crux of this report is that senior tourism is a budding sector within the tourism industry that presents significant opportunity for business due to its potential for growth within the foreseeable future. For instance, in 1999 there are approximately 590 million older travelers or tourists globally. The estimation is that by 2050 this statistic will be roughly two billion. The report is mainly compiled through a collection of data from various literature sources and especially peer-reviewed articles. The primary areas of focus are: current innovations, product lifecycle and micro-niches in senior tourism and potential future directions.
Summary of Recent Research Findings
Over the years, various researchers have compiled information in senior tourism. The purpose of this section of the report is to summarize some of the most important and pertinent factors about senior tourism in the country and globally. This will enable an informed deduction of whether or not senior tourism is a valid business opportunity.
Senior tourism is a sector that has been long-neglected until recently. The significance of senior tourism today is attributed to the process of aging, which is commonly attached to health conditions and improved economic status of older people (Mahadevan, 2013). Senior tourism has also become important due to an increase in time availability during retirement; increased disposable income; enhanced health circumstances and improved life expectancy. It is crucial for destination managers and tour professionals to comprehend various factors about senior tourism such as the motivations of seniors in order to avail variable tourist products and to allow for horizontal differentiation (Mahadevan, 2013).
Over the past few years, precisely within the last decade, senior tourism has attracted widespread attention in research and literature. One of the main reasons for this is that according to the United Nations, by 2050, individuals who are above 60 years old are forecasted to comprise at least 22% of the globe’s entire population (Nan, Butcher, and Ying, 2014). The implication of this is that senior tourism market is bound to grow due to the fact that the population of older people in the world is increasing significantly. Furthermore, senior travelers have taken up a major share of holiday spending over the past twenty years according to literature (Nan, Butcher, and Ying, 2014).
Seniors Travel Motivations
The push and pull motivations theory is commonly used to illustrate the driving factors behind elder people’s intentions to travel and tour. Essentially, the push factors refer to the internal or intrinsic motivational factors. The push factors align with the preferences and needs of senior tourists. They encompass: social interaction, search for adventurous experiences, and the urge to break from one’s regular routine (Gu et al., 2016). Alternatively, the pull factors are primarily external or extrinsic motivational elements. They are characterized by the specific destination of tour and illustrated elements like safety, natural beauty, and image. According to the push and pull motivation theory, the pull factors justify the destination that is selected whereas the push factors provide tourists with a reason to go on a tour.
Senior Tourist Patterns
According to research it has been observed that senior tourists have a preference for package tours. This is particularly true due to factors like: value for money; a desire to avoid distress by encountering unfamiliar circumstances if one travels to eccentric locations; like-minded friends and health constraints (Gu et al., 2016). As a result, senior tourists aim to accomplish their tour objectives by selecting all-inclusive package trips that are convenient for them and provide them with value for their money while minimizing likely discomforts and undesirable surprises.
Additional literature indicates that senior tourists also consider supplementary factors within their group package tours (Gu et al., 2016). These include: perceived value; climate, ease of movement; and service friendliness. These factors predict the likely satisfaction of senior tourists, particularly those on package tours. Furthermore, research also indicates that there are four primary categories that the service experience of senior tourists can be classified into: involvement, hedonics, relaxation and peace of mind; and escapism and recognition.
One of the most important factors to note about senior tourists is that many people above the age of 65 have some form of disability. Therefore, health factors are considerably important in senior tourism. Today, about 63 percent of individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from any type of chronic disease (Australian Bureauof Statistics, 2016). Fundamentally, research indicates that activation intervention, precisely regular travel, is a prospectively effective approach that can be used to alter the lifestyle of the older population (Shibanova, 2016). Essentially, travel is presumed to enhance the outcomes of chronic illnesses and ultimately the wellbeing of the senior population in terms of health.
A case example of Australia is that in 2015, there were about 3.5 million senior individuals within the population. This is estimated as one in seven people in the country and hence, 15.1 percent of the overall national population. This is a substantial number of the senior people in the country. Additionally, of this statistic about 1.8 million reportedly lived with one of more forms of disability. Essentially, this constitutes 7.7% of the overall population. Moreover, statistics show that about 654,600 senior people in Australia suffer from a serious disability (Shibanova, 2016). This translates to 18.5 percent of the senior population of the country. Explicitly, in the field of senior tourism the health status of the tourists is an important factor to consider.
