Travel CMOs: What You Need to Know about 50+ Travelers

By Pamela Millman, AARP Media Advertising Network

Some travel marketers are suffering from a misperception about 50+ consumers. They’ve come to believe – incorrectly – that this financial powerhouse of an audience stopped traveling during the pandemic and hasn’t left their homes since.

The fact is, more 50+ adults are planning to travel in the next year than before the pandemic – an increase of 23% over 2019, according to MRI-Simmons (Fall 2022). That’s 73.5 million 50+ adults planning domestic travel in the next 12 months, and 37.3 million planning to travel internationally during that same period.

Even in the early stages of the pandemic, 50+ adults never really stayed put for long. They were among the first to get their shots, and they hit the roads, rails, seas and skies as soon as they could.

Now the backbone of the travel industry is back in a big way. And for successful travel marketers, the news couldn’t come at a better moment. So if you’re looking to build your travel-related business in the months and years to come, be sure to keep 50+ consumers top of mind. Here are three things to know about them.

Travel is their passion – and their priority

Travel remains the top priority for discretionary income spending among 50+ travelers consumers, with 85% ranking travel in their top three priorities for discretionary spending. Family is a big reason why: It is the #1 motivation for travel, with over 11 million adults 50+ taking a family vacation last year. According to AARP’s 2023 Travel Trends research, 50+ consumers accounted for nearly half of all domestic and international travel expenditures in the past year alone – $120 billion and $50 billion, respectively.

They travel frequently, and they enjoy a variety of travel experiences

50+ adults who plan to travel domestically this year will take three to four domestic vacations, and those who plan to travel internationally will take one to two vacations abroad. And while they are no strangers to air travel, they don’t always have to fly. They have the time, freedom and desire to enjoy different modes of travel. They account for 59% of all cruises taken in the past three years, 46% of all domestic driving vacations in the past year, and 40% of all domestic rail vacations in the past year.

They have “Get-Up-and-Go” flexibility

Consumers 50+ have more flexibility to travel when they want to, for as long as they want to. In particular, they love get-up-and-go vacations since many are no longer tied to school calendars or work demands. Six in 10 (59%) took a get-up-and-go trip last year. More than half (54%) took a vacation during what’s known in the travel industry as shoulder season – that is, the period between Labor Day and Memorial Day.

Bottom Line: The 50+ audience has the spending power, freedom and flexibility to enjoy a wide range of travel experiences, and they’re making plans now. Connect with them in environments they trust and prefer, and your business will soon be destined for new levels of growth.