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Seniors spending more on travel

Updated:2021-12-09 13:14:46   China Daily

Smaller groups, longer stays, driving trips increasing for people entering their golden years

Older Chinese consumers, especially those who were born in the 1950s and 1960s, are increasingly opening their wallets to spend on high-end travel options, travel operators said.

More of them also are planning trips by themselves and driving to reach their destinations, they said.

This year, as of October, there was a 22 percent year-on-year increase in the number of customers aged 60 or higher registered with Shanghai-based Trip.com Group, the nation's largest online travel agency. Their travel bookings jumped by a total of 37 percent, the company said.

The spending of older travelers has been solid. The average per capita spending of those born in the 1950s and 1960s has been growing faster than that of travelers born in the 1990s and 2000s, Trip.com found.

Premium travel packages, such as tailored tours to the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibet autonomous regions, with price tags over 6,000 yuan ($942) per person, have been popular among older travelers.

Previously, many older Chinese travelers preferred large-scale group tours. As the COVID-19 pandemic started coming under better control in the nation, more elder travelers showed a preference for tailored trips, private group tours or going to tourism destinations with families and friends, the company said.

The changes were clear this year in periods such as the small travel peak for middle-aged and older tourists after the National Day holiday, according to Tuniu Corp, an online travel agency based in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. It's a period when older travelers have more free time and look to avoid crowds.

This year, more older travelers booked private, in-depth group tours, in groups of four to five people, according to company officials, who said Tuniu considers elder travel an important part of their business. Some who booked trips to Beijing went to the National Museum of China and spent hours listening to detailed explanations on the exhibits.

While some people who booked tours for late October and early November to places such as Beijing canceled their original plans as a result of sporadic COVID-19 cases in some cities and stricter government management, it didn't necessarily mean they didn't travel, Tuniu said.

A large number of elders traveled to places with no COVID-19 cases, such as Hainan province, and many booked photo sessions during the trips. In some cases, children helped their parents book professional photographers to take memorable photos in the tropical city of Sanya, Hainan.

"We offer photography services that are more suitable for middle-aged and older couples, and the shooting usually takes half a day, which makes people feel more relaxed," said Qi Chunguang, vice-president of Tuniu.

After the National Day holiday, bookings for group tours to Hainan didn't drop off but remained steady, especially among tourists aged 60 or older, and the bookings tended to be for longer stays, the company said.

"Since mid-October, most middle-aged and older travelers prefer to go to South China for warmer weather," Qi said. "For short trips of one to two days, many tourists like to go to places in the Yangtze River Delta region, such as the Putuo Mountain scenic spot and Xiangshan Mountain, in addition to areas of Sichuan province and Chongqing in southwestern China."

More older travelers are doing their own research about trips and driving to their destinations, Trip.com said. In the past half year, car rentals by people 60 or over more than doubled from the same period last year. The rate of growth was much higher than the rate of about 40 percent for all age groups.

In October 2020, the Ministry of Public Security announced the removal of the upper age limit of 70 for driver's license applications. After the announcement, an increasing number of older travelers began to get their licenses and drive to their destinations. One couple, both 61, drove more than 4,000 kilometers in northwestern China, posting pictures and videos as they went. Their online travelogue was very popular, Trip.com officials said.

The implications of these trends for business are enormous-China's seniors are a large and growing group. People aged 60 and older number 264.02 million, or 18.7 percent of the total population, up 5.44 percentage points from 2010, according to China's latest national census released this year.

"Older and younger travelers in China are the two age groups that have seen the fastest growth. Older tourists have been increasingly paying attention to quality and cultural experiences during the trips," said Xie Xiaoqing, a senior researcher at Trip.com's research institute.

"A large number of older consumers have more time and money available. For this age group, travel agencies should offer more specifically designed and refined products to cater to their increasingly sophisticated demand," Xie said.

With improvements and simplification of online services and technologies, more older travelers, especially those under 65, have mastered the skills to complete online bookings independently, according to online travel agency Tongcheng-eLong.

Older travelers tend to spend less time browsing and complete their bookings faster than younger people. Since the pandemic began to ease, many older travelers started to reserve scenic spots admission tickets online by themselves to comply with health regulations.

Tongcheng-eLong said many older customers prefer WeChat's mini programs over mobile apps, and the agency said it plans to further improve its mini program services such as adding voice functions.

"Some older consumers are still not familiar enough with the internet and electronic services to proficiently use them. Online travel services need more innovation and development of technologies to meet the demand of these older clients, while still maintaining the availability of telephone services," said Cheng Chaogong, chief researcher at Tongcheng-eLong's research institute.

"The new generation of the older travelers, especially those between 50 and 64, is more willing than previous generations to spend money to improve their quality of life," Cheng said. "They pay attention to their health, and they are more willing to spend on travel and vacations."

Keywords:   Seniors travel