Accessible Holiday Guide from Responsible Travel

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Responsible Travel in the UK connects the world’s best small holiday companies with travellers looking for more from their holiday than just a brief stay.  They offer personal holidays or holidays in a small group from over 375 small and specialist tour companies in 190+ countries.   Convinced that small holiday companies are run by interesting people who founded them out of a deep love for destinations, cultures, landscapes and wildlife, their aim is treat local people and places well.   Responsible Travel now has an Accessible Holiday Guide about accessible travel for people with disabilities.   It covers places to stay and things to do, and has advice on travelling with a disability.

As the website points out, the world’s travelling population is getting older, with varying access needs. Many businesses are starting to hear the message that tourists who travel with special needs are increasing in number. The term ‘purple pound’ or ‘dollar’ has even been coined to describe this rapidly growing worldwide market.   Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Adviser, Lonely Planet (Australia) is a world-travelled wheelchair user.  He writes on the website that “Baby boomers are now retiring with access issues, whether they identify as disabled or not, they are increasingly subject to varying degrees of disability, whether it is hearing, sight or mobility. And this is a market that I think the smart national tourism bodies are actually thinking about. Examples of these are England, Scotland and Wales, on the back of the last Olympics and Paralympics in London – but also Catalonia and Germany”.

Follow on Twitter: @r_travel @Martin_Heng @lonelyplanet


Boomers “agents of change” in tourism: SMG Consulting

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Boomers and seniors at the Tower of London

SMG Consulting is a Californian company which carries out research and develops strategic plans and tourism marketing programs in tourism, recreation, and hospitality.  They have just released their eight annual SMG Tourism Outlook for 2015.  In it, they describe several agents of change in the industry, including demographics and consumer behaviour (the others are climate, and tourism funding).

The report points out that by 2029, more than 20% of the total U.S. population will be over the age of 65. Although the number of Baby Boomers will decline through mortality, this shift toward an increasingly older population is expected to endure. By 2056, the population 65 years and over is projected to become larger than the population under 18 years. While Boomers are getting older, they still represent 25% of the U.S. population with the highest disposable income, a significant share of the tourism industry bottom line.The report goes on to say that today’s Baby Boomer is quite different, however, than a decade ago, even a year ago. Following the free spirited lead of their Millennial kids and Gen Xer co-workers, Baby Boomers are mimicking their leisure patterns and pursuit of fun in their older years. The report calls this “Aging Younger”.

Because of this, some traditional pursuits of older generations are in decline.  For example, the report points out that in the USA, golf is on the downswing.   As Baby Boomers age and move on to other passions, Gen Xers and Millennials are not replacing the void. Following suit, Baby Boomers are also spending more of their precious time in a variety of activities such as food pairings and motorcycle touring making them less inclined to play the traditional 18 rounds. A similar situation exists in skiing, that is, as Baby Boomers age and turn to other passions, Generation Xers and Millennials are not replacing the volume or frequency.

Boomers are healthier and wealthier than ever, and more willing to engage in numerous activities. For example, WanderLust, a yoga music foodie festival, and the SnowGlobe music festival, attract both a younger and older audience. Priorities with health, community and ecology, Wanderlust festivals are popping up all over, extending the life of tired destinations and many of their traditional Baby Boomer visitor segments. Remember, Baby Boomers were raised on Rock ‘n’ Roll and self-expression. Baby Boomers who are the parents of Millennials want new experiences too. They like music festivals and yoga, which keep them young, and the destination even younger. Chasing youth is a great revenue generator, especially for mature destinations that desperately need repositioning.

Source: SMG Consulting (  Follow on Twitter: @SMGtahoe

Germany continues work to broaden and promote accessible tourism

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Accessible Tourism in Germany covers of two brochures from press release (2)

Germany: The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs promotes the further expansion of accessible tourism in Germany.  Their project “Tourism for All” was awarded the German Seminar for Tourism (DSFT) Berlin e.V. in December.  With this project, the tourism industry can better adapt to the rapidly growing number of people needing better access, such as seniors, people with disabilities, or families with prams and luggage.   The main objective of the project is to introduce a nationwide uniform labelling system “Travel for All” in the next three years.   In future, all travellers, including those needing better access, can get reliable information about the tourist service provider and can use it for their travel decision.   To this end, there is a comprehensive database on the German National Tourist Board website (DZT) as well as on those of state marketing organizations.  Businesses along the entire service chain are recognized by Germany-wide criteria, rated, and certified.   In addition, providers receive access training.

