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Travelling has no age limit

The growth of tourism for the third age and the opportunities for insurance companies

Greater life expectancy, but above all the improvement of living conditions in developed countries among individuals who have reached the third age, conventionally identified as above 65 years, brings with it a gradual review of habits and behavioural patterns historically associated with this group of people whose relative weight on the total population is increasing.


The massive social transformation witnessed in the 20th century is reflected in the entry into this category of an increasing number of individuals who have had an active working life, have a higher level of education and are inclined to participate in a wider social life beyond the bounds of family. Finally, the pervasive penetration of the media into daily life has generated the spread of more homogeneous and standardised models of consumption and the creation of a demand with new needs.


Among the emerging needs and opportunities of this phenomenon, we must not forget the importance of tourism, one of the fastest growing sectors and one that actually brings together under a single heading many differences ranging from purpose of the trip to its average duration, from the choice of destination (domestic or foreign) to the temporal distribution of travel throughout the year. It is obvious that the date of birth of the tourist has a direct impact on all these aspects as we can see in the emergence of specialised travel agencies for the “third age” which are now able to offer much bigger catalogues. In order to better understand this phenomenon, we should consider the tourism data published by Eurostat and, while making no scientific claims, try to derive some possible interpretations.

Overall, at the end of 2015, more than 61% of Europeans aged 15 or over made at least one trip for personal reasons, which is in fact an arithmetical average of about four trips per person. More than half of these tourists travelled within their own country and just under a third went abroad. There are obviously some important differences from one country to another. For example, the figures show that more than 70% of individuals travelled in France and Germany while in Italy it is just over 40%. On the other hand, while almost half the French prefer domestic tourism, this figure drops to just over 20% for Germans and Italians. Returning to tourism for the third age, the subject of this analysis, Eurostat informs us that almost 18% of over 65-year-olds (or, let us remember, 22% of the total population) engage in tourism and that this is the second biggest group after 35 to 44-year-olds.


The reasons for not travelling for people over 65 are, as is to be expected, health problems and lack of interest, while economic reasons figure less than for all the other age groups looked at. By cross-referencing these data, it is reasonable to suppose that travel for the elderly will necessarily become a niche market or, more accurately, a particularly attractive market segment in the near future. This will happen in parallel with improvements in health and the increase in the availability of hotels and other forms of accommodation that are more in line with the needs of older guests, together with the offer of new cultural or mixed destinations (culture and wellness). Considering the higher spending capacity of retirees and, above all, their greater flexibility in choosing off-peak travel periods, all this translates into the economic possibility of effectively increasing the level of use of hotel facilities, public transport (trains, planes, coaches), visits to museums, cultural heritage and archaeological sites, as well as all related activities, and, in sociological terms, of significantly improving the quality of life of the ‘elderly’. A win-win as we say.


And in all of this there is also certainly an important space for the insurance market, which could create more temporary policies that cover possible travel cancellations, unexpected events and damage that could occur during these short holiday periods.

This is a very profitable product for companies, also with a view to cross-selling, and, at the same time, much appreciated by a vast potential audience of customers.