In 2018, the majority of reports about Chinese outbound travel have focused on trends among younger tourists, and specifically millennials, with online travel agencies like Ctrip.com International and Alibaba’s Fliggy noting an increase in post-’90s and post-’00s travel bookings. However, the reports have overshadowed one important aspect of China: the nation’s citizens are growing older. And as this segment of the Chinese population increases, destinations will be smart to adapt to their travel needs and offer campaigns that appeal to the demographic.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released a health industry report on December 28, 2018, and family travel site Lvmama weighed in on travel consumption forecasts among China’s over-60 population. It noted that by 2020, the number of citizens over the age of 60 would reach about 255 million, and will balloon to 484 million by 2050. While retirees are expected to spend more money on healthcare than younger generations, they will still retain significant spending power that could be used for travel.

According to data from Lvmama, per capita consumption on travel for the Chinese over-60 population exceeds $525 (RMB 3,600), with the average trip being five days (average spending statistics include domestic and international travel). Moreover, those in first-tier cities spend more on travel, with Shanghai residents spending more than $730 (RMB 5,000) per trip.

Lvmama also noted that unlike their younger compatriots, older Chinese travelers are more likely to join tour groups abroad, with about 70 percent of customers over 60 booking such holidays in 2018. Additionally, while older tourists traveled with younger family members, younger family members made 60 percent of bookings.

Older Chinese tourists are more keen on joining tour groups abroad than younger travelers

It is likely that as more Chinese retire and travel, they will continue to join tour groups to make the experience easier. The questions then become: Where will they travel and what will they want to experience? And the answers will vary depending on their previous travel experience. But as these generations will increase spending on healthcare, medical tourism may be an important focus in the coming years.

Currently, older Chinese travelers prefer domestic trips, as they want to see more of their homeland and high-speed railways make it easier and more comfortable. But that trend isn’t as likely to last as more Chinese set to retire in the next decade have international travel experience and may have more disposable income. As Lvmama noted, overseas trips increased 60 percent in 2018 among older travelers. Many of those trips were to short-haul destinations, such as Thailand, Japan, and Singapore.

This older travel segment isn’t as likely to use social media like Weibo and Little Red Book, like younger generations, meaning influencers and KOLs (key opinion leaders) won’t have as significant an impact. The logical next step, then, is for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and travel tech companies to find more appropriate channels through which to attract this growing number of older Chinese travelers — before someone else does.

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