The label “Tourism for All” has been developed over several years with the input and cooperation of  numerous organizations, the tourist associations state marketing organizations, and other stakeholders as part of a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics (2011-2014). There are already 10 states, a few regions,  and a hotel corporation on the system. Nearly 400 businesses were inspected using an extensive catalogue of criteria.   Support for Project V. is the German Seminar for Tourism (DSFT) Berlin e. V. in cooperation with the Association for Tourism All Germany e. (NatKo).    For information on the project and the labelling system “Travel for All”, see

Tourismus für Alle – ein Zukunftsmarkt

Das Bundeswirtschaftsministerium fördert den weiteren Ausbau des barrierefreien Tourismus in Deutschland – für das Projekt „Reisen für Alle“ erhielt das Deutsche Seminar für Tourismus (DSFT) Berlin e. V. im Dezember den Zuwendungsbescheid. Mit dem Projekt soll sich die Tourismusbranche besser auf die stark wachsende Gruppe älterer, aktivitäts- und mobilitätseingeschränkter Menschen einstellen.

Hauptziel des Projektes ist, das bundesweit einheitliche Kennzeichnungssystem „Reisen für Alle“ in den nächsten drei Jahren einzuführen. Künftig sollen alle Reisenden, darunter auch Senioren, Menschen mit einer Behinderung oder Familien mit Kinderwagen und Gepäck, verlässliche Informationen über die touristischen Anbieter erhalten und diese für ihre Reiseentscheidung nutzen können. Dafür entsteht eine umfangreiche Datenbank, die im Internet auf den Seiten der Deutschen Zentrale für Tourismus (DZT) sowie den Seiten der Landesmarketing-Organisationen abgerufen werden kann. Betriebe entlang der gesamten touristischen Servicekette werden nach deutschlandweit einheitlichen Kriterien erfasst, bewertet und zertifiziert. Außerdem erhalten die Anbieter Schulungen.

Die Kennzeichnung „Reisen für Alle“ wurde in mehrjähriger Zusammenarbeit und Abstimmung mit zahlreichen Betroffenenverbänden sowie allen touristischen Verbänden, Landesmarketing-Organisationen und weiteren Akteuren im Rahmen eines vom Bundeswirtschaftsministerium geförderten Vorgängerprojektes von 2011 bis 2014 entwickelt. Inzwischen setzen bereits 10 Bundesländer, einige Regionen und auch eine Hotelkooperation das System ein. Knapp 400 Betriebe wurden mit dem umfangreichen Kriterienkatalog geprüft. Es gibt bereits eine Reihe guter Beispiele und Initiativen in verschiedenen Regionen, doch barrierefreie Tourismusangebote sind in Deutschland noch lange nicht flächendeckend zu finden.   Träger des Projekts ist das Deutsche Seminar für Tourismus (DSFT) Berlin e. V. in Kooperation mit dem Verein Tourismus für Alle Deutschland e. V. (NatKo).

Aktuelle Informationen zu dem Projekt und Kennzeichnungssystem “Reisen für Alle” finden Sie unter

Source: Press release.  Please forgive translation mistakes. Follow on Twitter: @BMWi_Bund

UN: People with Disabilities fastest growing minority in the world

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Senior couple out for  a stroll On December 3 – which is the United Nations International Day of People with Disabilities – New Zealanders with disabilities who are high achievers will be recognised at the Attitude Awards in Auckland.  According to the recently released NZ Disability Survey 2013, 24% of people living in New Zealand have one or more disabilities.  Because of the aging population, this percentage will increase over the coming years as the huge Baby Boomer cohort ages.  Globally, there are at least 1 billion people already with some form of disability, and the United Nations describing the disability community as “the fastest-growing minority in the world” (UN). In NZ, physical impairment is the most common type of disability, followed by sensory impairments such as hearing or vision loss. Mental illness affected 5% of our citizens, and intellectual disability 2%.  Last year’s inductee into Attitude’s hall of fame, accessibility advocate Alexia Pickering, said in her acceptance speech:  “Accessibility rules the lives of all people with disabilities. It determines where we go, what we do, who we can visit, what theatre we can go to. It just rules our life” (Stuff). The United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which has been observed since 1992, provides an opportunity to further raise awareness of disability and accessibility as an overarching development issue, promote understanding of disability issues, and mobilise support for the dignity, rights, and wellbeing of people with disabilities.  The theme of this year’s commemoration is: “Sustainable Development – The Promise of Technology.”

