Older adults travel

Move Over Millennials – Older Adults Also Want Experiences

Are millennials unique in their love of experiences? Probably not.   

Much has been written about millennials and their unique love of experiences over owning things – we could link to a thousand think-pieces making statements to this effect[1].

I am pretty sure millennials DO love experiences, but I am also sure that there is a fair dose of confirmation bias in these proclamations – if I ask only millennials then we assume that is a uniquely millennial trait. What about everyone else? Do you hit 35 and suddenly not care about having awesome experiences? Do days out, travel, cool events mean nothing to you if you are older than 50? What if the move towards experiences over owning things is a more general customer trend rather than being tied to a single generation?

  • A 2018 report published by Expedia[2], suggests that 74 percent of Americans prioritise experiences over products and things. This 74% figure shows us that it definitely isn’t just millennials – making up just 25% of the US population – who value experiences.
  • A study by Deloitte from 2017[3], showed that younger cohorts are no different than older ones in terms of their spending on experiences. Millennial consumers are not spending more on food or entertainment out of home relative to total expenditure than older cohorts.


When we think of leading experience brands, it is easy to picture them as a destination just for millennials. Let’s take AirBnB, for example. It would be easy to assume that it is just for younger people. But let’s have a look at the numbers:  

  • In 2018, the over 60s were AirBnB’s fastest growing age group, both as hosts and guests[4]. The number of over 60s who booked a break with AirBnB grew by 66 percent in 2017. Older adults clearly also want to see the world in an authentic way.
  • The number of AirBnB Experiences hosted by locals age 60+ has grown by nearly 1100% in the last year and the number of AirBnB Experience bookings made by guests age 60+ has grown by 260% in the last year[5].

People are reaching retirement age fitter, healthier and richer than ever before. They have the time and all the means they need to enjoy themselves and, just like everyone else, much of that enjoyment comes from cool and memorable experiences. Travel and experiential brands largely focus their attention on the young, yet older adults are taking more trips, for longer periods of time than any other age group. Unsurprisingly, over the last 5 years, it has been seniors not younger people that have been responsible for the greatest growth in travel spending.

This should be a clear a call to action for travel and experiential brands who are focusing only on younger audiences BUT there is also a need for brands who currently cater to older audiences to recognise how the expectations of next generation of seniors are changing. These brands will need to evolve or be left behind as seniors book their breaks and experiences through the likes of AirBnB.


Let’s take the example of Saga in the UK. In April this year, shares in Saga, the over-50s insurance and holiday specialist, dived almost 40% to hit a record low. They claimed that the decline in their bookings for cruises and holidays was due to uncertainty about Brexit.  This might explain some of their troubles, but they clearly have a bigger issue. Many of the older adults, particularly those newer retirees, we have met over the years have mentioned how they wouldn’t be seen dead on a Saga holiday – almost viewing it as a ‘near death experience’. Something for old-old people. In their mind, Saga is not for independent, capable, active people who are looking adventures or excitement. It appears that Saga is a million miles from the aspirational, authentic AirBnB, and it is going to need a radical change of image if it wants to appeal to the next generation of older adults.


It is not all doom and gloom, some typically ‘older’ brands are thinking differently and offering older travellers something new. For example, some cruise companies are starting to offer onboard programmes that break the mould – TEDtalks, planetariums, dinner lectures on women explorers[6].  This all feels like a step in the right direction but there is still more work to be done to harness a desire for experience whilst recognising the emotional, physical and social contexts of older adults.


By bombarding older consumers with irrelevant, unrepresentative, ‘one-size-fits-all’ products and communications that define them solely by the number of years they have lived, brands are missing a massive opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with older audiences. So at Decidedly, we want to help brands to create better experiences for older adults and make better decisions about how to appeal to people of all ages. We believe that better decisions come from relevant, targeted, evidence led, high quality insight.

Decidedly is currently helping some of the world’s most ambitious brands to break the mould when it comes to thinking about older adults. We want to help you ensure that you’re recognising the impact of the age whilst not defining people by age alone.

If you’re interested in hearing more about our work with older adults, head over to this page or get in touch.

[1] But we won’t. So, here is just one example instead

[2] Expedia White Paper – Generations on the Move

[3] https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/economy/behind-the-numbers/are-consumers-spending-more-on-experience.html

[4] https://press.airbnb.com/ageless-travel-the-growing-popularity-of-airbnb-for-the-over-60s/

[5] https://press.airbnb.com/proving-age-is-just-a-number-airbnb-seniors-lead-experiences-growth/

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/24/travel/on-your-next-cruise-put-down-that-cocktail-and-head-to-class.html