As the season changes and kids get back to school, the kind of guests many hotels can expect to host switches from families to seniors. This is the traditional time of the year for the active retired set to hit the road, often for weeks at a time, to explore the country. While many in the so-called Greatest Generation are quite financially comfortable—even downright rich—the recession hit hard for many middle-class seniors. The result for you and your hotels may be slower-than-normal business this fall.
Senior travel is big business for many hotels. The U.S. Travel Association says mature travelers (those born before 1946) represent 21% of all leisure travel and those in this group average 4.1 leisure trips per year. Older Boomers (born between 1946 and 1954) account for 15% of leisure travel. That's a lot of nights in hotels.
However, a recent study pointed out the unease many seniors feel over the impact the recession had on their financial futures. According to the survey commissioned by SunAmerica Financial Group, before the recession hit 62% of seniors said they felt secure about their financial situation. But by the low ebb of the recession, only 36% of seniors felt secure and even today only 44% are confident about money.
One by-product of this financial ennui is that many older workers are postponing their retirements, further shrinking the number of seniors who will be on the road and in your hotels. That survey found that many pre-retirees plan to delay retirement by five years, from an average of 64 to 69 years old.
Still, millions of older travelers will be showing up at hotels around the country this fall and winter. But since the number may be smaller, it's important you pay special attention to marketing to this segment. Luckily, it's relatively easy to pinpoint the right media to reach this audience, either through advertising or public relations. And increasingly seniors are using their computers to plan, book and talk about travel. This year, for the first time, more than half (53%) of those over 65 use the Internet and e-mail, and about a third have social networking accounts, such as Facebook.
The total universe of senior travelers may not be growing as fast as it once did, but it's still a large and vibrant market. Be sure your marketing strategies include plans to capture your fair share of it, or more.