Research reveals that there are certain barriers that tourists who suffer from one or more forms of disability have to endure, particularly in group package tours. For instance, there are certain tourism products that are unable to address the needs of such tourists as they experience considerably struggle with regards to access to bars and restaurants during their travel expeditions.
Literature review clearly indicates that the senior population provides a feasible opportunity within the tourism sector. Senior tourism has become a fast-growing trend and would be an advisable undertaking for a tourism destination organization. However, it is also clear that regardless of the massive growth potential that is provided by the senior tourist market concerning its inclination towards package tours, there are only a few package tours that are available for senior tourists both locally and globally (Shibanova, 2016). Notably, there is a gap in the information available regarding the quality of tourism products and the expectations and preferences of senior tourists in order to determine the various areas that may require modification or enhancement. Research indicates that many tour organizations tend to function without necessarily comprehending the concerns and requirements of senior tourists (Nikitina and Vorontsova, 2015). The current tourist products available for senior tourists are not reflective of the changing needs of senior tourists. For example, many group packages fail to consider the health needs of disabled tourists. This presents opportunity for a tour organization that can provide quality services that considers all these factors.
Stages of the Product Lifecycle
The stage of the product lifecycle is imperative as it enables understanding of the precise development stage of a particular market in terms of a future market, an emerging market or an established market. In tourism, Butlers Product Life Cycle is most commonly used to determine the product life cycle. There are six main stages in Butlers Product Life Cycle: exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation, and decline.
Concerning senior tourism, the market is making the transition from the involvement stage to the development stage. The involvement stage refers to when local individuals begin to notice an increase in the number of individuals visiting their locations (Nikitina and Vorontsova, 2015). Hence, they open up businesses that provide transport, guides, food and accommodation. Australia has always been a tour destination since time immemorial. However, a particular focus on senior tourism has not taken significant root in the country until recently. There have only been a few businesses that focus solely on senior tourism in the country. However, due to the increased number of people comprising the aged population, senior tourism has commenced the transition into the development stage of the product life cycle.
The development stage refers to a stage whereby large corporations begin to perceive an arising potential of the locale as a tourist destination. Subsequently, they begin to invest large amounts of money in the area to serve this very purpose. For instance, they establish massive hotels and offer package holidays that encompasses excursions, food and accommodation and travel (Dann, 2008). The Australian market is currently in this stage of development. There is a growing recognition of the potential that senior tourism presents, hence, several hotel complexes are currently in construction.
Development of Micro Niche Markets
There are micro niche markets within senior tourism. It is imperative to note that in senior tourism there are various cut-off ranges depending on the location and the tourist destination organization. There are organizations whereby the cut-off range is 50-55, whereas there are those that have a cut-off range of 60-65 and above. According to the World Tourism Organization, a senior tourist is one aged above 60 years (Alen, Dominguez, and Losada, 2012).
The three main micro niche markets within senior tourism are: spa tourism, medical tourism and wellness tourism. Spa tourism is most common among elderly tourists who suffer from various health problems. As has already been established, people over the age of 60 are prone to suffering from various health issues such as disabilities and especially, chronic illnesses (Alen, Dominguez, and Losada, 2012). One of the main activities involved in spa tourism is healing through medical or mineral waters.
An additional prominent micro niche within senior tourism is medical tourism. Medical tourism denotes the travel of individuals to a different country in order to acquire medical attention. It has become a common trend for people to travel for developed nations to seek treatment in developing nations due to the factor of reduced prices of medical care and treatment. Moreover, people also travel to developed countries for medical treatment due to the increased quality of care that may be lacking in developing countries (Hrnjic, Suta, and Pliaz-Velic, 2016). Due to the fact that senior people suffer from various illnesses in their old age, it is common practice for many of them to travel to other countries for various reasons. One possible reason is the inability to afford medical treatment in their own country. Australia is a developed country. Therefore, the most prominent reason for medical tourism in the country is the high quality of healthcare that the country provides.
