Travel and tourism in later life

Authored by: Martin Hyde

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415631143
eBook ISBN: 9780203097090
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221033

10.4324/9780203097090.ch43

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Abstract

Later life has traditionally been thought of as a time of stability, not mobility. However, this is changing, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the growth of tourism among older people. Annual total international tourist arrivals for all ages have grown, virtually uninterrupted, from 25 million in 1950 to 880 million today. This is expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2020. While relatively few studies have looked at the role (older) age might play in these mobilities, marketers and the tourism industries are becoming aware of the value of the growing segment of older tourists. It has been estimated that, annually, 5.5 million tourists aged 55 and over visit the UK alone. As with consumption in general, tourism and later life seems to fall between the respective stools of gerontology and tourism research. It is often assumed that older people slowly withdraw from (foreign) travel as they age. However, those studies that do exist do not support this. They identify older consumers as the fastest growing group of tourists and observe that there are increasing attempts by travel companies to attract their business. This has led to the creation of numerous market segment typologies that attempt to capture the motivations, diversity and types of tourism older people engage in. This is a fast-growing area and, alongside other developments such as retirement migration, it challenges the traditional models and theories that have been employed to understand ageing and later life. However, research in the field tends to be dominated by large-scale survey research that is not always sensitive to the ways in which older tourists themselves make sense of their travel.

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