Adam Deflorian is the Founder and CEO of AZDS Interactive Group, an agency based in Denver, Colorado.
After months of eagerly monitoring the vaccine rollout and awaiting the promise of immunity, it seems hotel companies may finally be starting to be rewarded for their patience. Not in huge numbers just yet, but certainly with one specific demographic: older travelers.
A recent article in the New York Times proves that those who are over 65 and receiving priority for vaccines are gaining the confidence to do exactly what we were hoping vaccinated consumers would: start traveling again. Hawaii’s Aqua-Aston Hospitality, for instance, reported that senior-rate bookings increased nearly 60% in January, while the Foundry Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, saw a 50% climb in bookings through the AARP promotional rate. On the vacation club side, Exclusive Resorts (which is a client of ours) said that 50% of their current bookings are for members older than 60.
From a marketing standpoint, there are two ways to interpret this news: One, travel continues to be poised for a significant rebound this summer, fueled by pent-up demand as more and more travelers receive their vaccinations. Two, as we wait, why not adjust our digital strategies to better target the demographic most likely to book in the meantime?
Based on my agency’s experience working with independent hotels, here are some ideas to better connect with the older generation.
Create Senior-Specific Programming And Promotions
The first step in creating appealing marketing material is not just to bring back on-property programming that’s popular among seniors, but to invest specifically in additional experiences that cater to older consumers’ travel priorities. In our work with hotel clients, we’ve found that many seniors tend to gravitate toward educational and informational experiences (think tours and guided excursions), they’re often willing to pay more for convenience (think airport pickup and inclusive dining plans), they tend to stay longer in one place and dive deeper into one destination (i.e., they’re not in a rush to explore as many places in one trip as possible), and they often care disproportionately for wellness and spa activities.
Use these tidbits of information to create packages centered on extended stay benefits, convenient transportation and dining perks and experiential add-ons that help your hotel stand out to the older demographic. Then, feature those packages within your marketing campaigns, from content marketing and advertisements to email campaigns and social media posts.
Ensure Your Booking Process Is Simpler Than Ever
Having a streamlined and easy-to-use booking process is mission-critical regardless of which demographic you’re targeting, but for seniors, it’s truly make-or-break. We’ve noticed that seniors are becoming increasingly comfortable making bookings online, so the last thing you want to overlook is the simplicity and ease of use of your online booking engine.
That being said, this demographic still tends to stick with what they’re comfortable doing, which is picking up the phone and making a call. Make sure you not only keep your booking phone number front and center on any marketing material they interact with, but also ensure your phone lines are simple to navigate, offer minimal wait times and are staffed by associates who are trained to interact with seniors (who we’ve found have especially high customer service expectations).
Become More Intelligent About Your Call Center Analytics
Speaking of call centers and the importance of taking senior bookings over the phone, if you haven’t yet, this is the time to invest in a more intelligent tracking system for caller analytics. Too many hotels are still in the dark when it comes to understanding their phone demographic, whether it’s caller experience, obstacle paths or drop-off statistics. There are many companies out there that can provide these sorts of data points, which in turn allow you to retarget guests who didn’t convert, better understand your marketing campaigns and ultimately put more heads in beds.
Invest In More Accessible Advertising Channels
Targeting seniors means you may need to reinvest in your offline advertising strategy, especially for channels like magazines, catalogs and flyers. But if we’re sticking to the digital landscape, the same lesson applies: Make sure you’re fishing where the fish are.
Instead of putting advertising dollars into segments like mobile ads, meta and certain social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter — where seniors are underrepresented — focus your efforts on more visible channels like pay-per-click, display and Facebook. I also recommend relying heavily on email marketing, which tends to be successful both for high- and low-funnel marketing, provided you keep it simple, easy to digest and personalized.
Use Video Content To Capture Attention
Research shows that many seniors are increasing their internet use with age, and as they do, it appears they’re watching more videos online. Nearly 35% of consumers aged 60-69 watch videos on YouTube at least a few times a week — the same percentage as for 30-49-year-olds.
Combine this with the fact that many older adults enjoy educational and informational content, and you have yourself a perfect formula for capturing their attention online. Brands that create useful and engaging videos, and imbed those videos within their marketing campaigns, will have a leg up on the competition and a higher chance of winning bookings from older demographics.
Double Down On Loyalty Initiatives
Once you’ve done the hard part — beating the competition to win the booking — hotels have a bonus opportunity with older adults that doesn’t exist as prominently with other demographics. After all, loyalty tends to increase with age: While 49% of Generation Z (18-21) respondents say they often buy a product repeatedly when they find one they like, that percentage increased to 59% of millennials, 67% of Gen Xers and 75% of Baby Boomers.
From a marketing standpoint, the takeaway here is simple: Whatever it is you’re doing to foster loyalty — whether it’s a full-blown loyalty program, offering personalized content and experiences or exceeding sanitation and safety standards — make sure you’re going above and beyond for older adults. You’re more likely to see a high ROI on loyalty initiatives when marketing to the older generations, which won’t just benefit you now, but also well into the future, once the rest of society is vaccinated as well.