Travel Agent NewsWhat travel agents need to know to tap a market that is 250 million strong.

China's silver tourists are the new gold

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Older travellers "have already seen a lot in life" and are thus looking for standout trips.
Older travellers "have already seen a lot in life" and are thus looking for standout trips. Photo Credit: Getty Images/imtmphoto

China's silver haired market is a huge one, with 250 million within the age 60 and above bracket. This market is also made up of a demographic which generally have higher spending power, more time, and are easier to tailor customised travel packages for.

Dragon Trail has highlighted 7 trends and facts that travel marketers targeting this segment should know.

Key market for long-haul


According to the China Tourism Academy, of the Chinese tourists who toured Europe in 2019, more than half were aged 50-70 years old. In 2018, nearly a third of Chinese tourists to Africa were the same age.

Ctrip found that 22% of outbound travellers in 2019 tended to be on the older side, age 40-65.
Ctrip found that 22% of outbound travellers in 2019 tended to be on the older side, age 40-65.

China's mature market retire earlier than other countries
The official retirement age in China starts from 50 for women, and 60 for men. This means that China's mature market travellers are old enough to be out of the daily workforce, and still considerably young enough for active travel.

Agents are their best friends in foreign lands

These mature and silver-haired travellers likely did not receive the foreign exposure the post-80s and younger generations grew up with.

Agencies and guides are therefore important in helping with arranging transport, navigating foreign menus, and any other language-incurred issues. Chinese-speaking guides will also make the trip less intimidating, and more interesting.

Adventurous, but only to a certain point


“Older Chinese people just can’t digest Western food day in, day out,” says Brendan Tansey, Managing Director of Viking Cruises, in a Dragon Trail International report.

While trying local food is something older travellers are happy to do as part of the experience, these are best done in tasting portions. Agents should include some Chinese "comfort food" into the holiday, since even younger Chinese accustomed to international cuisines show the same tendencies.

Group travel that's slower, more relaxed


When the Trip.com Group surveyed senior travellers in 2019 about what they were looking for from a tour product, the top priorities were safety, comfortable hotels, a relaxed itinerary, and no scheduled shopping. Meaning, no traditional rushed bus tours.

Meet high expectations with customised plans


Older travellers "have already seen a lot in life" and are thus looking for standout trips, along with special requirements such as comfort, slower pace, health, food, and other personal interests.

According to a Chinese agent who has customised itineraries for those up to their 80s, the key is to include community interactions, special experiences, and opportunities to learn. This could mean concerts in castles, tours with an actual countess, and wine tasting tours which give out certifications too.

“It doesn’t matter if you work B2C directly with the guest or B2B with travel agencies or travel clubs … [you should] find out more about those guests’ type by asking them what they have been done before and try to get clues of what they really like. And based on that, you provide your real suggestions."

They are digital savvy, but still prefer booking through agents


With livestreaming taking off in epic ways during the pandemic, by 2021, 49.3% of Chinese aged 45 and up were using Douyin according to MobTech. In comparison, just 7.2% of Brits aged 45 and over used Douyin’s international equivalent, TikTok.

Chinese over 45 are on multiple digital platforms, including WeChat, watching online short videos, and are even influenced by travel KOLs (key opinion leaders). More than one third of Chinese over 70 would also head online for travel research. 

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