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The Mature Traveler

Seniors Under Marketing Scrutiny

July 12, 1987|BILL HUGHES | Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks.

Increasingly, mature travelers are being examined, probed and statistically studied as never before as travel researchers and marketing professionals zero in on what has become the nation's top discretionary travel spenders.

Included here is a brief synopsis of what's been newly uncovered about us 50-plussers from several surveys and sources. The information is shared with you to keep you aware of the economic clout we wield in today's market and partly to inform travel vendors who scan this column and also to let you see how you compare with the current market profile of mature travelers.

The figures and percentages on mature travel developed by the National Geromarket Omnibus Study by Chicago's Goldring and Co. reinforces the go-go image of the graying mature market.

More than 90% of those surveyed (more than 2,600 nationwide, a pretty good sampling) took at least one vacation trip in North America during the last five years. The same percentage plans at least one trip during the next three years, with a large portion planning at least two or more as the following statistics indicate:

More than 70% will go on vacation by car; more than half plan to take a flying vacation within three years; 15% will travel by bus; 9% by camper or RV; and 8% will take a train during their holiday.

Cruises Popular

Of the same number surveyed, more than 30% went overseas during the last five years and more than 43% plan an overseas trip within three years. Cruising appears popular for a surge of mature travelers. Only 17% cruised in the last five years, but 28% plan to do so within the next three years.

Some other interesting facts on mature travel from the Geromarket Study: While most travel planning is shared by couples, in more than 27% of the cases the women take the responsibility of travel planning as against only 18% for the men. Also, 25% of the women read travel articles about their potential trips as against 20% of the men.

As cited in an earlier column, the price of a trip was rated the most important consideration by only 25% of those surveyed and was rated as not an important consideration by 35%.

The survey was done by age levels from 50 through 70. It was found that 25% of women of all ages thought where to stay was very important as against 17% of the men who said it was less important. Surprisingly, as the age level of the men increased, so did the importance of where to stay, but it was less so with women.

In another survey, the Marriott Report on Leisure Travel, it was found that 72% of the pleasure trips taken by those living in the Los Angeles area (covering all ages, not just mature travelers) were for three days or less, with the majority on weekends.

The most impulsive age group, (based on national figures), were the 55- to 64-year-olds, as 23% of this group plan their weekend trips no more than a few days in advance.

Some Misconceptions

Finally, not from a survey but from an informative talk given to members of the International Assn. of Travel Research and Marketing Professionals by Robert J. Forbes, director of AARP, are these words about misconceptions about older travelers:

"Another myth is . . . most older Americans are a captive audience and save rather than spend." To the contrary, noted Forbes, who was speaking mainly about those age 65 and over, "future patronage from older consumers depends upon satisfactory service rendered previously.

"They (those age 65 and over) are sensitive to even small price increases. They shop around for high value, switching brands when the value service deteriorates.

"And with inflation being low in recent years, older Americans have been more willing to spend, and many have the resources to do so. The key is," Forbes said, "that they spend wisely and are astute, experienced buyers. They take the time to read travel ads and brochures, they quiz friends about travel experiences. They compare travel products and build travel resource files for future decisions."

Travel agents, tour operators and other travel vendors, please take note.

Some other items of interest:

--Hawaii's Aston Hotels has taken over the Hilo Naniloa on the Big Island of Hawaii and will offer a senior discount of 20% off rack (regular) rates from Sept. 1 through Dec. 20.

--Golfers age 60 and over may golf at Northstar-at-Tahoe's 18-hole championship course for $31, which includes greens fee and a golf cart. That's $5 off the regular rate.

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