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Africa and the Plus 50s Market
by Jerry W. Bird

During my media career, I've written regular features for a seniors newspaper in Seattle, WA and a national maturity magazine. The reward came via the mailbox, from individuals and couples all over the USA and Canada who sought travel advice. Some provided anecdotes from their own life's journey. Living for six years in Point Roberts, Wa, a laid back border community 3 hours north of Seattle, my mailbox was often overflowing with cards and letters. This volume usually quadrupled after I had written an article about rail travel.

Proof Positive: There's no better example of the "ageless attitude" than Elyse White, an ATA (Africa Travel Association) member from Harlem. We call her "Mama Safari" and have had the pleasure of being her house guest on several occasions. At age 90, Elyse became as a Queen of the Ashanti in Ghana. She has attended every ATA Congress for the past 25 years.While in Orlando Florida for the American Travel Market, I took in several seminars hosted by SATH, the Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped (and Mature). I was proud to share the moment with this organization which has done so much to advance the awareness of their members special needs. We will be participating in a major Congress with the SATH membership at the ATA 28th Congress iin ZAMBIA this May.

Grey Boomers love to travel: Every few minu
tes a member of the coveted baby boomer generation turns 50, which means that today's folks over-60 will soon be the most influential of all age groups. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of travel and tourism. The Seniors (age 55+) we target are upscale, educated, active, financially secure, and open to new ideas about travel and travel destinations. That's exciting news for Africa. North America's Seniors represent one of the most powerful market segments for travel marketers. As a group, they have awesome buying power, plenty of free time and more disposable income. Many own their own homes and most love to travel, which opens the door to the latest phenomena -- the home exchange program which we applaud. Seniors give consistently to charities and have many hobbies and interests. Many are becoming computer-savvy, which is borne out by the mail we receive on this website. Keep it up!

Our report on the Seniors Market for Africa Travel Magazine and its partner publications will appear on this web site in installments starting immediately.

Freed from the responsibilities of full-time jobs and child-raising seniors are among the world's most frequent travelers and their numbers are growing rapidly. To benefit from this "agequake" tourism destinations need to better understand the thinking of older persons and design products that meet their special needs.

WTO Quality of Tourism Studies
When surveyed about what they want to spend money on in their retirement years, seniors put travel at the top of their list- far ahead of any other consumer expenditure. This propensity to travel and demographic trends that show the world's over 60 population climbing from 593 million in 1999 to more than 2 billion by 2050 will further stimulate the already booming senior tourism sector.

The great potential of senior tourism is not yet clearly seen by tourism policy makers," said WTO Chief of Quality of Tourism Development Henryk Handszuh.

Young Thinking

Although it may sound obvious, tourism marketers need to understand that senior travelers do not think of themselves as old. According to Austrian expert Rudolph Zinell of Focus Management Consulting, seniors tend to think they look 8 years younger than they are and report they feel about 14 years younger than their actual age.

In fact, people are unveiling to consider themselves as seniors until after their 70th birthday. This is why companies should try to avoid the 'Senior" label, using instead more neutral labels such as "50 plus" or 'Best Agers'

Austrian researchers also report a value shift by seniors, away from family, work and sacrifice towards enjoyment, self-realization and fun. For seniors, travel is reward for a life full of working and sacrifice.

Benefits of Travel

Travel helps to mitigate many of the negative aspects of ageing, according to speaker Graham Dann of the University of Luton in the United Kingdom.

"The loss of freedom, declining status, discrimination and social exclusion, can all be alleviated by the ego-enhancing properties of tourism," said Professor Dann. "Holidays for seniors can provide a more caring and protective setting and greater opportunities for companionship, friendship and self-discovery"

This is part of the thinking behind social tourism schemes for seniors operating in several European countries. In addition, social tourism keeps hotels and resorts busy in the off-season and helps maintain year-round employment in the tourism industry.

Spain's social tourism program IMSERSO, for example, organizes some 400,000 trips a year for seniors, while INATEL has some 45,000 seniors taking part in its week-long vacation program.

France's Cheques Vacances program, which was founded 21 years ago, provides holidays for 80,000 low income people including seniors.


Agreeing that senior tourism can enhance the quality of life for participants and strengthen the tourism sector especially in the low season, participants, representing 20 nations, issued a declaration called the Lisbon Letter on Senior Tourism. It urges policy makers to implement special senior fares for air, sea and land transport, especially on a regional basis such as within the European Union. It recommends that tourism programs that ensure-among other thinks - better safety, health services, access, nutritious food, interaction with local communities, cultural visits, outdoor activities, structured social activities, an adequate pace for physical exercise, as well as fair and clear information.

Senior Travel International travelers over 60

Germany 20%

UK 16%

France 30%

Italy 13%

Spain 15%

USA 27%

Canada 28%

Japan 27%

CARP Web site-

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