SARASOTA, Fla. (July 07, 2017) – Hoteliers worldwide are seeing the graying of their clientele.
With Baby Boomers comprising more than half of all vacationers, hotel and travel companies are turning to experts for guidance. That includes folks like Dr. Kathy Black, a USF Sarasota-Manatee gerontology professor and director of Age-Friendly Sarasota.
“The aging of our society is requiring changes in every sector and that includes tourism,” she says.
How aging impacts everything from site-seeing to travel marketing is taking on greater significance as hotels, restaurants and tour operators look to capture more of this burgeoning market.
Recently, Dr. Black returned from Lyon, France, where she lectured at the Institut Paul Bocuse about aging and tourism. The renowned hospitality college contacted her four years ago, along with other experts worldwide, to address its hospitality students. She’s visited yearly ever since.
Largely, she says, hospitality businesses are adapting to the needs of older travelers but still playing catch-up.
While it’s nothing to see flashy advertisements pitching retirees on carefree, adventuresome travel, some resorts and tourism venues are sorely lagging in accommodating mature travelers.
Dr. Black reminded her pupils that while some seniors may require mobility assistance, others are aiming for a fun escape but with a side of healthy, age-appropriate meals. Understanding the nuances, along with the culture and psychology, of aging can carry tourism venues far, she said.
Even the kinds of vacations favored by seniors have changed in recent years. Many mature travelers are now tackling bucket lists and, she said, more seniors are bypassing traditional leisurely vacations for “service-oriented” holidays such as volunteering at an orphanage or helping abandoned, injured animals.
“You see lots of bucket lists now,” Dr. Black said, adding that many boomers have the time, resources and freedom to tackle new adventures, so they’re diving in.
How tourism venues are adapting varies substantially, though. Disney-related venues seem to be making quick strides but established European venues have been slow to pick up the change mantle, mainly because of aging and cramped infrastructure.
“Think about how many old hotels there are in Europe,” Dr. Black said.
But with more travelers turning gray, even those institutions are looking to make some kind of accommodations.
At the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, for example, visually impaired visitors can tour a section of the museum to “see” paintings by touch. Other venues, meanwhile, are concentrating on accessibility, adopting “universal design standards” for people of all ages and mobility needs.
“This is a huge industry and innovations are happening all over the world,” she said.
The Bulls Bistro is back
Speaking of hospitality, USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership (CHTL) is continuing its Bulls Bistro program this summer.
The popular dining program is open to the public and resumes July 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Culinary Innovation Lab, 8130 Main St. in Lakewood Ranch.
The program is $25 per person. Patrons enjoy three hors d’oeuvres, one sweet tapas and either two classes or wine or two craft beers. Tickets to the first 60 guests.
Come as chefs and students from the CHTL combine their energies to create a unique experience.
For more or for tickets, visit usfsm.edu/event/bulls-bistro-14/.