One of the biggest current travel trends in Europe and the US is the ‘Grey Getaway’. This is where retirees, exhausted by babysitting their grandkids all summer, depart on mass for sunnier climes.
The trend is backed up by solid figures. On the French Riviera, September hotel and holiday residence bookings are a shade behind those of June. September is now far busier than May, despite the glitter of the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix. Pensioners have extended the high season by another autumn month.
But that’s the tip of the iceberg. The Cote d’Azur’s tourist industry isn’t focussed on families (these make up 16% of annual visitors). Nor is about backpackers (just 10% of incoming tourists are under 25).
Restaurateurs, hoteliers and tourism chiefs are focussing on the ‘Silver Dollar’. According to official figures, seniors aged 60 or over make up a mammoth 23% of French Riviera tourists.
More importantly, it’s a market that’s set to grow. Here’s why. And here’s how you can take advantage.
Quite simply, a terrific amount of European and American disposable income is tied up in its retired classes. Read no mortgages, no school fees and generous pensions accumulated in more generous economic times.
Additionally, retirees are becoming more numerous. In Britain, one in six people are now retired. In Italy, 22% of people are over 65. And the average Italian retirement age is 60. No wonder Italians comprise the greatest number of tourists on the Cote d’Azur (17% to be precise).
Finally, the South of France lends itself to senior travellers. It’s a land of winter sunshine and art museums, not flaming shots and foam parties. Budget airlines fly year-round, not only in summer, with bargains for retirees who can jet in midweek.
The trick is to funnel retirement spending into your French Riviera holiday home. I asked my mother and father, plus my mother-in-law and father-in-law, for tips on how to entice 60- and 70-year-olds like themselves.
- Make your apartment look cleaner than a hospital ward. This is where Airbnb fails as many of their holiday rental options look like student digs. A professionally staged photo shoot (something that Pebbles create for their rental clients) will bring in the cash.
- Offer your visitors flexible payment options. Personally, retirees make up 40% of my rental guests. Some prefer PayPal. Most opt for a bank transfer. And some (Oh My God) write cheques like it’s the 1990s. As much as I loathe the latter, it’s their call.
- Liaison by phone. I book four or five holiday rental apartments for work or leisure each year. I want to instantly book accommodation on my credit card. My parents don’t. They distrust technology and prefer a call or a long email trail prior to booking. Let them.
- Easy access. Elevator. A map of local stores. Apartments within walking distance of tram/train/airport bus. All of these options score highly on my senior relative radar.
- Plentiful bathrooms. Don’t ask me why, but when my mother-in-law books a place this becomes more important than WiFi. If you’re buying a property through Pebbles then add this to your shopping list.