When Baby Boomers Get Old: Is Switzerland Ready for the Demographic Shift?

Research output: Book/ReportReport

Abstract

The Swiss population is ageing fast. By the year 2020 over 3 million people will be aged 50 or above. By 2030, about 23% of the population will be aged 65 or above. The demographic shift will be one of the most important trends to hit the Swiss economy. Although the problem of financing future retirement schemes has been widely discussed in recent years, there has been little discussion of the potential impact on consumer spending and preferences.

This report summarizes some of the findings of a research project that took place at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft in Chur, in collaboration with a number of other institutions, from 2006 to 2008. The aim of this project was to gain an understanding of what the ageing population trend will mean for the Swiss tourism sector in general and the hotel industry in particular. We wanted to know if the industry is aware of the trend and how they perceive and react to the demographic shift. We also wanted to understand how tourist preferences might change as a result of the ageing population and to formulate some recommendations for the sector.

Somewhat surprisingly, we found that a large majority of hoteliers do not seem to have understood the nature of the demographic ageing taking place. Most ignore that the shift will take place, even if it has already started and that there can be no stopping it. According to our collected data, the number of trips undertaken, or the travel propensity, is rising over time. People generally travel more today than ten years ago and generally believe they will travel even more in ten years. However, we also found that the participation in travel activities is particularly high among younger seniors, whereas older seniors (those aged 80+) do not declare travelling much. Altogether we calculated that over the next decade, the number of trips taken by tourists aged 50 and above, will rise by an impressive 25%. This easily makes this segment the biggest growth segment in terms of age.

In general, we found that with age, there is a growing preference for domestic travel. This trend is positive for the Swiss tourism industry, provided the industry is able to deliver services that respond to the needs and expectations of senior travellers. In terms of activities and preferences, what our surveys seemed to indicate is that although one can make some generalizations about the preferences of older tourists, it would be wrong to put all older tourists in the same boat. There are some common preferences among all 50+ tourists, such as a preference for nature, or less interest in sports. There are, however, also substantial differences between a 50, 60, 70 and 80 year-old.

As a result of our work we were able to develop a series of recommendations to the sector. However, we have only begun to explore some of the questions that need to be answered and much more research will be needed to better understand the effects of the ageing population and particularly how the needs and expectations of tourists change with age. It is our hope that this project will have served to generate some interest from the industry and to guide the private partners involved in the project.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationChur, Schweiz
PublisherHochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Chur
Number of pages71
Commissioning bodySwiss Federal Commission for Technology and Innovation
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

Cite this