VACATIONS

10 Ways Travel Companies Are Attracting 60+ Women Travelers

Do you think that an exclusive and inclusive vacation resort in the Caribbean is the height of travel pleasure for women over the age of 60? Well, other women our age may prefer walking 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain, or kayaking in New Zealand, or hiking in Switzerland. The 60+ women travelers are as diverse as an age group could be. Its members are married, divorced, widowed, single, straight, and gay, of every race and ethnicity. And a growing number have savings earmarked for travel, coupled with the urge for going. 

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The Power Of 60+ Women Taking To The Road

Numerous studies have shown that Baby Boomers travel more often and on longer trips than do other generations, and they spend more money on their trips.

And boomer travel power is largely fueled by women over the age of 60. In fact, an article in USA Today reports that 80 percent of all travel decisions are made by women, “regardless of where they go, who pays for the trip, or who they’re traveling with.” Smart marketers have learned that, depending on what kind of travel they are trying to sell, the message is diversify, diversify, diversify. 

Although there is still a market for more passive travel — and cruises and bus tours continue to be popular for many — a growing number of 60+ women want to travel independently, either with old or new friends, with relatives, or solo. Marketers and travel companies would do well to establish trust with this cohort.

As an active participant in the online 60+ women’s travel community, I can report that if people in the business keep their ears to the ground and take note of what women say, they will learn some pretty basic ways to earn the loyalty and interest of this powerful group.

Ways Some Travel Companies Attract the Loyalty of 60+ Women And How To Improve

A 60 plus athletic, fit woman with gray hair is cheerfully walking down the beach carrying a surfboard.
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1. Offer Bucket List And Transformative Experiences 

Covid has changed the attitudes of women throughout the country and around the world. I have posted questions in 60+ women’s social media groups about how travel plans have changed for them. Here are just a few representative quotes:

“I’m feeling swept away by dreams of trips as far away as I can get after a year of nothing.”

“My feeling is ‘Live It Up Now’ because who knows what lies ahead?”

“My bucket list used to be the places I want to go before I die. After the pandemic, I decided to do all the trips on my list. Why wait? Don’t know what the future of my health or the world will be.”

“My list has gotten longer! Life is short!”

Although bucket lists vary, companies are discovering that once-rare trips to Antarctica, Easter Island, and even around-the-world journeys are selling out in planned post-pandemic travel.

Luggage holder tag with blank label on silver suitcase.
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2. Offer Deals On Travel

Travel companies aimed at this age group are offering free air travel for selected tours, discount flight prices, and professional help in booking flights, among other perks. Meeting a traveler at the airport with a free transfer to hotels is a bonus that older travelers appreciate.  

3. Offer Lower Or No Single Supplements

Most tour operators and cruise lines impose a single supplement fee on those who travel by themselves. As a way around the extra costs (which are sometimes double the cost for a single passenger), a number of tour companies like Road Scholar may match travelers with a roommate. Kelsey Knoedler Perri, Director of Public Relations for the popular educational travel company, has found that sometimes women have “ended up becoming lifelong friends and traveling together on more programs” when they are successfully paired. Road Scholar and some other companies have also decreased or waived single supplement fees on selected trips. According to numerous discussions online, solo female travelers are searching for such offers.

Senior woman standing next to her tent at Seronera Campsite in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
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4. Offer Unique Cultural Experiences

Savvy travel companies not only offer trips to the countries of their customer’s ancestors — from Ireland to Scandinavia to Italy to Africa — they also program activities that offer authentic cultural experiences in these places, like local meetups, cooking classes, genealogical searches, or volunteering time with children or adults. While cruises and tour companies often hit the most iconic sites, women have posted on online sites that they also want visits to places that may be off the beaten path, less crowded, and more meaningful to them.

Senior woman with grey hair alone spending a day outside at the beach of England.
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5. Cater To Solo Female Travelers

A growing number of older women travel alone, and that’s why Road Scholar, Overseas Adventure Travel, Intrepid Travel, and others also offer trips just for women. Kelsey Knoedler Perri notes that “more than 60 percent of Road Scholar participants are women, and more than a quarter of our participants travel solo, so there is a big overlap there.” Road Scholar also offers some trips just for women, which provide for “a really special, empowering atmosphere and camaraderie.”

Older woman feeding a squirrel with a treat in the local park. Beauty in nature series.
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6. Offer Different Styles Of Travel For Different Abilities

Tour companies may offer a balance of small group travel or larger groups, but vital for a population in which some participants have physical challenges is having a choice of activity levels. Road Scholar, for instance, lets potential travelers know the level of activity for each trip with descriptions.

For those older women who are able, there are also a number of women’s adventure travel companies, like REI Women Adventures, Wild Women Expeditions, and AdventureWomen.

 7. Offer Off-Season Trips

Smart travelers know that the most expensive and crowded travel season is the summer. Because older travelers can travel any time of year, the other three seasons fill up quickly, except for winter travel. That’s why smart tour companies book travel year round. I went on a tour to Portugal in the winter that was not only less expensive, but attractions were less crowded. For me, sunny and cooler days made it easier to walk and sightsee.

Senior couple traveling in airport scene, looking at flight times.
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8. Provide Fair Change And Cancellation Policies 

The world of travel has changed with COVID, and companies need to respond accordingly. Cancellations of tour dates, flights, and cruises are rampant, and failures to provide refunds or exchanges in a timely way are reported on social media sites in detail. The lack of communication with customers is also a source of complaint, as are the difficulties of unsuccessfully reaching someone by phone, email, or online who can help. 

9. Establish Trust By Following Through On Offers And Agreements

Advertising and marketing mean nothing if travelers feel as if they are victims of unfulfilled promises. Reviews about such deals, gimmicks, and come-ons travel quickly on social media. 

10. Keep Track Of Real Women Commenting Online

Travel businesses often read marketing statistics and studies but do not note Facebook, Instagram, travel blogs, reviews on Tripadvisor, and other comments online. And that’s when the truth comes out — complaints about food, hotels, guides, transportation, pace, physical challenges, and more. Women on social media trust the experiences of other women. The cost of the trip always counts for women, but the value for that cost is often most important.

Facebook is especially popular with the 60+ women class. There are sites for discussion, reviews of trips, questions about best values, inspiring stories, and recommendations for meetups and for finding travel partners. Two of my favorite Facebook sites that offer honest evaluations of trips and travel are the Over 60 Women Travel and Meetup Group and Over 60 Solo Women Travelers, but there are many more.

Smiling older woman with glass of wine next to a brown horse.
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Reaching Those With Wild Hearts, Wise Minds, and Daring Spirits

In the end, successful businesses know that a growing number of women 60+ may not need tours. They may find alternative places to stay and eat, they may arrange their own language classes or art or cooking classes. They may swap places to stay or visit people in other countries with whom they’ve been in touch on social media. In other words, a growing number of women can do it on their own — especially if the travel industry ignores their wants and needs.

It is estimated that seniors will comprise nearly a quarter of the world’s population by 2050. And, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, seniors will be taking more than 2 billion trips annually by 2050. It’s time for tour companies, hotels, airlines, rail travel, and everyone else to tune in to the power that over 60 and 70 and even 80-year-old women travelers will wield. It would behoove the travel industry to take note of what author Sue Monk Kidd has written, which has been inspiring older women on the Internet and beyond: 

“Older women, particularly, have cultivated the wild heart, wise mind, and daring spirit that make third acts and late-life renaissances possible.”

Here are some other travel insights: