In the province of Ontario the travel and tourism industry is thriving. It is a 22 billion dollar a year business of tremendous importance to the province’s economy. This year, roughly 436,300 Ontario workers will be employed either directly or indirectly in the travel and tourism industry. Additionally, Statistics Canada reports that overnight travel in Canada last year reached its highest level in more than a decade. While some may be concerned about the short-term negative effect of the highflying Canadian dollar on tourist traffic coming from the States, the long-term forecast for the travel industry is bright. Much of this optimism is due in large part to Canada’s rapidly growing population of senior citizens. Over the last four years, leisure travel among Canada’s baby boomers has increased by a whopping 25 percent. This trend will continue as the population of Canadian seniors is expected to grow from 4.2 million in 2004 to 9.8 million in 2036. Due to an increasing number of senior citizens travelling, the Ontario tourism industry is making changes to help accommodate this changing market.
This trend with an increase in Canadian seniors travelling is good news indeed for Ontario’s tourism industry. Although industry studies have shown that Canadian seniors are travelling internationally in record numbers, the vast majority of trips taken by seniors are within their own home province. Seniors prefer to drive their own car and they tend to vacation for longer periods of time than the rest of the population. This is particularly beneficial to tourist operators in Ontario resort communities, like Muskoka and the Kawarthas, where the huge population base of Southern Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe is located only a few hours away by car.
Many in the tourism industry have begun to realize the significance of the seniors travel market in Ontario and have started to specifically target this segment of the population. Senior travellers are not only important to the industry because of their sheer numbers; they are important because of their discretionary buying power. Today’s seniors have both the money to spend and the time to spend it. Retired vacationers do not have to restrict their holidays to weekends and the summer months. Rather, they are able to travel off-season and during the week, times when many hospitality properties have higher vacancies and are happy to have their rooms filled with free-spending seniors.
So you may be asking yourself, “how is the Ontario tourism industry changing, due to the increase in senior citizen travel?” The answer is simple, senior friendly travel agencies, tour companies, resort properties, cruise-lines, and even small country inns have begun offering specialty services and packages that cater specifically to a senior clientele. Due to this change, and catering to a slightly different market, the tourism industry of Ontario is discovering that many senior travelers are even prepared to pay a slight premium for age-specific services.
While many businesses will continue to cater to a wide range of tourists including, those seeking romantic couple weekends, small conferences, special functions, and wedding parties, senior travellers are becoming a larger segment of the hospitality industry’s business. Because senior citizens tend to stay at hospitality properties during quieter times, off-seasons, and midweek while booking for longer periods of time, this is simply a market that many businesses cannot afford to leave out. Unlike other age groups, seniors and older guests appreciate the convenience of having their meals onsite and many indulge in on-site activities including spa services. This brings even more funds to the inn or hotel; due to this, the increase in senior travel will continue to shape the way that Ontario’s travel industry functions.
Over the next couple of decades, as the senior population itself ages, further changes will be necessary if Ontario’s tourism industry is to continue to flourish. Vacation accommodations with assisted living and seniors’ tours that cater to individuals with mobility issues may be viable marketing ideas in the years ahead.