Another prevalent micro niche in senior tourism is wellness tourism. Wellness tourism refers to travel with the aim of advancing one’s wellbeing and health through spiritual, psychological and physical activities. Wellness tourism aims to enhance a person’s quality of life and health through prevention of certain diseases that are most common among older people. Research indicates that travel is known to enhance the life expectancy of senior people as well as alter their regular routines (Hrnjic, Suta, and Pliaz-Velic, 2016). Being active in the old age stage is important as it may enhance the physical and mental health of a person. In this micro niche, senior people travel for enriching experiences, visiting new locations, socialization with new people, and relaxation (Xiang and Tussyadiah, n.d). Commonly, senior people travel more for rewards than escapism. Hence, wellness becomes a crucial component of senior tourism in such contexts. They aims to relax and rest, improve their health, and visit their relatives and friends. These are all factors that may improve one’s wellbeing in the holistic sense.
Senior tourism has certain micro niches that are also significant in their own right. For instance, medical tourism and wellness tourism are independent special interest tourism sectors each with their own micro niche markets.
Recent Product Innovations
There are various developments that have occurred in the society in relation to senior tourism. Firstly, from an economic perspective the elderly population as an increased amount of disposable income. This is mostly attributed to solid retirement plans that people enforce throughout their working years (Hasani, Moghavvemi, and Hamzah, 2016). As a result, by the time that one retires, one often has ample disposable income to spend on holidays and tours.
An additional innovation is group package tours (Hasani, Moghavvemi, and Hamzah, 2016). This refers to a system whereby the elderly tourists are classified into various groups in which they will undertake their tour activities such as excursions and meals among others. These group packages are designed to fulfill the various needs of elderly tourists such as socialization with new people and making new friends as well as adventurous excursions during the tours.
In terms of services, one of the major innovations in senior tourism is mobile booking or online booking in general. Mobile booking has led to an expansion in senior tourism because it fulfills the need of this population for convenience. Senior people are unaccustomed and unwilling to overexert themselves with regards to visiting the booking offices physically in order to book their tours (Hasani, Moghavvemi, and Hamzah, 2016). Therefore, due to mobile booking more senior people are encouraged to travel as opposed to constantly postponing their trips to the booking agencies. Mobile booking allows destination organizations to ensure more interesting, exciting and easier interactions before the tour, during the tour and after the tour; it allows the destination organization to prepare for the senior tourists.
An additional service in this sector is online reviews (Elmahdy, Haukeland and Fredman, 2017). Online reviews are highly important as they can build or damage a business’ reputation. A destination organization thrives on good reviews and recommendations by their satisfied clients. Negative reviews can hinder business significantly. Therefore, it is vital for a destination organization to be considerate of the element of online reviews and ensure that the senior tourists are satisfied during their stay. According to statistics, 9 out of every 10 tourists believe that online reviews are imperative in making a decision about a destination organization (Elmahdy, Haukeland and Fredman, 2017). About 95 percent of tourists completely rely on online reviews.
Notably, the current tourism products are not reflective of the changing needs of senior tourists who normally search for tourism products that fulfill their intrinsic needs. Additionally, marketing campaigns for senior tourism are considerably obsolete because of wanting strategies designed to appeal to the aged people. Therefore, a destination organization that takes advantage of this situation by solving the current problems may prosper in senior tourism.
Potential Future Directions and Micro Niche Markets
Based on the current trends, it is possible to predict potential future directions within senior tourism. The most relevant prediction is that the population of senior individuals is likely to grow significantly in the foreseeable future. Numerous research studies and articles indicate a global trend of increased elderly population (Scott and Gossling, 2015). For example, currently in Europe, there are more senior individuals aged above 65 years than there are children. For example, in 2004 the aged population constituted 75.4 million people whereas the population of children under 14 years were 74 million (Scott and Gossling, 2015). The prediction is that by 2024, majority of the population will comprise people between 40 and 60 years. In 2014 in Australia there were 3.46 million people above the age of 65 years (Scott and Gossling, 2015). This constitutes 15 percent of the Australian population.
Longevity is another likely trend that may boost senior tourism. It is predicted that over the coming two decades it will no longer be a rarity for people to live beyond 100 years. This is attributed to longevity medication and health promotion through genomic drugs, stem cells and biotech (Nikitina and Vorontsova, 2015). As a result, the aging mental wellbeing will be safeguarded, which will in turn improve their physical nimbleness and their capacity to travel. The World Tourism Organization highlights an enhancement in the number of senior tourists as a 2020 predicted market trend (Nikitina and Vorontsova, 2015).
