Ageism in our Travel Marketing & Media

“I think that ageism is a cultural illness; It’s not a personal illness” ~ Frances McDormand

Our culture continues to be starved for real connection and generational relationships that would impart the cultural & experiential wisdom we so desperately need. Why does the West still fight this fact and perpetuate stereotypes? With an aging population — lead by women, who are more active than ever and wield more spending power — we have an opportunity to harness the power of experience.

Now, this ageism & sexism can be found in nearly every medium but for the purposes of this post, I am interested in the glaring gap (and opportunity) in both the travel marketing and media world that I work in, and why everyone seems to keep missing a massive part of our population. Not all travelers are 25, nor are product consumers. Women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond are powerhouses in the workforce, beacons of experience and make the majority of household (& thus travel) spending decisions. And retirees are more active and traveling more than ever too — 70 is the new 50 they say, and 50 the new 30 (have you seen Jlo lately!?). And don’t get me started on the rich interview & storytelling possibilities continually missed, both nationally and internationally (read my earlier post “Women as Cultural Storytellers” on that). So why do we keep seeing more of the same? Let’s review the stats:

WOMEN, AGE & MARKETING

“Despite earning 80 cents on the dollar (and far less for women of color), their (women over 40) share of personal wealth in the U.S. keeps increasing—to about 60 percent—meaning they will have close to $22 trillion (that is not a typo!) by 2020. Women are living longer and better. They are not taking the increase in life expectancy and stretching out old age (with tired activities), they are taking advantage of it now. Women have never been more engaged, more motivated, more in control of their lives than ever before. And brands are missing out.” ~ AdWeek

“A group of 40 million 50+ American women represent over $15 trillion dollars in purchasing power and are are the healthiest, wealthiest, and most active generation in history. This group of super consumers, who will experience the largest population growth over the next 10 years, represent off-the-charts spending power, yet most of these women feel completely ignored by marketers." ~ Forbes

“According to a recent UN Report, the number of older persons — those aged 60 years or over — is expected to more than double by 2050 and to more than triple by 2100, rising from 962 million globally in 2017 to 2.1 billion in 2050 and 3.1 billion in 2100. Globally, population aged 60 or over is growing faster than all younger age groups. Globally, the number of persons aged 80 or over is projected to triple by 2050, from 137 million in 2017 to 425 million in 2050. By 2100 it is expected to increase to 909 million, nearly seven times its value in 2017.”

WOMEN & TRAVEL

  • Women make 70% of all travel decisions. (Source: Bridget Brennan, “Why She Buys”.)

  • 73% of travel agents surveyed noted that more female travelers embark on solo trips than their male counterparts. (Source: The Gutsy Traveler)

  • According to 68% of travel agents, most female clients taking trips in small groups are over the age of 45. (Source: The Gutsy Traveler)

  • The average adventure traveler is not a 28-year old male, but a 47-year-old female who wears a size 12 dress. (Source: Travel Industry of America)

  • One in four women have participated in a “girlfriends getaway” and 39% plan to do so at least once in the next three years. (Source: AAA)

Grace and Frankie

Doesn’t this ring alarms everywhere you look? On one end it’s that they (and it’s a big THEY/WE) would benefit from not being routinely ignored nor contently pitched anti-aging products (seriously, stop already), andeveryone would benefit from multi-generational inclusion. If I see one more Instagram travel post with no context/history/culture from a so-called expert, or faux life advice from someone who is 21 (no offense), I may hurl my phone across the room. And no more “30 under 30” lists while we’re at it. Nor some of my favorite podcast hosts lamenting how ‘old’ they were getting at 34 (considering they are feminists, it goes to show how deep that societal conditioning goes). Listen, I am not an ageist — I know wise 30-year-olds and clueless 60 years olds, but my point is that North America is still youth-obsessed — which is in itself a false power — and we all suffer for it. I think there is SO much opportunity for mentorships, wider stories, mixing it up in all areas….and the travel industry is ripe for it. I have lost count of the times older women overhear me talking about travel and chime in, wishing there were more platforms or options for them to learn, discuss ideas or saw media that reflected them. Or the times my friends in their 40s & 50s eye-roll the same pathetic messaging that miss them completely, or my youthful 72-year-old mom and her friends who don’t know where to begin in their enthusiasm for more travel. Where are the fun group trips? The simple apps and forums? The advertising of things they actually want, or that are on the market and not excluded from? Where are they as guests on podcast and panels? I’ll tell you who gets it…fictional characters “Grace & Frankie” and their vibrator business for older women ;)

So I put it to you Ladies, what business will you start, platform will build or guest will you book to round out the conversation? Let’s go! And on that note, stay tuned for our new group content series project Travel Oracles