Dr Ian Yeoman
Demography is the most important external factor that will shape the future of tourism. In many developed nations this discussion has centred on the rapidly ageing populations and the impact of this phenomena. Governments and populations are facing changes whether it is increased cost of government pensions, the growth of health care costs, the impact of population growth in cities or the emergence of new family and household structures due to delayed family formulation, declining birth rates and growing divorce rates. The direction and composition of demographic trends will significantly shape the future of society and tourism. But it is not all doom and gloom, for the tourism industry, there is massive opportunity as we enter an era of ageless society where age is undefined.
Consumers' understanding of what defines old age, middle years and youth are shifting and age is becoming less determining across areas such as career, leisure, holidays, online activities, mobile usage, media consumption, etc. An ageless society is becoming the norm, science is on the verge of discovering the fountain of youth. Harvard University scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say they have for the first time partially reversed age-related degeneration in mice, resulting in new growth of the brain and testes, improved fertility, and the return of a lost cognitive function. Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco have been able to double the life span of the c. elegans worm. Normally, the worm ages rapidly, undergoing development, senescence, and death in less than three weeks. However, when the gene daf-2 (related to insulin) was mutated to reduce activity, the worms aged more slowly and lived for six weeks – yet their metabolic rates were normal.
Shoemaker and Shoemaker, in their book 'Chips, Clones, and Living Beyond 100' notes that 1 in 5 people in advanced economies by 2030 will probably celebrate their 100th birthday in their lifetime. The authors go on to say that the average 50-year woman living in the USA in 1990 could look forward to an average of 31 additional years of life. If we assume for a cure for cancer, this increment beyond 50 years of age grows to 34 years; adding a cure for heart disease amounts to 39 years. After we conquer strokes and diabetes, the increment rises to 47, yielding a full life expectancy of 97 years of age. No one knows for sure how the boundary of death can be pushed, but optimistic scientists consider 130 years to be feasible by 2050.
It is an increasingly accepted truth that reaching middle-age does not imply a sudden slowing down of activity, a disintegration of one's looks or a sudden disinterest in fashion or new technologies. And, no small point, we mention here that according to its maker, Viagra had, by 2010, been used by men in 120 countries. Contemporary culture is fertile ground for older role models such as Sophia Loren, Clint Eastwood, Karl Lagerfeld and Catherine Deneuve - all proving that one can remain fully attractive, successful and dynamic into one's sixties and seventies. Disguising and altering visible signs of ageing has become far more accessible thanks to the wealth of cosmetic products, health, nutrition and lifestyle advice, plastic surgery procedures and flattering fashions at our disposal. Outwardly, it appears years younger than our actual age and striving to do so is widely accepted culturally. Of course some consumers will have specific needs at different stages of their lives and certain older generations will hold different opinions to those slightly younger than themselves.
However, it can be expected that as current generations age attitudinal differences between age groups will become less stark.
Societies across the world are ageing. By 2030, over 20% of the world's population is projected to be over the age of 55, according to UN forecasts.
By 2050, the median age of the respective populations of Japan, South Korea, Germany and Italy will be above 50. In most markets the median age will be above 40.
Life expectancy varies across regions. It is higher in developed regions and continues to increase in emerging economies where rising prosperity is improving the health of citizens.
In Western European markets, the concept of old age has clearly evolved and is less rigidly defined than it once was. According to the Future Foundation in France, only at 72 do the majority consider themselves old. At the age of 80, a significant minority (20%) of German, French and British citizens still do not regard themselves as old.
Feeling the pressure to look good whatever our age is a prominent attitude. Across most markets in the Future Foundation survey, the majority agree that people should make an effort to look good at any age.
Only a minority agree that old people should not wear fashions designed for young people across all the countries that we survey.
Opportunities to lead a more varied lifestyle post-retirement and post-family stage will give rise to demand for improved lifestyle and leisure options for the mature segment. So many aspirations will become less distinguishable by age. Older consumers will become more resistant to marketing that is specifically targeted to their age and will be more likely to be receptive to age-inclusive communications which do not highlight age in a direct or overt manner. Nevertheless, older consumers will appreciate products and brands that make them feel and look younger given the rising pressure to remain youthful and attractive even as we age. So many global stars and celebrities in their 60s and 70s continue to garner both success and admiration, something which are to be considered to be a potent indication of a generation who are enjoying a much more self-confident old age than previous ones. Some consumer brands are gradually including more mature segments in their advertising either to appeal to an older demographic or to inject their brand with a more inclusive appeal.