Follow on Twitter: @UN_Enable @attitude_tv @NZStuff  @kennyKatie

Yorkshire tourist attractions praised for accessibility

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Silver Travel Advisor logo from their website

A number of Yorkshire tourist attractions have been praised for being accessible to older travellers. The National Railway Museum, in York, RHS Garden Harlow Carr, near Harrogate, Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, Ampleforth Abbey, near Helmsley and Malton’s Eden Camp Museum, all received plaudits from Silver Travel Advisor which is a review and advice website for mature travellers.

Silver Travel Advisor managing director Debbie Marshall is very impressed with the level of consideration and detail that Yorkshire’s tourist attractions have gone to in order to accommodate older or less able guests.   “Many of them offer mobility scooters, lifts and ramps, and all the sites visited have gone to great lengths to ensure the comfort and welcome of the UK’s aging population” she said.

Silver Travel Advisor is a website run by a team of mature travel industry professionals.  Members can join for free and are invited to contribute to the site’s growing collection of impartial mature travel reviews, travel advice and travel tips – all written exclusively by and for mature travellers.

Follow on Twitter: @SilverTravelAd @Welcome2Yorks

Surge in wellness tourism, says LuxGuide

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THE wellness travel sector will enjoy a big surge in interest in the coming years, says LuxGuide editor Deborah Dickson-Smith. This is because more people realise the key to long term health is in their own hands, globalisation is opening doors for consumers to more lifestyle philosophies and treatments, and ageing baby boomers are looking to extend their years of good health.    As more people adopt healthier lifestyles, tourism operators and travel agents should expect to see more clients who want to incorporate this into their holidays. Twitter: @LuxperienceAU @where2nextblog

Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe

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The final summary report of one of three studies commissioned in Accessible Tourism in Europe has been released.  The report is by the European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR) in 2012-2013 and aims to build a comprehensive picture of Accessible Tourism in the European Union (EU). The survey was conducted by GfK Belgium, the University of Surrey, NeumannConsult and ProAsolutions. The main aim of the study is to better understand demand for Accessible Tourism in order to guide policy-making in this field. For this purpose, five main research objectives were identified:

  1.  To examine the current and future demand for Accessible Tourism in Europe and beyond
  2.  To investigate the travel patterns and behaviours of, and information provision for people with access needs
  3. To evaluate the tourist experience across different tourism sectors from demand and supply-side perspectives
  4.  To estimate the current and future economic contribution of Accessible Tourism and its impact on employment
  5. To propose recommendations and success factors to improve the supply of Accessible Tourism offers.

The study results show that the accessible tourism demand by people with special access needs from the EU currently generates a total economic contribution of 786 billion Euros in terms of total output and 356 billion Euros in terms of gross value added or 394 billion Euros in terms of GDP within the EU. This scale is equivalent to about 3% of total GDP of EU27 in 2012.   In addition, the people with special access needs from the 11 key international inbound markets generated a total economic contribution of 34 billion Euros in terms of total output and 15 billion Euros in terms of gross value added or 17 billion Euros in terms of GDP to the EU.

The objectives of the study were translated into five key tasks whose key findings are presented.  Key predictions include that by 2020 the demand for EU accessible tourism by people within the EU will continue to grow to about 862 million trips/year, while demand  by the key international inbound market will reach 21 million trips/year.  If EU tourism destinations were improved so that almost complete accessibility of buildings, hotels, restaurants, museums, and various accessible services were available, the study showed that demand would increase almost 44% against the baseline, so that trips by EU residents would by 2020 rise to 1, 231 million trips/year.  The rise amongst people from key international markets would rise by almost 77%.  This could potentially result in 36 million trips/year by 2020.  In economic terms, this rise could translate into a rise of 39% in economic contribution. 

 Source: Miller, G (2014).  Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe   Service Contract SI2.ACPROCE052481700 European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry.

