For too long, the golden rule in travel marketing has been to shy away from guests in their golden years. It's time to put age before beauty in travel marketing and reprioritize accuracy over the aspirational.
The brawny, bearded and tattooed man in Extended Stay America’s ad titled Summer Adventure Awaits looks at first glance like a hipster beach boy. But give it a second look, and his crow’s feet reveal a man eligible for Medicare who’s eager to catch the next wave instead of grabbing a walker.
Extended Stay America isn’t the only hotel brand seeking to tap into the huge market of mature travelers, with 67 percent of Americans age 50 or older saying they had made travel plans for 2022. Courting that that large and lucrative demographic represents an opportunity for a sea change for marketers, who have typically written off mature consumers as fixed in their travel habits and brand preferences.
So a few bold brands are flipping the conventional script of travel advertising, and featuring more than just young couples and families. Here’s how three brands are shining a spotlight on guests over age 50.
Each of Charlestowne Hotels’ properties employs a different strategy to attract older guests. The HarbourView Inn in Charleston, South Carolina launched a campaign featuring a video it believes showcase the feelings its guests have during their stays.
“For this shoot we intentionally used more senior models to display how all types of guests are welcome at our properties,” said Jennifer Jost, Charlestowne Hotels’ corporate director of marketing strategy. “Boomers are eager and adamant travelers.”
The HarbourView says it saw a 20 percent increase in online bookings for guests older than 65 after posting the video on Facebook and other targeted channels. But Jost believes that it’s important to look at further avenues to reach the demographic that accounts for 38 percent of the company’s total revenue.
“We’ve found that Boomers are much more active on Bing than Google compared to other generations. (Bing) has a much higher return on ad spend than other avenues of search,” Jost said.
Meanwhile, the Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens, another Charlestowne Hotels’ property, has launched an email campaign titled Grown Up Saving that offers special rates for weekday stays, the Collector’s traditional downtime.
Extended Stay America
Extended Stay America unveiled a video titled Stay Awhile that features a couple in their early fifties staying in one of its properties. But while travel campaigns for an aging audience largely showcase couples enjoying their twilight years in a relaxed manner, Extended Stay selected the aforementioned surfer to appear prominent in its Summer Adventure Awaits ad.
“Adventure and activity in seasonal leisure campaigns resonate well with any age group,” said Kelly Polling, Extended Stay’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts
Best Western takes the concept of an active older adult to a whole new level with marketing targeted to those who like to hit the road. The chain has a partnership with motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson that provides a 10 percent discount to members of Harley Owners Group. Best Western also enables AARP members to get a 15 percent discount.
“We know touring motorcycle owners skew older, so we have content around that group,” said Jay Hubbs, Best Western’s vice president of advertising, marketing, innovation and analytics, about the materials that have appeared in the company’s Travel Zone blog and on TV ads.
“People riding those tend to be unencumbered travelers, those that prefer to spend their time on the road, and are retired and don’t have (younger) kids.”
Best Western offers motorcycle enthusiasts amenities such as complimentary bike wipe-down towels and access to cleaning stations and reserved parking spaces.
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Photo credit: Best Western has targeted motorcycles, who tend to skew older, through its partnership with Harley-Davidson Best Western Hotels