In the last one year, 65-year-old retired college professor Rafat Khan has floated in the Dead Sea in Jordan, watched elephants at play in Sri Lanka, shopped in the quaint markets of Vietnam and spent time at the Everest base camp in Tibet on the 65th anniversary of the mountain’s conquest. Sometimes in tour groups, at other times with family, the Amravati resident has packed in more than six-seven such trips since last summer and has no intention of letting up the pace.
Next on the cards? Visiting Iceland in September to see the Northern Lights.
“My wanderlust kicked in late,” laughed Khan. “Now my kids are settled, and I get a good enough pension. I want to get through my bucket list while I’m active.”
Higher disposable incomes and more adventurous mindsets, coupled with more affordable travel, has propelled senior citizens like Khan to travel more than ever before, say leading travel companies, fuelling a spurt in demand in the segment. From big players like Thomas Cook Yatra and Flight Centre Travel Group to specialised operators like 50+ Voyagers Travel and Adventure Club, all say they have witnessed a doubling in business from senior citizens in the last three years alone.
“This is one of the fastest-growing segments in the market,” said Romil Pant, senior vice president, leisure travel, Thomas Cook (India), which has seen business growing at 25% year on year. The overall leisure segment is growing at 15-20%.
Today’s Gen S–some call them ‘seenagers’ or ‘senior teenagers’–are healthier and wealthier than their predecessors and are willing to spend more on experiences rather than material goods, said Sangita Bhattacharyya, founder of 50+ Voyagers Travel and Adventure Club. According to her, these senior citizens consider travel as a way to socialise and keep their minds active and engaged. Other reasons include more free time after retirement, independent children leaving home for jobs or higher studi ..
“We see the segment growing by 18-20%, coupled with a 30% increase in enquiries from both senior citizen travellers as well as children willing to gift a holiday to parents,” said Bhattacharyya.
According to a report by Frost & Sullivan commissioned by travel software provider Amadeus, it is estimated that around 7.3 million senior citizens will travel from India in 2020.
Retired high-flying corporate executives, former heads of organisations, entrepreneurs and parents with affluent children are among those travelling frequently.
“Seniors who join our tours are well-read, they want to learn something new,” Bhattacharyya said. “We have seen our senior citizen travellers practising eating with chopsticks to prepare for a Vietnam tour, starting regular climbing by stairs to prepare for the Tiger Nest Hike in Bhutan, learning wildlife photography for the Kenya-Masaimara tour and swimming to go snorkeling in Bali.”
TRAVEL MORE, SPEND MORE
Not only are these seniors traveling more–and to more exotic destinations including Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Jordan, Cambodia and Kenya–they also tend to spend more than the average traveller, said travel companies.
“There’s a lot of purchasing power and pent-up demand in this segment. These are higher-value sales,” said Rakshit Desai, managing director, India, Flight Centre Travel Group.
MakeMyTrip, which has registered an increase of over 14% year-on-year bookings in overseas trips, has a large number of high-profile senior travellers from business, art and cinema and even those who have served with the armed forces as clients. “Many of them are our regular customers who like to explore new foreign destinations every year,” said a spokesperson. Thomas Cook’s Pant said the segment sees a high repeat rate of as much as 40%.
For this segment, costs can be higher by 10-15% as some specific requirements are often built in. This includes stay in hotels that are wheelchair accessible, nonstop flights and relaxed itineraries, said Debolin Sen, head, Enable Travel, a division of Cox & Kings.
Some have specific dietary requirements, others need more frequent bathroom breaks and some require wheelchair assistance which necessitates experienced caregivers and special equipment including ramps and wheelchair-accessible vans.
Average spends start at Rs 30,000-35,000 per head for a destination like Thailand, upwards of Rs 50,000 for Singapore, while for Europe, it would be above Rs 1 lakh per head per person in a group, said Sharat Dhall, president of travel portal Yatra. For Yatra, this segment has doubled from two to three years ago and accounts for 10-15% of the holidays business. For Flight Centre Travel Group, the silver segment is 20-25% of the portfolio, while for Thomas Cook, its 35-40% of the leisure segment. ..
Senior citizens prefer to travel in groups–occasionally with youngsters–but sometimes coming together to form groups of their own with people from their colony or with friends. “They have the energy and enthusiasm of people far younger. And they know how to have fun, even if it’s singing bhajans on the Paris-Brussels leg of a Europe trip,” said Thomas Cook’s Pant.
Support for this article was provided by indiatimes