Vintage TV, which began in September 2010, is aimed specifically at the over-50 population. The focus is on culture and music from the post-war rock'n'roll years – from the Berlin airlift to the fall of Mrs Thatcher. The channel also recognises the growing online presence of older people – the site vintage-tv.tv will feature selected video content from the TV channel, as well as bespoke web content including behind-the-scenes footage of concerts. The programming provides a 'destination for the fifty-somethings who find their interests squeezed by broadcasters looking to attract younger viewers'.
Operating in two locations in the US state of Minnesota, Welycon – "Wellness + halcyon days = Welcyon" – is a fitness centre concept designed specifically for those aged 50 and over. It is designed to appeal to those consumers keen to maintain fitness levels as they age but at a pace – and in surroundings – sensitive to their needs. Equipment is air-driven and "easy on your joints... and smart enough to track all your progress" and customers are encouraged to view the gym as a means to meet people and to develop strong social bonds with fellow members. Much is also made of the qualified gym staff, able, we are told, to develop fitness routines suited to the more elderly demographic.
As populations across the globe age – it is now the case that the proportion of people over the age of 65 is growing faster than any other single age – offers designed specifically for older generations such as this one are likely to become more and more visible.
Longevity and smaller core families have led to the family structure becoming more vertical rather than statically horizontal in form. Because there are more, longer-living grandparents and fewer children, grandparents are enjoying more time with their grandchildren. Consider the following: in 1900, the life expectancy of a woman in the United States was 47 years; today it is 80 according to research by Samuel Shapner. Today, grandparents can expect to enjoy several more years with their grandchildren than could grandparents of the 1960s. The term multi-generational family, also known as the 'vertical family', is a term first coined by sociologist Michael Young. It refers to the fact that because of increased longevity, there has been a gradual shift towards there being more generations in a family. Because people live longer and lead healthier lives it is more common now for a family to consist of three, four or even five generations. Supporting this trend is the phenomenon of falling birth rates, which leads to fewer siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles compared to previous generations. Thus, the structure of the family is more vertical and less horizontal than in the past. The implications of this 'stretching' are manifold for family life and for the relationship between generations at a societal level. Longevity means that grandparents are more likely to assume supervisory childcare. At present, more and more people in the age group 45 to 55 are finding themselves with dual care responsibilities, namely teenage children and elderly parents. But it is probable that in the future this age group could find themselves at the centre of a five-generation family, with great-grandparents in their nineties, grandparents in their seventies, parents in their fifties, their children in their thirties, and grandchildren at primary school etc. As grandparents have more leisure time and parents lead increasingly complicated lives, a new trend is emerging – that of grandparents and grandchildren holidaying together. This is called grand-travel, is one of the fastest growing trends in twenty-first century society.
Medical tourism and well being
Figure 2 highlights that functional health falls gradually throughout a person's life, this reduction doesn't cause problems until very old age, when it ultimately leads to an individual losing independence. One the biggest conditions associated with advanced economies is obesity which limits life expectancy and increases the risk of chronic health diseases that can dramatically increase both mortality and morbidity in remaining years. As a consequence, in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle in old age, consumers are searching for a means to extend healthy retirement years. This means, in general terms, that:
Consumer demand has increased for healthier foods and for better access to a variety of physical activities as a way of combating growing anxiety problems and depression, as well as growing waist lines.
There is an increasing interest in Eastern medicine and health-related activities such as yoga, meditation and herbal remedies. Growth in this area may be most closely linked to affluence because they will remain an alternative to the staunchly supported public health service of western societies.
At present, women make up a significant majority of 'health' consumers, but a steady growth in participation by males in the market is anticipated.
Disparities between the self-reporting of conditions and the actual treatment of conditions suggest a demand for non-medically prescribed remedies or treatments, particularly in areas of the greatest discrepancies between condition and treatment, for example, heart and circulation problems, as well as alcohol and drug problems.
An increasing use of beauty aids, combined with continued growth in disposable income, suggests a bright future for cosmetic treatments and for those searching for the fountain of youth.
