BTA retools efforts to court older Americans

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NEW YORK -- The British Tourist Authority will revamp its promotion campaign aimed at U.S. travelers over age 55 next year, folding its brochure for seniors and a mature-travel Web site into other, broader print and Internet publications.

In 2003, the BTA's Time to Travel brochure will appear as both a smaller mailer and an insert to the BTA's In Britain subscription magazine, while the site at www.maturebritain.org will become part of the main Travel Britain Web portal.

The moves will enable the BTA to invest more time, money and effort in database technologies and targeted marketing efforts to grow the already lucrative mature-traveler niche, said David Andrews, director for the central U.S.

"The money saved will be plowed back into marketing, and one of our key objectives is to build our database of our best seniors prospects: people over 55 who've been to Britain in the past five years," he said.

"And in addition to being able to double our [brochure] print run, we will be able to buy better [marketing] lists."

A quarter-million copies of a scaled-down brochure will be printed, with 30,000 appearing in In Britain and the rest being mailed to customers in the BTA's existing database.

The decision to downsize the seniors marketing effort might at first seem counterintuitive, as, according to Andrews, Time to Travel regularly produces the highest return of all BTA brochures.

"The 'spend' by visitors that the brochure generated in Britain in 2000 was an additional $31 million," he noted.

But opting instead for an insert in In Britain will offer the ability to reach confirmed Anglophiles of a similar demographic with less effort and expense, and reduce the huge volume of printed material the BTA churns out each year.

Meanwhile, the seniors Web site is being consolidated with www.travelbritain.org because the BTA simply hosts "too many URLs," added Andrews.

Both the new insert and the Web subsite will continue the BTA's longstanding mature-travel themes, including travel with grandchildren, World War II heritage, ancestry and genealogy, countryside holidays and London's cultural scene.

Older travelers are one of six lucrative niche markets the BTA has singled out for special marketing attention -- the others being business travelers, families, youth, empty-nesters and "dinks" (double-income, no-kids), such as gays.

For example, the BTA also produces a "Britain Inside & Out" pocket-size travel guide and the Web site aimed at gay visitors, at www.gaybritain.org.

But mature travelers may account for a quarter of U.S. visits to the U.K., by some estimates, and they're traditionally among the highest spenders.

"We're upbeat about the seniors market," said Andrews.

Indeed, the BTA attributes Britain's 2% downturn in U.S. arrivals this year -- compared with 20% for all of Europe -- at least in part to the "special relationship" older U.S. travelers identify with Britain and their willingness and ability to travel on the spur of the moment.

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