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Senior travelers’ technology trends

The importance of senior travelers as a travel segment for the tourism industry is continuously growing as the number of pensioners increases in the Western world. Today’s pensioners are also very different from those a decade ago. University of Eastern Finland and Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences analyzed how active senior travelers use tourism-related information technology prior, during and after their trip.

Adventurous Experimenter, a Meticulous Researcher, a Fumbling Observer. These are the three groups active senior travelers can be divided into on the basis of how they use tourism-related information and communication technology, according to the study.

“Today’s pensioners are familiar with computers and information technology, as they have used them when they were active in working life. Moreover, today’s pensioners are more affluent and more experienced travelers than earlier generations. We refer to them as active senior travelers, because they have time, money, skills, interest and health to travel,” says Research Manager Juho Pesonen of the University of Eastern Finland Centre for Tourism Studies.

“Earlier research has found that senior travelers are a very heterogeneous group, and senior travelers also have different approaches to using information technology.”

Independent senior travelers on the rise

The study is based on nine interviews with senior travelers, selected by snowball sampling, i.e. existing interviewees recommending future ones. The interviews were used to create matrices on the use of technology and tourism, allowing the respondents to be divided into three groups: the Adventurous Experimenters, the Meticulous Researchers and the Fumbling Observers.

“The Adventurous Experimenters are confident both in choosing their destination and using information technology. They are independent travelers who like to try out new destinations and avoid ready-made travel packages. The Meticulous Researchers, on the other hand, use technology mainly to search for information, and they appreciate safety and user-friendliness both when it comes to technology and their destination. The Fumbling Observers, however, are less keen to use technology and they often require assistance in using it. This group is the one that prefers ready-made travel packages and familiar destinations,” Pesonen explains.

An interesting observation of the study was that the use of technology is closely linked to travel behavior. Furthermore, senior travelers should not be seen as a homogeneous group preferring ready-made packages; instead, they have varying preferences.

“The share of independent senior travelers, in particular, seems to be on the rise. For the tourism industry, this group is very important in, for example, creating balance between the low and the high season, as they have the possibility and also interest in travelling outside the high season.”

The findings were published in Information Technology and Tourism.

Typology of senior travellers as users of tourism information technology. J Pesonen, R Komppula, A Riihinen – Information Technology & Tourism, 2015. doi: 10.1007/s40558-015-0032-1

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