 Follow on Twitter: @UKguchan

Biggest tourism and travel spenders are the Baby Boomers

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Tourism Review ( recently carried out a survey of travel agencies and professionals in the tourism industry to get their opinions on changing trends with travel, consumer expectations, and booking.  They came up with seven important trends and their likely effects.  One of these was the fact that it is Baby Boomers – those in their late forties to mid sixties – who are the biggest spenders.  TR notes that for any tourism business, be they hotel, travel agency, or airline, it is crucial to keep up with trends in spending and technology in order to stay ahead of the competition and retain their evolving consumer base.  Businesses within the sector need to keep an eye on where their revenue is coming from.  Spending habits tend to be separated into generations and while agencies focus on attracting the youth market, they only account for 9% of travel expenditure in the last year.  It is the Baby Boomers spending the most, bringing in 60% of the revenue.

Follow on Twitter: @Tourism_Review

EU Commission ‘Mainstreaming Accessibility’ Across All European Tourism Policies

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At the EU Tourism Stakeholders’ Conference, “Mind the Accessibility Gap“, Pedro Ortún, Director for Service Industries, Directorate General Enterprise and Industry declared that accessibility is to be a permanent element of the EU’s future tourism policies.  Speaking to an audience of over 200 tourism professionals and representatives of NGOs,  Ortún laid out the Commission’s vision for tourism policy development and actions in the coming years.  “The ‘Key Enabling Themes’ (KETS) for the future of European Tourism include accessibility, as a permanent element”, said  Ortún.   He pointed to the Commission’s continued focus on quality, sustainability and reaching new tourism markets, particularly the seniors market.   As the fifth largest sector in the European economy, tourism should be seen as a key driver of growth and jobs – and therefore deserving of wide recognition and support from Member States and the European Union as a whole.  “Mainstreaming accessibility means that access for all citizens has to be integrated in all our tourism activities at every level”, Ortún concluded.

 Source: European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT).  Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism  @EU_enterprise

Stereotype of not-tech-savvy Boomers is more than faulty

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Two seniors on a computer from the Accredited Online College infographic

Accredited Online Colleges have published an infographic that shows that the Internet isn’t just for tweens and young socialites. In fact, a large population of Internet users are 50 and older, utilizing the Web for social media, shopping and even education. The infographic is based on USA research by Pew Research, Immersion Active, Forrester, and  eMarketer.  Here is why the stereotype of the not-so-tech-savvy Baby Boomer is more than faulty.

Stats and Facts

77% of Americans aged 50-64 use the internet while 53% aged 65+ (seniors) do so; of these, 70% use it on typical day.  The average amount of time Boomers 47-65 spend on the internet in 27 hours/week. 48% of seniors own a desktop computer, while 63% of those aged 50-64 do.

27.4 million Americans 55+ engage in social networking to communicate.  49% of seniors have a Facebook account.  18% of Twitter users are 50+.

Boomers have the most money of any age group and adults 50+ constitute a majority of the online consumer population.  59% of online seniors made an online purchase in the past 3 months. US$7 billion is the average annual amount spent online by adults 50+, and this group accounts for 80% of all online luxury spending.

Follow on Twitter: @pewresearch @ImmersionActive @eMarketer

Program to improve taxi accessibility first of its kind in Canada

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City of Vancouver taxis from the City website

Vancouver City mayor Gregor Robertson, the Vancouver Taxi Association and the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities have launched ‘Ask-Listen-Act’, a new form of enhanced taxi driver training involving seniors and people with disabilities. Robertson said the training will help make the taxi fleet more accessible and convenient for local seniors and people with disabilities. One in six people in BC has a disability and one in eight people in Vancouver is 65 years of age or older.   “From our new building code to enhanced investments in pedestrian safety, the City is committed to improving accessibility for everyone”, said Robertson.  ‘Ask-Listen-Act’ Enhanced Taxi Driver Training will provide Vancouver taxi drivers with extensive training to ensure customers with different types of disabilities are transported safely and respectfully. In development since April 2012, the program is created by the Vancouver Taxi Association, in partnership with the City of Vancouver and the BC Coalition of Disabilities, and involved consultation with several groups, including the City’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, Seniors Advisory Committee, Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC (COSCO), Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers (ASIC), and GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, among others.

