Giraffes, Cheetahs and Seniors, Oh My!
How Road Scholar Effectively Targets Older Travelers
Creating Results’ Twitter feed recently shared an article about Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) and we were surprised by the flurry of new interest it sparked in this ‘grandaddy’ of educational travel resources for older adults. Several folks shared the tweet with their own followers and many said they were now checking out Road Scholar’s website.
It’s no wonder that Road Scholar is of interest. The 55+ travel market is 4.4 million strong and is made up of active older adults with the time, income and inclination to explore the world beyond their own neighborhoods. Whether living in homes they’ve owned for 30 years or in retirement communities, many boomers and seniors are filling their time (and fulfilling their bucket lists) by traveling. This group is geared toward learning, “giving back” and wellness, and the travel market is learning to cater to those interests.
An Untapped Boomer and Seniors Market
The U.S. Travel Association finds that boomer consumers comprise 15 percent of leisure travelers, averaging 4.4 leisure trips each year. They “consider travel a necessity, not a luxury,” according to Kim Ross of the Association of Travel Marketing Executives.
Elderhostel’s first official employee (and current Road Traveler participant) Mike Zoob puts it this way: “Today, it’s taken for granted that older adults are inquisitive and adventuresome, many of them with the means and the desire to travel and do interesting things.”
Travel and tourism researcher and blogger Bronwyn White asserts, “We will never see another demographic with so much spare cash and spare time in our marketing lifetimes–these people are gold and largely being ignored by the travel industry when it comes to marketing, particularly domestic marketing. They are being marketed to the same old way as we have been doing for the last however many years.”
Beyond Baby Boomer Buying Power
Beyond their search for new experiences–and ability to pay for them–one factor that distinguishes how seniors approach travel is their desire for safety and comfort. Senior travel should offer adventure combined with a level of safety and security. ‘‘A lot of senior travellers are actively looking for new destinations. . . . ‘They are very active but they have to be catered for in a particular way… they want trips that are full of adventure but are well organised and not reckless,’’ says James Brodie, head of marketing at Harvey World Travel.
Dorinda Galbraith, a Road Scholar alum, explains her priorities for comfort, both physical and social: “I like Road Scholar because I can safely travel with a group [that] will be interested in learning. My meals, lodging, transportation and activities will all be arranged for me. I am single, and I love learning, adventure and meeting new people!”
A Well-Designed Online Tool for Older Travelers
Founded in 1975, Edlerhostel was a pioneer in providing affordable travel opportunities focused on lifelong learning for adults. Road Scholar continues to be the leading travel company catering to older adults, and its robust website not only reflects its mission, but is optimized for senior web usability.
The site provides comprehensive, intuitive online tools that allow this group to pursue their specific interests. Unlike “generic” travel websites (Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz), which feature searches focused on location, accommodation type and price (and tend to have a heavy advertising component), Road Scholar offers multiple tiers of search topics targeted specifically to their demographic. With this in mind, below are some of the features we think stand out about their services and website.
Road Scholar provides many more search criteria and menu options than AARP’s online travel section, for example, which looks more like mainstream commercial travel sites.
* Visitors can search for excursions based on areas of interest, such as Train Journeys, Art Lovers, National Parks, and Intergenerational Adventures such as Cheetahs, Giraffes and Zebras: A Safari in California With Your Grandchild.
* Trips can be searched with a filter for Activity Level (ranging from Easy to Challenging).
* Trips tailored to specific hobbies and activity types are offered, such as Birding, Crafts, Photography, Service Learning, Small Group, etc.
The site’s clean, simple design makes it easy to navigate–despite the relative complexity of the large number of travel options offered:
* The left sidebar features an extensive list of search/navigation topics that are easy to scroll through.
* The main content is rich with photos and brief, but informative, descriptions of their trips with an “Enroll Now!” button that leads directly to a page with detailed trip information.
* Each trip page includes highlights, program notes, activity level, trip cost, travel dates, traveler ratings and reviews, social sharing tools, Add to Wish List button, and links to other related information. These detailed pages do a great job showing both the professional organization of each trip and the adventure that awaits.
* The right sidebar contains a search window and a series of teasers in the form of graphic links to other site content.
For those seeking a rich, rewarding travel experience, it’s hard to beat the options offered by Road Scholar. And with a website that is so easy to use and offers so much information, they have set the bar high for others in this marketing space.
Coming soon! In a future blog post we will take a visual survey of a handful of other sites that either specifically target older travelers or have sections for senior travelers. Have a specific travel site you’d like us to check out? Share the link and any other insights using the comments section, below.