Europe - the Best Destination for Seniors. European Commission Initiative

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The European Commission - DG Enterprise and Industry (E/1 Tourism Policy), has established a “Seniors Initiative” Group of experts which will analyse requirements and promote the objective: “Europe, the best destination for seniors”. This follows the inaugural experts' meeting held in Brussels on 5 December 2013. ENAT Board Member, Ana Garcia outlines the issues and seeks input from ENAT members.

Turismo senior signThe European Commission - DG Enterprise and Industry (E/1 Tourism Policy), is promoting a “Seniors Initiative” Group of experts following the workshop “Europe, the best destination for seniors”, held in Brussels on 5 December 2013.

The objectives of this Senior Group of Experts (SeGE) will be to analyse the Call for Proposals launched in 2013, as well as proposing a set of actions to increase senior tourism flows in the low and medium seasons both within EU Countries and/or from third countries, namely Russia, Brazil and China during the pilot phase in 2014-2015.

ENAT is invited to participate in this working group on account of its knowledge and experience in making European tourism destinations, products and services accessible to all visitors, considering the knowledge of specific requirements of seniors, as a very valuable asset for the aim of this initiative.

Considering that:

  • Tourism is an important dimension of older people’s activities and a good tool to support active and healthy ageing;
  • Good accessibility is a key requisite for sustainable and inclusive tourism, whatever the age of the visitor;
  • The Baby Boomer generation has the most disposable spending power and will control 50% of the total tourism spending by 2020;
  • Europe is facing demographic changes with an increasing ageing population, with age-related impairments and long-term health conditions - requiring improved accessibility in tourism infrastructure, transport and services;
  • Tourism needs and expectations of seniors are very diverse, ranging from group tourism to individual tourism, from adapted tourism for persons with disabilities to tourism for very healthy and active seniors;
  • Older people are as diverse as the rest of the population, yet the tourism offer for seniors is often developed based on a single stereotyped profile which no longer reflects the diversity among today’s seniors;
  • New needs have emerged which are not yet properly matched with an adequate offer: grand-parents travelling with grand-children; young seniors travelling with very old and frail parents; seniors travelling alone (in particular women), etc.,

Some barriers that need to be overcome include:

  • Age discrimination in travel insurance: Travel insurance is very difficult to obtain or too expensive for seniors in some countries while in other countries seniors can enjoy the same rates as any other age groups. This is based on age limit that insurers apply in some countries and which they justify on the ground that seniors are more likely to need emergency healthcare when they travel.
  • Uncertainty about how to access emergency healthcare when abroad;
  • Lack of knowledge about where to find information about tourism offers for seniors;
  • Lack of affordable offers for low to medium income seniors;
  • Lack of innovative offers that meet the new needs of some categories of seniors (grand-parents with grand-children, seniors with older frail and dependent elderly, older people travelling alone, etc.). 

ENAT proposes the following:

  • Policies and initiatives for supporting ”Tourism for All” access standards across the value chain, in destinations, offers, transport, including SME advisory, training and support activities, and follow-up actions, e.g. long-term monitoring of the use of EU instruments, performance and customer satisfaction measurement;
  • Better coordination of market intelligence: Research studies and Tourism Satellite Accounts should be directed towards gathering and publishing data on the Senior Market on a regular basis for use by industry stakeholders;
  • Introduce accessibility information in European Commission (customer-facing) tourism websites, which is especially useful for visitors with disabilities, older people, persons with reduced mobility and persons with long-term health problems;
  • Stimulating development of new businesses, new tourism products and new jobs, related to seniors’ economic situation (especially concerning those who have been hardest hit by the crisis), taking into account their interests, preferences, patterns of demand and abilities, for example:
    • Care Tourism,
    • Health, Wellness and Sport (supporting active ageing),
    • Long-term holidays (Staycations),
    • Cultural and educational (e.g. including exchange programmes);
  • Marketing of European regions that wish to specialise in promoting and catering for international senior travellers – mainstream and niche destinations;
  • Greater focus on Health and Safety in Tourism;
  • European Tourism Quality: Development of criteria and validation of a quality label for senior tourism which could be included under the “umbrella” ETQ label.

We ask our ENAT Members to add to these proposals or give their feedback on the above ideas, namely, to help develop a strategic vision for Senior Tourism based on the requirements of this diverse market segment and reflecting the knowledge and experience of our members. 

ENAT small logoENAT 'SeGE' Member and Contact Person

Mrs. Ana Garcia, ENAT Board Member