‘Ask-Listen-Act’ will provide no-charge, specific training for taxi drivers when serving customers with a range of disabilities including those using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters. It also provides guidance for helping customers with developmental disabilities, customers who are blind or visually impaired, customers with guide or assistance dogs, and customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Follow on Twitter: @CityofVancouver @BCCPDHealth @VCHhealthcare

Accessibility Pass extended to needs of seniors

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Boomer couple from 50 plus Hellas website

ACCESSIBILITY PASS, the global certification scheme that classifies hotels’ accessibility level based on their infrastructure, services and personnel skills, is extending its scope to ensure that it addresses the accessibility needs of Senior Citizens. The Greek older people’s organization 50plus Hellas is contributing valuable input regarding particular aspects of the Senior Citizen arm of the scheme. 50plus Hellas is a non-governmental and not-for-profit organization, which aims to improve the quality of life of those over 50 years of age in Greece. The ACCESSIBILITY PASS “Senior Citizen Friendly” certification is awarded to hotels successfully assessed for fulfilling the scheme’s related criteria.  Source: ENAT Twitter: @EUaccesstourism

VisitEngland and others write about the importance of the ageing market

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Picture of beach cabins on the front of the Visit England report

In a new publication on “Domestic Leisure Tourism Trends for the next Decade”, VisitEngland (England’s National Tourism Board) identifies 5 trends influencing domestic tourism in the next ten years.  The first on the list is demography, with a concurrent trend in the need for accessibility.  The report states that:

Changes in the population and demographic make-up of England over the next decade will have a transformative effect on society – and significant implications for consumers’ leisure choices. Common to many of the trends in this section is the changing shape of the family – something evident in the rising number of older people and grandparents’ increasing involvement in childcare, and also in the diverse structures and types of family. Overall, the population of England will grow, but this growth will not be spread evenly across age groups. There will be a very well understood trend is the growth in the number of older people and rise in the average age of the country – referred to as the ageing society. Not every section of society is growing; there will actually be a decline in the number of people aged 35-49 over the next few years, leading to a ‘squeezed middle’ generation. The medium term future will also see a rise in the number of younger people, as a result of a sustained rise in fertility rates since the mid 1990s – a baby boom.

The report goes on to say that the implications of these shifts on domestic leisure tourism will be profound. The rising number of older people not only signals a change in the needs of this particular group – there is an implication, for example, for all types of business to meet accessibility needs – but also a shift in their attitudes. The next retired generation will be heavily comprised of the baby boomer cohort, who differ greatly from previous older generations in their attitudes to leisure – they are generally more affluent and far more leisure focussed than previous generations of older people.  Businesses and destinations in the tourism market will need to adapt to cater for an increasing number of intergenerational family holidays.  The ageing population will intensify – in three decades time, there will be more than 9 million over 75s in England (twice as many as there are currently) making the importance of catering for both older and intergenerational groups a crucial implication for decades to come. The appetite for travel and tourism amongst the oldest groups in society is likely to increase over time (‘healthy life expectancy’ is increasing, as well as overall life expectancy), but
accommodation and travel options that can cater for people with reduced mobility will be in great demand.

Of course, an ageing society is not going to just affect English domestic tourism.  Access Tourism New Zealand has for a long time been publishing blogs about the need for the New Zealand tourism and travel sector to sit up and take notice of demographic trends.  New Zealand is getting older.  According to the 2013 NZ Census, the median age (half are younger, and half older, than this age) of the population continued to increase, reaching 38.0 years in 2013 compared with 35.9 years in 2006.  The number of people aged 50–69 years rose to 989,364, an increase of 21.5% since 2006. People in this age range made up 23.3% of the population in 2013, compared with 20.2% in 2006. The number of people aged 65 years and over continued to increase. In 2013, there were 607,032 people in this age group, making up 14.3% of the population. This was an increase from 12.3% of the population in 2006 and 12.1% in 2001.  Over 73,000 people were aged 85 years or over at the time of the 2013 Census. There was a 29.4% increase in this age group since 2006.

In the USA, Mark Bradbury (senior director, Insights and Integrated Marketing, AARP Media Sales) explain why 50+ travellers will rule the airways, railways and hotel hallways into 2014 and beyond.  According to Bradbury, the 50+ traveller is the lifeblood of the travel industry.  They are responsible for 48% of all vacation expenditures, up from 42% just five years ago—a trend that will continue as 50+ population growth outpaces that of 18-49 by a 3:1 margin over the next decade, according to the U.S. Census. People 50+ consider travel more of a necessity than a luxury, as evidenced by a post-recession increase of 25% in their travel spending. Since 2007, 50+ vacation spending is up nearly $20 million, compared to a $1.7 billion drop among 18-49. 50+ travellers spend 23% more on domestic vacations and 22% more on foreign vacations than younger travellers, and spend more high-end. With more time and money at their disposal, older Boomers eager for new experiences are growing the 60+ segment of the travel market. Since Boomers started turning 60 just seven years ago, the 60+ travel market has grown by 24%, or 3.6 million travellers.  Younger Boomers value gratification that can be realized today.  Boomers are at the core of several travel trends, including: ecotourism, adventure travel, medical tourism, multigenerational travel, passion/hobby vacations (that is, combining a vacation with a passion, such as biking, language learning, food, wine, etc.), and spiritual travel. They are also increasingly switched on to digital media.  In summary, no one travels more than Boomers, and no age group is wealthier.

