Costa Rica needs a specific campaign to attract older tourists (silver tourists) in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Here’s why.
As countries around the world start vaccinating their elderly, the elderly are preparing to travel again. Could they come to Costa Rica?
They say the darkest hour comes before dawn, and around the world right now we’re in a pretty dark place. COVID numbers are soaring, and countries are heading back into lockdown and travel restrictions.
For the travel and tourism industry and those countries that rely on tourists, like Costa Rica, none of this is good. We can relax our restrictions to enter all we like, but if other countries make it hard for their citizens to leave, it all comes to nothing.
We saw that last week, with the United States’ decision to require a COVID test for its returning citizens. And maybe more restrictions are in the pipeline from the new Biden administration. We’ll see.
But as they say, the darkest hour comes before dawn, and we may, just may, be seeing some glimpses of sunrise on the eastern horizon.
That slight ray of light came in early January with a BBC report from the UK. The report talked of travel companies over there seeing a surge of bookings for later in the year.
And not just any bookings, either. These bookings are coming from a specific demographic. The elderly.
In a phenomenon called “vaccine confidence”, it seems that even though the UK right now is in the grip of its third lockdown, the over-65s are taking an optimistic approach. They’re getting vaccinated first, and are ready to get out and travel as soon as that happens.
It’s no surprise, as they were the first people over there told to stay in and not leave their homes. They’re itching to get out again.
“Since the announcement of the vaccine, it’s given our customer base, predominantly those over 65, increased confidence to book and have that summer getaway in 2021” Jit Desai, from National Express, a UK-based travel company offering bus tours around the country told the BBC.
So could the same thing happen in Costa Rica?
Casey Halloran, CEO of Costa Rica travel company Costa Rican Vacations, believes so.
Even though Costa Rica is a country typically associated with adventure, surfing, rafting, zip lining, and so on, it offers a lot for the more refined traveler. And anyway, who’s to say the over-65s can’t do any of these things if they’re fit enough?
“We’ve always believed Costa Rica is perfect for everyone, not just young backpackers and adventure seekers,” said Halloran.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re fit enough, you can enjoy the pleasures of Costa Rica, and even if you want to take it easy, there are many options. You can take the aerial tram instead of the zipline or a river float instead of hitting the white water. So many national parks have facilities for all ages nowadays, it doesn’t have to be physical endurance to come here.”
And then there are the hotels. Costa Rica has so many places to stay nowadays compared to previous years. Elderly travelers with no interest in hostel lifestyle may not realize how much Costa Rica has changed. Nowadays there are resorts offering golf, fishing, and other activities. There are boutique, adult-only hotels to relax in.
“A lot of elderly travelers might not realize this about Costa Rica,” says Halloran.
“They might see Costa Rica as a place where their kids and grandkids go, but would never think about it themselves, so we should try to change that.”
The ICT should begin marketing to the “silver tourist” in the United States and elsewhere, who are in the lineup to get their COVID vaccines first. We should be selling the spirit of Costa Rica to these people as a safe place to come down once they’re vaccinated.
The elderly have experienced the brunt of the COVID pandemic and deserve a good break from it. This “vaccine confidence” they’re reporting in the UK will spread around the world, to the US and elsewhere.
We need to tap into it and ensure Costa Rica is known as a destination for everyone, young, middle-aged, young-at-heart, and old alike. It shouldn’t be too difficult to tap into this.
It’s not a question of changing Costa Rica, just changing the message a bit. If we do that, we can turn the second half of 2021 into a success story for Costa Rican tourism.