Power Aging

Amid Downturn in Travel, Seniors Emerge as Growth Market

Seniors on Tour 2 Source Seniorenreise.info
Senior travel services are a growth market in Germany.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s population is aging and its travel industry is struggling in a difficult economy. Could older vacationers be the answer?

  • Facts


    • Germans booked 70 million vacations in 2013.
    • An average German vacation lasts 10 days.
    • One in two German tourists is now over 50 years old.
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In Germany, more and more tourists are now over 50, and as they age, they plan to keep on travelling, with the right help.

As the cruise ship sails past the Reichsstag in Berlin, the cameras snap. The passengers wave excitedly at strollers along the edge of the Spree River. The guide picks up the microphone to tell a few stories about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s residence, which is also along the river.

There is a backward glance at the Treasury building too, and a discussion about the building’s history and architecture.

In the summer months you find tourists everywhere. They are the 50-plus generation. And they are not just viewing the government buildings. There are now more older visitors to Berlin than ever before.

Every second tourist to the German capital is now over 50, according to tourism association Dehoga. Around 21 million older people will take one or more vacations this year. They like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg, but also head to the Alps and the German coasts along the Baltic and North Seas.

Two thirds of holidays this group takes are abroad outside of Germany. The favorite region is the Mediterranean. The senior travelers want beautiful landscapes, with culture and lots of things to do. The older generation spends, on average, around €900 per journey.

Every second tourist to the German capital is now over 50, according to tourism association Dehoga. Around 21 million older people will take one or more holidays this year.

These travelers are not, in many ways, so different from younger tourists, but they do require different levels of comfort and service.

There are now several courses that train tour guides and others in the tourist industry to cater to this demographic. A Berlin industry vocational school called bbq runs one such course. The classes touch on several themes: Spa treatments for older people, Nordic walking and tips on food are all on the agenda. There will also be a module on health: What the limitations of older people are, and basic first aid.


Senior tours are increasingly in demand in Germany, where retirees with spare time and money are taking to the road. Source: karlsruhe-nachrichten.de


A tour guide leading a group of older vacationers has to deal with more complicated sets of needs and wishes. Most guests want a hotel with a lift. A good reading lamp is required for a bus journey. Access to medicines is important. On a cruise, city guides must be available with large lettering or as audio guides.

The region consisting of Berlin and its surrounding German state, Brandenburg, is beginning to become a tourist magnet. Berlin has always attracted visitors and shoppers, but now holiday makers are beginning to explore neighboring Brandenburg. In Potsdam, the state capital, the local chamber of commerce said 50 percent of its revenue comes from the service sector, and a significant part of this comes from hospitality and tourism. Castle tours are especially popular.

A tour guide leading a group of older holiday makers has to deal with more complicated sets of needs and wishes. Most guests want a hotel with a lift and a good reading lamp. Access to medicine is important.

Most tour groups already offer vacation packages for older people.

There are sightseeing tours to Rome, Caribbean cruises, concert tours in the Spreewald, China, Malta, Africa. One of the pioneers in the industry was the travel sector of the Workers Welfare Association (AWO), which has run these tours for over 20 years. Spokesman Dorit Klinke said the staff are well trained in catering to the needs of the elderly. If someone struggles to walk on a mountain range, tour guides will know a gentler, alternative route.

They will always have a first aid kit. The cutlery at restaurants will have easy grip handles. The tour guides can also help people with circulation problems or with diabetes.

One of the latest trends in the segment are grandparent–grandchild holidays. Older people are no longer just staying put. They are going to the Harz mountains in central Germany or to the Baltic Sea. “There are no age limitations,” said Ms. Klinke. “The basic point is not that these vacationers are older, but that they want the same adventures as everyone else.

This article first appeared in Der Tagesspiegel.

Translated by Meera Selva.

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