Senior travel surges


By Mary Petersen

Signal Staff Writer

Like so many of our friends, my husband and I have received vaccinations (both of them) and are starting to think about life after a year of living distantly, about things we will be able to do in the post-vaccine era. Inoculation feels like a celebratory event, and one way people like to celebrate is to travel. 

Pre-Covid, we celebrated our retirement by taking a road trip. The following year we spent two weeks in China where I facilitated a teacher training workshop. The next spring we visited family in England and then enjoyed a trip to Dubai that dropped into our laps (long story). But for the last year, our most common travel destination was the backyard patio.  

The drop in demand for air travel, cruises and hotels sent prices plummeting during the pandemic. It was cheap, but traveling was restricted, and few people, especially seniors, felt comfortable venturing out during spikes in Covid cases and increased hospitalizations.

Since the vaccine rollout, people are feeling less fearful about the threat of Covid. As more people get vaccinated, they have renewed confidence in traveling.

A survey by Deloitte of 1,000 consumers in the U.S. indicates that of those fully vaccinated, 54% felt safe flying and 70% felt safe staying in a hotel.

“The vaccine was definitely a game-changer,” said Rabia Shahenshah, a travel adviser with Tzell Travel Group. 

It might surprise you that the demographic leading the surge in new travel bookings is people over 65. Although they were the most vulnerable, they have been among the first to receive Covid vaccinations.

All over the country, people 65 and older are starting to look for travel destinations and actively make travel plans. The tourism industry, battered by the pandemic, is now getting a much-needed boost from senior travelers.

“There’s a lot of pent-up desire among seniors,” said Jeff Galak, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

“It might be the ticking of the clock that is motivating seniors to book as soon as an inoculation makes it safe. It may be that seniors are eager to get back out and reclaim their golden years.”

In any event, cruise lines and travel companies are responding by rolling out new programming and features geared to attract their oldest demographic.

Of course, the pandemic has been unpredictable and any recent progress could disappear with a surge in Covid cases. Health officials advise people to take precautions, follow health guidelines for masking and social distancing and choose destinations that have not been overburdened by the pandemic. 

Vaccines are likely to increase travel demand. As demand for travel climbs, prices are expected to follow suit, especially for summer, according to industry experts. For now, travelers are taking advantage of the lower rates before demand begins to surge. 

The good news is that we can begin to travel again. The bad news is that the price of travel is going up. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Mary Petersen is a retired COC English instructor, a 30-year SCV resident and two-time breast cancer survivor. 

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