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Our changing expectations
Globally we are ageing, becoming increasingly affluent and technologically aware. Not only that, but those in the older age range are also highly invested in travel. 99 percent of baby boomer respondents in an AARP survey had plans to travel in 2016 . But what do these people want out of travel? What type of experiences are they seeking, that will make for rich, memorable and meaningful journeys? The only travel market that is growing is those aged between 50-59, so we need to identify what these people expect when they visit New Zealand. Accommodation is one area of travel which is changing along with demographic trends.
Julia Charity, founder of New Zealand accommodation network Look After Me, says “It’s pretty typical for Ma and Pa Jones to want quality accommodation, but have the expectation of something really special – but identifying what that ‘something’ is, isn’t well defined.” Her company works as a virtual hotel, where guests can browse online for suitable accommodation. It has a personal touch, as the guest rooms are typically within the homes. The hosts vary from mature couples to single women living alone, and everything in between. Could it be that exactly what the burgeoning baby boomer market seeks is the personal touch? In this way, they really get to know the people living in the country they are visiting. It’s a chance to make connections, and not simply see the sights.
Look After Me in action
That the concept of Look After Me was tailored for mature guests appealed to Win Macmillan, travel broker and recent guest of Ngahuia Lodge, near Tauranga. Win, a frequent traveller, has stayed in B&Bs in England, but admitted to being reluctant to try a Homestay in New Zealand - mainly because of her husband’s deep-seated preference for 4-5 star hotels. Privacy was also a factor. “But once we were there, it became more about having a good time, than protecting our patch.” Also along for the retreat at Ngahuia Lodge were long-time friends Carol and Ash Mansil. “Ash was blown away,” says Carol. “We arrived and the smell of the meal cooking made you feel at home straight away. You just don’t get that at a hotel. Everyone should try this at least once a year, as a special treat.”
Ngahuia Lodge host, Deby Sowter’s philosophy is insightful. “People are looking for the intimacy, yet somehow we’ve all got a bit clever by shutting ourselves away in clinical hotels. But as soon as you come into someone’s home, there’s an intimacy there. I know there’s a risk with that - but if you can create a connection with your guests, then all of sudden that intimacy goes deeper.”
Everybody wants something different when they travel, and those in the 50+ age range are no different. But it’s clear from the success of the Look After Me accomodation network in recent years that a concept which matches travellers with locals is appealing to this segment of the market. Getting to know people as well as the destination; being welcomed into homes; and connecting heart to heart is all enriching and meaningful. This could be just the type of meaningful travel that baby boomers seek.
1. WEISS: Baby Boomers already making reservations (2015, Dec 5). The Times. Retrieved from http://www.pawtuckettimes.com/opinion/weiss-baby-boomers-already-making-reservations/article_8b9c6a1e-9bd1-11e5-a30d-2384dfc01b81.html.
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