Adressing barriers to senior-friendly tourism in Europe

AGE policy work on senior tourism

With 55+ year old citizens representing about 25% of the European population, the European Union feels that the contribution of seniors to the European tourism industry is significant and should be reinforced to face the challenge of seasonality, stimulating economic growth and jobs in Europe. Alongside, the free movement of European citizens is to be encouraged, where travel accessibility and safety are key and non-negotiable features for all, and especially for the most vulnerable travelers. In all this, senior tourists are growing in number and represent a significant economic market potential, but older tourists are also a very heterogeneous group and their demand and criteria for choice are far from being obvious.

In this context, AGE Platform Europe has been part of an expert group on Senior Tourism set up by the European Commission (DG Growth) since 2013 and one of AGE task force has been working on the issue since 2014. This task force seeks to help AGE provide input on older people’s expectations and needs with regard to senior tourism in low seazon and what could be done at EU level to promote more demand from the senior population.

AGE policy work is also supported by its participation in two EU-funded projects promoting senior toursim in Europe…

AGE involvement in EU projects

ESCAPE logo draftTo help shed light on this topic, AGE Platform launched a European-wide survey to identify their interests and expectations, and gathered more than 900 replies from across Europe in 3 weeks. Conceived within the EU-funded ESCAPE project, aimed at enhancing existing tourist infrastructure and staff in low season, the survey’s analysis offers country-based insights (targeting in particular France, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria and Portugal, project partners’ Countries), alongside with widespread trends related to choices when travelling, and provides an overview of older people’s approaches to seasonality and preferences for themes and leisure activities. The survey also addressed intergenerational comparisons, accessibility and seamlessness issues, as well as underlined older people’s concerns when encountering barriers to their freedom of movement. This work allowed to deliver ten thematic tourism packages all focusing on quality and safety: whatever the ESCAPE destination is, it is tailored made! Willing to explore Cyprus for instance? Escape to Cyprus and other 5 countries here!

Age-friendly criteria have been explored and determined, so that you can select hotels, accommodation settings, means of transport, attractions, which respect accessibility criteria and other key senior-friendly features. Those facilities and operators complying with these criteria have started joining the ESCAPE Club, recognizing their efforts for ensuring senior-friendly tourism. Take a look at the for constant updates and the most recent packages: plan and book your package for friendly, cheerful and fun trips.

OFF TO SPAS logo smallAGE Platform Europe works on senior-friendly tourism also in the frame of the OFF TO SPAS project, which aims at developing a Central European transnational balneological tourism product for seniors focusing on two spa destinations, Heviz in Hungary, and Covasna in Romania. AGE members from the Nordic Countries and German-speaking countries have been offered free 4-day trips to both destinations to provide useful feedback to the project partners, thus helping improving the touristic offers to seniors.

These projects have been granted in the framework on the European Commission’s pilot phase ‘Senior Tourism Initiative’ to enhance transnational travel for seniors in Europe during off-peak times, contributing to the competitiveness of this market. In particular, strong partnerships between the public and private sector, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is encouraged for offering competitive packages.
DG Growth launched a Call for Expressions of Interest to set up a ‘European Union Low Season Tourism Initiative Board’ (EULSTIB) for the period 2015-2016. The board was set up in November 2014 to define a road map for low season tourism addressed to older people, and works in close collaboration with the Commission. Its members are experts from governments, the private sector, European industry, academia and civil society. Mrs. Heidrun Mollenkopf seats in this Board as representative of AGE Platform Europe.

The joint work on senior tourism of Mrs. Mollenkopf and AGE secretariat supports the qualification of Europe as an age-friendly destination, ensuring accessibility and safety, above all, to its travelers. Alongside AGE work is a recognized milestone towards age-friendly environments and freedom of movement in Europe.

For more information on AGE work on tourism, you may contact Ilenia Gheno,

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