An additional potential future direction is that the elderly population will have more money to spend following retirement. Economic development has been on the rise globally with people increasing their general productivity. Therefore, in the foreseeable future the amount of disposable income available to the elderly population will be immense. Due to the trend of travelling that has developed among this population over the past two decades, it is likely that majority of these funds will be spent on travelling.
Moreover, wellness tourism and spa tourism are likely to become progressive in the future. The reason for this is that over the recent past there has been a growing interest in a holistic view of health care. Essentially, people are no longer only concerned with their physical wellbeing but also the wellbeing of their spiritual selves. A focus on mental health has also become progressive. Wellness tourism and spa tourism are both rooted in the need to fulfill the requirements of an individual’s wellbeing from a holistic perspective. Hence, in the foreseeable future they are likely to grow significantly. Furthermore, medical tourism may develop as well as people seek ways of prolonging their lives and the quality of life.
From a technological viewpoint, destination organizations are likely to be more considerate of the health-related factors of senior tourists. This mainly relates to tourists suffering from various disabilities. Currently, there are many ways in which such tourists are disadvantaged. However, in future as senior tourism develops as a solid market niche within the tourism sector, more agencies will likely consider installing various technologies that may cater for the needs of senior tourists with disabilities.
The following case study is derived from a research conducted on Warmian and Masurian Voivodeship by Malgorzata Samusjew and Joanna Zielinska-Szczepkowska in 2015.
The case study revealed that most seniors prefer to travel during the summer; precisely, 37 percent. However, 31 percent travel in autumn and 27 percent travel in spring. Of all the seasons, winter is considered to be the least desirable time for travel due to poor weather conditions and decreased perception of safety.
In terms of travel arrangements, many of the seniors, 30 percent, prefer to make their own travel arrangements individually. However, a majority of them prefer to purchase their travel plans from a travel agency (32 percent). The senior respondents consider destination agencies to be crucial for organizing group tours for them (Zielinska-Szczepkowska and Samusjew, 2015). They also appreciate the factor of agencies coordinating their travels. However, their main complaint is that the offers provided by destination organizations or agencies are not particularly focused on the elderly, rather they are all-inclusive, which may be a disadvantage for senior tourists grouped with young tourists. Package tours found online were only purchased by 2 percent of the senior respondents.
The respondents highlight friends (62 percent), family (28 percent) and personal experience (47 percent) as the most crucial sources of information for making their decisions on tours (Zielinska-Szczepkowska and Samusjew, 2015). Only 7 percent of the respondents highlighted that social media and general media as pertinent sources of information.
The motivations of senior tourists are ranked in the following order: to look for romance; to experience something new; to spend time with family; to enhance their quality of life; to escape routines; to socialize and make friends; and to enjoy silence and rest.
There are various factors that the elderly respondents highlighted as important in their consideration of appropriate destinations. The top five factors of consideration according to 81 percent of the respondents are ease of transport connections; quality services, historical sites, a sense of security and nature. 5 percent of the respondents highlighted camping, dancing, handicrafts, snow and sports as important factors (Zielinska-Szczepkowska and Samusjew, 2015). These comprised the least appealing factors for a tour. The conclusion, therefore, is that including all or most of the five top factors for a senior tour may enhance the success of a destination organization in this market niche. Notably, the senior respondents also highlighted the significance of medical services and health consideration.
Conclusively, senior tourism is a promising market niche within the tourism industry. The increased number of people compromising the elderly population provides an undeniable opportunity for destination organizations in senior tourism. The two main reasons why senior tourism is booming are economic and health factors. From an economic viewpoint, the senior population has a lot of disposable income due to their retirement plans. Usually, by the time that people retire their children are often adults and self-dependent. Hence, they are able to spend the money of themselves going on regular tours.
From a health perspective, majority of the people over 65 years of age suffer from various chronic illnesses. Those who are relatively healthy are also at risk of developing various conditions due to their ages. In this regard, the senior population may seek out travel opportunities for medical and wellness purposes. Future trends indicate that senior tourism will likely grow exponentially due to a projected rise in the aged population. Furthermore, longevity is highlighted as an additional reason for development in this field.
From a technological viewpoint, the recommendation of this report is that the destination organization includes various assistive technologies that may cater for the needs of senior tourists suffering from variable disabilities. This is a consideration that is widely lacking in the senior tourism sector and should be exploited as a competitive advantage.
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