The possibility of cancellation and refund free of charge is an essential element for seniors. (Photo: 123RF)
SENIORS’ MARKET. Those 60 and over were traveling more than ever before the pandemic. Security and flexibility will however be required to make them want to leave again.
More vulnerable to COVID-19, older Quebecers have preferred the comfort of their homes to the call of the sea. A study carried out by the Transat Tourism Chair reveals that 68% of baby boomers surveyed consider that they did not travel as much as usual in the summer of 2020, compared to 50% of 18-54 year olds.
“In the last two years, it is above all the desire to travel the world that was lacking in this portion of the clientele,” observes the holder of the Chair, Marc-Antoine Vachon. To explain their new home tendencies, 76% said they did not want to leave in the current context, while 61% cited the fear of contracting the virus.
The observation is shared by Marc-Olivier Gagné, director of digital development at Voyages Gendron. “The main fear of our customers was mainly related to the tests and all the administrative burden caused by the pandemic.”
In order to restore the travel bug to seniors, he believes that industry players will have to focus on the customer effort. “Before the pandemic, it was the golden age of tourism. People had never traveled so much, the machine was well oiled, everything was working well,” he underlines.
The system therefore does not need to be completely revised. “We feel that there is a very strong interest in travel. To reactivate it, baby boomers must be reassured about the health response or even about health awareness at destination.” In other words, the industry will have to demonstrate that it takes the situation seriously, particularly with seniors, who are more worried about contracting the virus than younger generations.
When it comes to tourism, the elderly are very organized, according to Marc-Antoine Vachon. “They like to plan every moment of the trip. They must be reassured that each step is thought out under sanitary seal, that no detail has been left to chance. It is therefore necessary to focus not only on the flight, but also on the interval between the airport and the destination, such as the city center or the road to the hotel.
Hélène Carbonneau, full professor in the Department of Leisure, Culture and Tourism Studies at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières, believes that access to care in the event of a problem is one of the essential needs of seniors. “Seniors I spoke to through the REAL program (full retirement and leisure) had concerns about the vagueness surrounding travel: the health care offered, insurance coverage, etc.”
Same story on the side of Martin Soucy, CEO of the Alliance of the tourism industry of Quebec. “There is an element of caution in the case of those 60 and over. Regardless of the market or the destination, you have to demonstrate that it is safe, that there are health standards in place,” he says. All Quebec players, from campgrounds to festivals, have deployed an important plan of measures to respond to the concerns of travelers, promises the leader.
Martin Soucy is delighted that the perception of security has prompted a good number of Quebecers to explore the beautiful province since 2020. “Local getaways, particularly in national or regional parks, have increased during the pandemic.” The new retirees, who are in better shape, have also bought sports equipment — such as skis or a mountain bike — to take advantage of it.
Spotlight on their needs
The possibility of cancellation and refund without charge is another element to consider. “It has become a very strong point in all layers of the population since the pandemic, but it is an even more important concern for seniors, who often travel in groups”, remarks Marc-Antoine Vachon.
The one who is also a professor in the Marketing Department of the School of Management Sciences of the University of Quebec in Montreal (ESG-UQAM) would also bet on affordability to give them back the desire to travel the world. “It’s a crucial aspect for retirees, unlike young professionals,” he says.
According to the study on the travel habits of baby boomers carried out by the Transat Tourism Chair, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism in 2021, an offer of attractions, accommodation and inexpensive restaurants is at the top of the list. expectations of this age group.
The holder of the Chair therefore recommends offering experiences with a good price-quality ratio. “God knows that with inflation and the rising cost of living, it can play into travel intentions.” On good terms…