Worldwide, older people are also increasingly switched on to digital media.  In New Zealand 77% of those aged 55-64 are connected to the internet, 61% of those aged 65-74, and 32% of those 75+.

In other areas, SilverGroup reports that those 50+ comprise 35% of all travel and 80% of all cruises in the EC,  Japanese 50+ will comprise 80% of the total tourism dollar across key Asian Markets by 2015, and Chinese 50+ will comprise 39% of total overseas travel and 66% of spending this year (2014 – MasterCard Asia Pacific and ING).   By 2015, those 65+ will spend US$129bn on travel and leisure (SilverGroup).

For tips on travelling as a senior, visit Tourism Review.

@VisitEnglandBiz @VisitEngland @Tourism_Review @SilverGroup @StatisticsNZ

Medical tourism market to reach $32.5 bn globally in 2019

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medical symbol

The global medical tourism market was valued at $10.5 billion in 2012 and is estimated to reach $32.5 billion in 2019, according to a new market report published by Transparency Market Research:  ‘Medical Tourism Market (India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Turkey, South Korea, Costa Rica, Poland, Dubai and Philippines) – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2013-2019‘.  The report cites rises in healthcare costs, long wait times, an ageing population, and increasing demand for cosmetic and dental surgery not covered by insurance in developed countries,  coupled with the availability of high quality, low cost medical services in developing countries for the rise.  Patients travelling abroad can save 30-90% on a procedure by travelling abroad.  With a rise in medical tourism will come an increasing need for accessible tourism, travel, and hospitality as patients who are temporarly disabled pre- or post-surgery recover from their procedures.

Auckland conference on understanding and marketing to older consumers

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Senior couple on the beach from the conference brochure

 A two-day conference in Auckland next March will discuss targeting and marketing to older consumers.  Young at Heart will be chaired by Doug Lloyd, senior lecturer in marketing and advertising at Auckland University of Technology. Lloyd recently gave a presentation (The Great Ignored:  How the Media Industry Fails to Embrace the Mega-trend of Ageing) at the Third International Conference on Ageing and Society in Chicago.  Subjects to be discussed at the conference will include defining market potential, knowing market needs and behaviour, tactics for success, and strategies for customer retention.  There will also be post-conference workshops.  Speakers include those from business, marketing firms (such as Senioragency, which is dedicated to 50+), organizations like the NZ Symphony Orchestra, NGOs, and one from one of New Zealand’s few accessible tourism companies (Kasteel Craw, Accessible New Zealand).

This is an important market sector.  In New Zealand for example, the over 50s are responsible for purchasing:

  • 45% of all new cars sold, and 80% of top end cars
  • 50% face care products
  • 55% of coffee
  • 40% yoghurt and dairy products
  • 25% toys
  • 35% of total travel and 80% of all cruise bookings

In addition, they have an  intangible influence on both younger and older family member purchasing decisions

Worldwide, the seniors economy ranks No. 3 after the United States and China. In the USA, there are more than 100 million consumers who are 50 or older.  They:

  • generate $7 trillion a year in goods and services
  • are generally better off financially,
  • have special interests in leisure travel, health, exercise, internet shopping and digital gadgets
  • growing in number yearly
  • are one of the country’s prime engines of commerce and jobs whether working or spending retirement dollars
  • account for close to half of all spending in entertainment, apparel and other important sectors
  • hold 80% of the country’s personal net worth

As has been pointed out on this website many times before (1, 2 etc), the New Zealand tourism industry ignores this market at its peril.

