Disney focuses on 'mature' market

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In a key marketing development, the mature market has catapulted from what was once a niche market for motorcoach tours to the nation's leading travel market.

The cruise industry was the first to tout this emerging market -- defined as persons 50 years or older -- several years ago, based on the wave of "baby boomers" who would be hitting the 50-year bracket as the millennium begins.

This year, the Travel Industry Association of America in its domestic travel report, 2000 edition, confirmed that this market would continue to dominate marketing in the travel industry.

This summer, Walt Disney Co., citing its own research as support for this trend, noted that a quarter of the annual attendance at the Walt Disney World Resort is from adults 50 years of age and older.

The trend, Disney said, "creates enormous opportunities for travel professionals to tap an entire new market for Disney vacations."

Disney's research was echoed by influential travel publisher Arthur Frommer, who told Florida's 33rd Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism this summer that the mature market was now the nation's "predominant demographic market for travel."

According to Disney, baby boomers registered 259 million trips last year, more than any other age group in the U.S.

Americans 50 years or older, estimated at about 76 million people, control 77% of all financial assets in the U.S., totaling $900 billion in combined personal income and making up the nation's highest pool of discretionary income, Disney said.

Noting that mature travelers will continue to generate the most travel dollars, Disney advised travel agents to devote front-of-mind awareness to this market -- even for destinations traditionally identified as attracting the very youngest.

Accounting for 37% of the nation's total demographic base, mature Americans account for an even greater impact on travel agent commissions and the travel industry as a whole, said Randy Garfield, senior vice president of sales and travel operations for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and president of the Walt Disney Travel Co.

"Travel agents have a vested interest in monitoring and responding to the demographics, travel preferences and client needs of the mature market," Garfield said. "We've found that mature adults are looking for vacation experiences that offer relaxation as well as a variety of activities."

He said a Disney vacation aligns with those preferences, particularly for grandparents traveling with their grandchildren or mature couples traveling alone.

Noting a trend toward intergenerational travel, Garfield said two-thirds of everyone over age 45 in the U.S. is a grandparent.

Grandparents currently make up the largest group in U.S. history and are growing at a rate of 95,000 every month, said Disney, citing the publication: Packaged Facts: Marketing to Grandparents/Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 1997.

To highlight the rapid advance of the ranks of mature travelers, Disney said that 7,000 Americans will be turning 50 years old every day through 2006.

Mature set vacations more

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nationwide, the mature adult population not only vacations more, but spends 30% more per person on travel than any other age group, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.

Mature travelers average 16 days per year on vacation as compared with 11 days per year for persons under the age of 50, the TIA said.

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