Wellness can be defined as a balanced state of body, spirit and mind, with fundamental elements such as self-responsibility, physical fitness, beauty care, healthy nutrition, relaxation, mental activity and environmental sensitivity. According to Mueller and Lanz-Kaufmann wellness is viewed as a way of life, which aims to create a healthy body, soul and mind through acquired knowledge and positive interventions. Health tourism is defined as any kind of travel to make oneself, or a member of one's family healthier. Health tourism and wellness tourism are frequently used interchangeably. Healthcare and health treatments will be the world's largest industry in 2022, principally driven by an ageing population who are active rather than passive when it comes to healthcare. Lister goes on to say that tourism will become the world's second largest industry over the same period. Combined, health and tourism will represent 22% of the world GDP.
Medical travel is a fast-growing market according the World Economic Forum which estimates that gross medical tourism revenues were more than US$ 40 billion worldwide in 2004, and will rise to US$ 100 billion by 2012. It is driven largely by long waiting times for public treatment and high costs for private treatment in high-income countries. As medical cost inflation drives up insurance premiums relative to income, more people choose to decline coverage and meet their medical expenses out-of-pocket; in the US, over 45 million people, around one in six of the population, are uninsured. The enormous price advantage of travelling overseas for treatment may reflect the quality of provision, particularly pre- and post-surgery care, but also reflects both the lower wages paid to healthcare workers in low-cost countries and cheaper prices offered there by global suppliers of medical devices and other healthcare products. Medical travel is a global phenomenon. In addition to middle- and low-income patients from high-income countries travelling to lower-income countries in search of cheaper care, high-income patients from low-income countries travel to higher-income countries in search of better care. Singapore, Thailand, India, Costa Rica and Colombia are notable examples of countries that have successfully established themselves as hubs for medical tourism, while the governments of South Korea and Taiwan are about to launch campaigns to promote medical tourism services within their countries. In 2007, 600,000 foreigners sought medical treatment in Thailand and 450,000 foreigners in India. Singapore aims to service one million medical tourists annually by 2012.
It can be expected that, as modern consumers age, people's later lifestage's post work / family will become more and more fragmented and varied with a growth in mature education, work, travel, second careers, new leisure habits, etc. In the developed markets of Western Europe, USA and Japan where demographic populations are ageing fastest (particularly as baby boomer generations reach retirement age) the agelessness will be of significance soon. Emerging economies will follow the same trend as longevity continues to rise and population's age. It is forecasted that a continuing weakening of age boundaries and a less age-targeted approach to the way that brands will address and service older consumers in future. Indeed, greater age-neutrality within marketing communications across a whole range of sectors will be important.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that generational differences are set to evaporate completely; younger consumers will continue to seek recognition for their sense of individuality and for their interpretation of the latest fashion trends while older people will crave products that make them feel and look younger, something which simply does not apply to the youngest consumers.
It can be expected that, as modern consumer's age, people's later lifestages post work / family will become more and more fragmented and varied with a growth in mature education, work, travel, second careers, new leisure habits, etc. In the developed markets of Western Europe, USA and Japan where demographic populations are ageing fastest (particularly as baby boomer generations reach retirement age) the agelessness will be of significance soon. Emerging economies will follow the same trend as longevity continues to rise and population's age. It is forecasted that a continuing weakening of age boundaries and a less age-targeted approach to the way that brands will address and service older consumers in future.
Previous Viewpoint articles can be found in the Archive here.
NEW 26/4/18 New publication: What is food tourism? here.
NEW 2/3/18 Ian talks about the future of travel in Virgin Atlantic’s Inflight magazine here.
NEW 22/2/18 New publication: Teaching tourism futures here.
20/2/18 Journal of Tourism Futures – Call for papers on the history of tourism here.
02/2/18 The Future of Luxury: new research published in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management here.
The Future of Travel, featuring my research with ABC Australia here.
Call for Papers: Futures Practice and Theory here.
Call for Abstracts and Chapters: Science Fiction, Disruption and Tourism here.
Ian speaks about the future tourist in VisitEngland report here.
Keynote address: The Future of Luxury and Premium Pricing – Paris 15th December 2017: More.
Call for Book Chapter: The Future Past of Tourism here.
Watch talk about the core drivers of change and Europe's future here.
Ian presents his views on technology futures to the OECD – 21st June here.
Ian profiled in Qatar Airways Oryx Magazine about the 'life of a futurist' here.
The future history of Revenue Management here.
The future of ping pong here.
Ian publishes research paper on scenario planning and policy in the Journal of Tourism Futures here.
The Future of Food Tourism reviewed in Annals of Leisure Research here.
Ian speaks to the EU on the future tourist here.
Fifteen years of Revenue Management here.
Ian appointed series editor by Channelview about the future of tourism Read More.
Previous News items can be found here.