New Zealand still mostly ignores the important older-tourist market

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There are some in New Zealand who recognize the importance of older people to New Zealand’s tourism industry.  For example, Professor Ian Yeoman (Victoria University Wellington) noted at the recent New Zealand HAPNZ holiday parks conference that wealth and power is now in the hands of senior citizens (Inside Tourism 937/11/7/13). Yeoman also talked about the importance of extended family holidaying, saying that today, grandparents have more contact with their grandchildren than in the past. “Grandparents are extremely important to society. They are spending three times as much time with their grandchildren than grandparents did 40 years ago because they are living longer and are wealthier, and are caregivers because both parents are working”.  This often means that it is grandparents who actually take their grandchildren on holiday.  AA Tourism CEO Moira Penman notes that  “empty nesters” tend to have more disposable income and more time up their sleeves after their children leave home and many are keen to try new experiences.  “Health and fitness is also high on their radar, so activity-based holidays are attractive amongst this demographic,” said Penman.   “Many tourism operators have already recognized this interest and have tailored more active holiday packages and products to this age group and we can only encourage this positive approach.”  In addition, says Penman, New Zealanders in older age groups are exploring more domestic holiday destinations and  22% planned on travelling somewhere new in 2013, compared with only 15% in 2012.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand tourism industry in general still maintains disproportionate focus on the youth market.  For example, Tourism New Zealand (TNZ – the official marketer of New Zealand) has had a lot of projects recently targeting youth.  In fact, the youth market is one of five sector markets on the TNZ website (the others being Film and Hobbit, Business Events, Cruise Sector, and Rugby World Cup), and there is also a dedicated Youth Market team at TNZ .  However, there is no such dedicated team for older visitors in spite of the fact that the most recent data available (for October 2013) shows that 46% of visitors to New Zealand where aged 45 or older.  This negelect is also in spite of the fact that TNZ GM tourism operations Paul Yeo thinks the older market segment will grow.   Active boomers are a “distinct segment that we believe will grow and as people remain healthy and wealthy then there will be plenty of 80 year old bungy jumpers and skydivers and it is a segment we really think and hope will continue to grow,” Yeo told the Great Adventure conference in Wellington recently.  Why no dedicated team for older visitors?

Certainly, other countries have not been neglecting the older age bracket.  The Australians, for example, have been aware of demographic issues affecting their tourism industry for some time.  Like many Western countries, the Australian population is ageing. It is predicted that by 2050 around a quarter of the population in Australia will be over 65 years because the large Baby Boomer segment, declining fertility rates, ageing families, and increasing life expectancies.  The way Baby Boomers “use their time and money when they retire will affect the domestic tourism industry and their choice to travel domestically, internationally or not to travel at all is an important consideration for the industry”, states a recent Tourism Australia report.  The report goes on to describe how Gen X and Boomer Australians spent the most on tourism per capita between 2000 and 2006, and gives other analyses by age group.

And of course, when considering the older market, attention must be paid to access in tourism, travel, and hospitality, because disability increases with age.  While the New Zealand pays little attention to the older visitor market, it pays almost none to the huge market of people with disabilities.  Compare that to Australia, where  regionally, the State of Victoria has encourages accessible tourism by issuing an Accessible Business Toolkit for tourism businesses, Queensland and New South Wales have also worked on improving tourism access, and Western Australia and other states have  Access Tourism Strategies.  We have none.

Costa Rica emerging as a leading medical tourism destination

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Map of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is emerging as a leading medical and health tourism destination writes Shannon Farley.  There are several reasons for this.  Firstly, medical treatments in Costa Rica are cheaper than elsewhere.  For example, they average 50% to 70% less than in the United States and Canada.  Secondly Americans, Canadians and most Europeans do not require an entrance visa for stays shorter than 90 days. Thirdly, there are high-quality medical services in the country.  Finally, Costa Rica is a very attractive tourist destination, with an established tourism infrastructure and plentiful international flights.

In 2011, 48,000 health tourists visited to Costa Rica, mostly from the United States and Canada in search of medical care in dentistry, orthopedics, plastic surgery, preventive medicine, Gynecology and Bariatric Surgery. Costa Rica is looking to boost its numbers to 100,000 medical tourists in 2014. The country hosted a national forum for health tourism, ExpoMED 2013, on October 29 2013 in San Jose, to establish standards and guidelines for international health tourism.

And Costa Rica is not alone. According to a Transparency Market Research report, the global medical tourism industry has become a $US$10.5 Billion industry based on the availability of high-quality medical services at reasonable rates in many developing countries.  It is expected to reach US$32.5 Billion in 2019.  One thing Costa Rica has going for it is that it is taking steps to improve tourism access for people with disabilities.  Better access is definitely something visitors recovering from medical procedures will appreciate.

