Cashed up, time rich – the travelling senior

Did you know, that in our life time, we will never see another demographic that has as much disposable cash to spend and as much free time than our current seniors?

Yet, I still see the travel industry not really taking them seriously. Still talking to cringe-worthy stereotypes that most seniors cannot really relate to – or more importantly, ‘see’. I only see a smattering of travel brands truly connecting with this market with meaningful marketing messages.

This market segment is often looking for immersive and authentic experiences and more importantly looking to learn. Seniors come with a natural intrigue and a zest for life that we rarely see with any other segment of the market.

It is time to remind ourselves and possibly a few Gen Y advertising account managers that this is the generation that forged societal change like no other generation in living memory. Today’s seniors were a product of ‘the swinging sixties’ and the seventies. They were a generation that saw liberated sexual experiences, the pill, the rise in feminism, all sorts of experimentation with substances and a new freedom never experienced before. They were wild, adventurous and exploratory. Many are looking to rekindle the fire through travel adventures once the kids leave home.

Today’s seniors were our first backpackers, The Lonely Planet generation, exploring corners of the globe way before the internet could tell us what was there or our friends on social media could tell us it was cool or not.

It was a long time before Tripadvisor and review sites. They actually had to go to a destination to find out what was there.

Today’s travelling seniors deserve travel kudos and respect – and don’t call them seniors…unless there is a nice discount involved – you may discreetly mention it then.
Here are our top changes that you can make to your seniors marketing campaign.

1. Use ageless marketing, particularly with imagery.

Seniors don’t think they are senior and therefore do not relate to images of seniors or text that talks to seniors. Aged-based marketing is increasingly counterproductive as age does not define values, attitudes or behaviours. Also, ageless marketing reaches and talks to a broader audiences because it is not exclusionary.

Ageless marketing uses universal core values like:

• Love
• Friendship
• Loyalty
• Altruism
• Dreams personal growth
• Fitness

Insight to Action: Ensure your images and photos reflect self-assessment and appeal to attitude not age. Use a mix of ageless marketing with perceived age of seniors, that is 10-15 years younger! Old age should not be implied, stated or said. Include single females.

Use a mix of ageless and perceived age in marketing

2. Pricing.

Contrary to popular myth, the senior traveller is not obsessed with finding the cheapest of everything. They are very clear about this. This market is well researched – after they have plenty of time on their hands and often they find as much pleasure in research as they do in the holiday itself.

When they do their research, they are looking for value for money – this could be anything from travelling in off-peak periods with added benefit of less children around to perhaps value-add deals, bonus night offers, food and beverage deals, late check-out or deals with other local operators.

Insight to Action: Focus on value rather than sell than price – value is quality for money well spent. Price must stay within range of competition BUT value is more persuasive.

3.How do seniors use search engines?

Like everyone else. It is not necessary to use the term senior on your site, unless you are referring to a discount in your pricing, they will then happily become senior. The secret is to learn to talk to a mindset and attitude rather than an age group. If you are paying big bucks for the term “Seniors Travel” through Adwords or any sort of pay per click campaign, think again. Those who do actually include the search term ‘senior’ tend to be cheap and will have a very – low conversion.

Insight To Action: Too much use of the word senior becomes alienating and offputting to the broader market. Use discreetly when referring to pricing only.

4. Don’t alienate through language and words.

In her book “Turning Silver into Gold” Mary J Furlong tells us that seniors are “Less interested in acquiring material assets, more interested in acquiring life-changing experiences” . This is particularly the case when it comes to travel.

Language has never been more important in marketing to seniors. As marketer to need to leverage internal needs such as:

• Relationship facilitation and reconnection “get to know your husband again”
• Enrichment and improving oneself “you now have the time to learn”
• Health and wellness travel “this is your time”
• Having fun. “You have done the hard yards, kids are gone – you owe it to yourself”

5. Market to Single Seniors.

We have seen a rapid growth in senior singles wanting to travel. The majority are women. They may be newly divorced or newly widowed. Or we have often come across a married single senior whose husband or partner has no interest in travel.

Often they have been inspired to travel solo by others. They may have always wanted to travel, but never had anyone to travel with. This now is less of a concern.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the single supplement that is the most important factor. Many of them are willing to make that trade-off being fully aware that there are now plenty of operators and companies catering to this market – cruise lines, tours, hostels etc. It is important to appeal to a sense of security. Common single seniors pain points include:

• “I have no one to sit at the dinner table with”
• “It will be full of happily married couples and I will be the only single one there”
• “I am self conscious – for this generation, it is hard to be single and proud”
• “Will I be safe travelling on my own?”

Insights to Action: Talk to the single seniors. Can you help solve the single seniors pain points? Talk about these on your websites and promotions. Be subtle but show them you understand. They will reward you through loyalty and word of mouth.

From a marketer’s perspective, we believe seniors are very sexy indeed – just don’t call them senior! But broadly speaking, they are attracted to many of the same experiences as the broader travelling community. They just have more time and money to indulge. Do justice to your destination or business and do not forget this.

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