The aging visitor population – baby boom generation impacts NI’s tourist sector

Jul 24, 2019

A global trend that will impact on all industries and nations is that of the aging population. An incredible growth of those over 60 years of age is estimated by the World Health Organisation to increase from 605 million to 2 billion between 2000 and 2050. That accounts for one in every four people in the UK who will be aged over 65 years by 2050.

Given those statistics, this presents many opportunities for NI’s tourism sector. Not only are medical advances and technology helping the population stay healthier for longer, social and financial drivers are enabling the baby boomer generation reaching retirement to make very different choices from the generations before them. The tourism industry has been particularly affected by this generation who have been demanding innovative products/services for decades – think backpacking, package holidays and more authentic travel experiences for those empty nesters! Having been there and done that, this generation are looking for the next unique experience to tick off their bucket list – the one that has not been done before. For tourism businesses, the ability to offer experiences which won’t limit the over 50’s physically could be set to benefit from their ability to spend well into the next decade and beyond. Tuning into this golden opportunity, there has been a rise in tourism companies who are focusing on marketing to the over 50-s who are estimated to be spending £17.6 billion per year on travel.

Today’s retirees have a desire to travel and seek adventure compared to the ‘Traditionalist’ generation (born before 1946) before them and are more financially able than their grandchildren (under 25’s) due to lack of spending power the under-25’s are exhibiting. Gig economy anyone…?

If predictions are correct, over the next 25 years this generation will be one of the largest market segments for the tourism industry. This generation however have multiple roles in life – think parent, grand-parent and possibly great grandparent. Taking this into consideration it could enlist the following trends for tourism experiences;

  • Travel experiences
  • Creature Comforts
  • Accessible tourism
  • Mobile revolutionaries
  • Visiting more friends and relatives

Is Northern Ireland benefitting? Yes! In 2012, NISRA logged record numbers across the 45-54 age range in domestic spenders who were taking overnight trips (35%). At the lower age range of the ‘big spender’ generation, those nearing retirement will continue to make an impact on the industry with their spending power which is set to continue well into retirement. The overseas market (aged 45-54 and 55-64) made up 1/3 of our tourism market.

How can our businesses benefit going forward? Segmentation! An aging population does not mean one size fits all. What a 50, 65 and 75 year old wants and more importantly needs, is a major factor to take into consideration when designing a product/service. Not only should age be considered, but also income, gender, education and health to name a few. There is always a risk factor if people are treated as a homogenous group, and that usually results in turning those who are the primary target off a product/service!

By focusing on elements such as unique travel experiences, this is something which can span across all segments for example. Given NI’s great reputation for visitor experiences, tying in with one of NI’s great local attractions is one idea which could be considered to strengthen offerings to visitor segments. Three key things to consider according to NITB – segment, collaborate, experience.

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