American museums increasing access for people with disabilities

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Exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In an article for the New York Times, Tanya Mohn describes how American museums are increasing access for people with disabilities.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY for example, runs programmes for people with disabilities almost every day.  These include tours in American Sign Language (ASL), displays of art created by people with disabilities, and multisensory exhibits.  The Whitney in Manhattan finds that its video tour blogs (vlogs) in ASL are popular with hearing people because they are captioned.   The Guggenheim’s mobile app includes closed captioning for videos, enlarged text capability, verbal tours and other technology.    The Smithsonian – which has many adaptations to overcome barriers – has definitive guidelines to accessible exhibition design which are used globally.  The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a universal approach to its mobile multimedia guide, and devices can be used by disabled and nondisabled visitors.  The Art Institute of Chicago plans to try 3-D printing of artworks so that visitors can explore sensory elements of objects.

Such efforts by museums are likely to increase, writes Mohn.  In 2010, about 56.7 million Americans had a disability (18.7% of the population).  This number will increase because of America’s ageing population, increased longevity, and more cases of certain types of learning disabilities.

Smaller museums offer services for the disabled also.  For a description of these, see the full article by Mohn.

Accessible Tourism round table at World Travel Market

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Wheelchair being pushed in a Spanish street

The World Travel Market (WTM) is a 35-year-old leading global business-to-business event with presentations and exhibitions for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.  It is attended by almost 48,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press in London every November. WTM 2012 generated £1,860 million of travel industry contracts. WTM also runs a number of other business-to-business events covering all elements of travel and tourism.  At this year’s Travel and Technology Show, a round table was held on Accessible Travel and Responsible Travel.  The event featured an in-depth and informed discussion as eight experts from both business arenas gathered to discuss the markets.

Ataxia South Wales Chairman Alan Thomas said the UK’s estimated 10.6 million disabled people have a combined annual spend on goods and services of up to £80 billion, adding: “It is a big market out there. What’s the travel industry doing about it? In a word, nothing.”  According to a UK Government report (2012 Legacy for Disabled People, Inclusive and Accessible Business Travel), businesses failing to take into account this market are missing out on up to £80 billion of potential spend. Thomas said the problems start as soon as he tries to book a holiday as many people in the industry see his wheelchair rather than the human being using it, leaving agents too embarrassed to deal with. Enable Holidays Managing Director Lynne Kirby said such problems are endemic in a trade which has failed to educate staff how best to handle disabled people. She said: “Disabled customers have gone in to a shop and everybody disappears and I have to say hand on heart it is still happening” But Kirby believes the solution is simple, adding: “It is about getting the right information but the travel industry doesn’t know the questions to ask” Amadeus Director of Marketing Rob Sinclair-Barnes added if the market is to be adequately served, it must be all encompassing: “Accessible travel is the only type of travel that has implications from the moment of departure from home to the moment of return.” However, Virgin Atlantic Passenger Disability Adviser Geraldine Lundy said the trade would need to go even further to meet the market’s needs, adding: “It is even before they (disabled travelers) leave home. It is when they’re thinking about the holiday and booking it. It is about getting the information about where they want to go.” Lundy said the information needs to be accurate to allow disabled people to make informed decisions. She added it must also take in to account that some disabled people are blind or have learning difficulties and will need the information presented in a different way. Sinclair-Barnes added as the Baby Boomers enter old age and face increasing health problems, the industry must take action. “It (accessible travel) is a growing market. I’ve found it quite astonishing how little (product) there is.”

Source: WTM

Ataxia South Wales @AlanROYGBIV Enable Holidays @enableholidays Amadeus Director of Marketing Rob Sinclair-Barnes @AmadeusITGroup Virgin Atlantic @VirginAtlantic

Euro travel forum looks at seniors coach tourism

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Tour bus

The International Road Transport Union (IRU) will hold the 8th European Bus and Coach Forum on theme of “European group tourism by coach: Driving seniors and out of season tourism. The forum will take place in Kortrijk, Belgium on 17 October.  The first interactive panel debate on the “Current situation, market potential, and opportunities” will be led by Alain Libéros, Deputy Head of Unit, European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry, Tourism Policy.  It will  feature a keynote address by Eszter Ruga, project officer, ’’Healtour 2011” EU Calypso project on research into seniors’ travel specificity, their expectations, and information about this market.  The second panel will discuss practical problems and solutions to “bring seniors on board”.