Gone are the days of long-term travel being the reserve of younger backpackers. Today, mature travelers are redefining retirement by embarking on “golden gap years,” a trend that’s expected to grow with Booking.com research revealing that 65% of global travelers see travel as the perfect way to enjoy later life.
Exploring the trends
Globalization plays a role in fueling this demographic’s desire to experience the world, says Heilwig Jones, Director at Kaya Responsible Travel. “This is the first retired generation that has lived through an era of exposure to global communications: Global news, global TV programming, global workplaces, great mobility, international cuisine, the ability to use low-cost airlines to pop away on cheap international holidays, and diversity in the communities around them. With that great exposure, there is a reduced fear of the unknown and the desire to explore in-person the places or experiences which have captivated them from home. Coupled with a more youthful outlook—complemented by advances in medicine—retirees want to make the most of their retirement and reap the rewards of their lifetime of hard work.”
The world’s population is also aging. One in 6 people globally will be over 65 by 2050, up from 1 in 11 in 2019, according to research by the United Nations. “People are living longer and are in better health. Besides this, they also have dreams they want to achieve and time, making them quite an ideal target for the tourism and travel industry,” says Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner of Horwath HTL.
Retirees are also spending more time abroad, booking more room nights as a result. According to research from Inspired Villages, an operator and developer of later-living communities across the UK, nearly a quarter of retirees have either taken a year to go traveling or would consider doing so, and are willing to spend £9,059 on a golden gap year. “They also have more disposable income and can travel during the shoulder seasons as they’re not under the pressure of school holidays,” adds Doizelet, “so, they could be very responsive to promotion marketing outside of peak seasons.”
Catering to older travelers
With nearly a quarter of 18 to 25-years-olds planning to retire before they turn 55, what can the industry learn from this age group today? Booking.com identified 7 travel motivations for this market: Human connections, intergenerational trips, sense of belonging, safe adventures, impulsive escapes, personal growth, and indulgence. All of which link to 3 sentiments: I’m still part of people’s lives, I’m still living an exciting life, and I’m worth investing in.
Offering tailored solutions can work in a provider’s favor, with the ability to customize travel options to account for more personal space, time, and connections as valued by retirees, says Jones. “Older travelers are certainly more discerning and recognize their personal preferences and limitations. We find that our over-50s participants are looking for a personal advisor to help them really customize their travel experience and hear their unique needs. Out-of-the-box solutions don’t allow them to arrange the travel trip of a lifetime, and someone with expertise in the location, experience, and type of activity they are interested in can fully engage this group to make the most of this important journey.”
Contrary to the belief that old age slows travelers down, it actually motivates them to stay active. Retirees are now chasing adventurous experiences – with 47% of global travelers planning to be more ambitious in their travel choices once they retire.
“Over 25% of our UK travelers are aged between 50 and 80, and we see these adventurous baby boomers booking a whole host of trips,” says Brian Young, Managing Director at G Adventures.
Properties can tap into this by ensuring guests don’t feel stigmatized by depictions of their age group as old, from pre-stay communication to the activities they’re offered once they arrive. “This generation of retirees doesn’t consider themselves ‘old’,” confirms Jones. “They are physically able and interested in hiking, outdoor activities, and adventure rather than more sedentary bus tours. With empty nests, fewer responsibilities, and a desire for an interesting life in retirement, they’re embracing the opportunity to travel farther, longer, and more immersively than ever before.”
- Retirees are travelling longer, further and more immersively than ever before, with globalisation playing a role in fueling their desire to experience the world
- They have more disposable income, time and flexibility than younger demographics, making them an ideal target market for accommodations
- When planning their travels, retirees value human connections and personalised approaches
- Don’t be fooled by stigmas. Alongside younger generations, retirees are increasingly seeking out adventure-filled travel experiences, with their age motivating them to stay active