Older parents are a growing travel niche, according to a report by
the Travel Industry Association of America.
The study found that travel in this group has surged 149 percent
since 1994 by far the biggest demographic increase in the report,
acccording to the association.
(The next highest increase in travel was among young parents, at
just 17 percent.)
The association found that the defining characteristic of these
parents are that they are at least 55 years old and have at least
one child under age 17 at home.
Agents and travel experts say it is a demographic that likely
decided to establish their careers before having children.
As a result, they also have built up more of an ongoing income
and nest egg to support a well-traveled lifestyle.
“We cater to this age bracket,” says Linda Ovian, managing
director of Los Angeles-based Journeys Abroad Inc., where this
particular travel niche accounts for 15 percent of business.
“These people have the bucks to spend because they’re
well-established in the business community,” she said. “As an
agent, you have to be selective and meet each particular family
And a growing number of travel industry players are taking
notice to win over this educated, affluent and older customer.
Marriott Vacation Club International, for example, offers
1,250-square-foot villas that accommodate six, with full kitchens,
private balconies, luxury tubs, as well as family-friendly
activities such as pool parties, campfires and even karaoke.
Agent rates range from 8 to 10 percent, and agents may visit
properties at 50 percent off rack rate.
Euro RSCG Worldwide, a New York-based global marketing
communications agency, recently found in a travel-trend study that
travelers age 50 or older make up 33 percent of travel to Japan as
well as two-thirds of all cruise passengers.
“People who are 55-plus today feel genuinely young: They have
great physical strength, emotional strength and a sense of
adventure,” says Marian Salzman, chief strategy officer Euro RSCG
Worldwide. “Travel is one of the benefits of maturity but maturity
“There is no such thing as being old in your 50s or even 60s if
you have enough joy for life to hit the road. The other irony is
that this demographic essentially behaves like middle youth. They
“They are ambitious about sampling new experiences and are
desperately seeking conversational currency. How better to gain it
than shopping in North Africa or snorkeling in Mexico? Or doing an
antiques tour in England or France or in Wisconsin?”
She adds that this demographic is also very Web-savvy, so agents
do themselves good by finding packages and prices that match those
found on sites such as Lonely Planet Online, or, say,
And experts say agents also need to be aware of this traveler’s
particular personality, and plan accordingly.
This niche traveler is the kind that often wants a ‘resort
casual’ attitude, but with all of the lavish perks of a high-end
“This group feels like they are ‘owed’ some great vacations
after years of sacrificing to raise, support and educate their
children,’’ says Joe Ewart, vice president of sales and marketing
for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
“Agents need to target the message directly to these prospects,”
The increase in travel among this demographic has grown so much
that some travel agents who had specialized strictly in grandparent
travel are now focusing upon older parents who may not have
One of the most high-profile of such agencies, Grandtravel, is
seeing 10 percent annual growth in this niche.
Founder Helena Koenig says her Chevy Chase, Md.-based business
is now scheduling two to three trips a week for this kind of
client, with average bookings of about $2,000.
“They see my grandparent-focused trips online and call and say
‘Can we book that we’re old enough to be grandparents,” Koenig
says. “Of course we can. They waited for children and they have
money as a result. They aren’t grandparents now, but they will be
in 10 years.”