Travel accused of perpetuating ‘cringeworthy stereotypes’ of elderly

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The travel industry is being accused of perpetuating “cringeworthy stereotypes” when seeking to attract lucrative older travellers.

The claim comes from Bronwyn White, co-founder of Sydney-based travel research firm

Putting forward five changes required to market to senior travellers, she claims most older people cannot relate to travel industry marketing.

This is despite the older demographic having more disposable income and free time.

White said: “Today’s seniors were a product of ‘the swinging sixties’ and the seventies.

“In Western societies, they were a generation that saw liberated sexual experiences, the pill, the rise in feminism, experimentation with substances and a new freedom never experienced before. 

“Many of them were wild, adventurous and exploratory. Today they are looking to rekindle that fire through travel adventures now that the kids have left home.

“Yet, I still see the travel industry not really taking them seriously. They still perpetuate cringeworthy stereotypes that most seniors cannot relate to.”

Senior travellers come with a natural intrigue and a zest for life rarely seen with any other segment of the market, she added.

Following a study of the travel habits of thousands of older travellers, she suggests that the  trade needs to:

Use ageless marketing, particularly imagery

Seniors don’t think they are senior, therefore they do not readily relate to images of seniors or text that talks to seniors. Age-based marketing is counter productive. Age does not define values, attitudes or behaviour. Use ageless marketing that emphasises universal values such as love, friendship, loyalty, altruism and fitness.

Emphasis value, not low cost

“Contrary to popular myth, the senior traveller is not obsessed with cheap deals. They are very clear about this. When they do their research, they are simply looking for value for money – travelling in off-peak periods, bonus night offers, food and beverage deals, late check-outs, or tie-ins with local service providers.

Be smart about search engine use

“It is not necessary to use the term ‘senior’ on your website, unless you are referring to a discount in your pricing (then they’ll happily become a ‘senior’). The secret is to talk to a mindset and attitude rather than an age group. If you are paying big bucks for the term “Senior Travel” through Adwords or any sort of pay per click campaign, think again. Seniors who do actually include the search term ‘senior’ tend to be penny pinching and will give you a very low conversion rate.

Use language that hints at life-changing experiences:

“Seniors are not so interested in acquiring material assets. They’re interested in acquiring life-changing experiences – especially in travel.”

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. It is important to appeal to a sense of emotional security.”

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