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Updated: April 28, 2013 17:08 IST

Ageless minds and spirited journeys

P. ANIMA
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Illustration by Satheesh Vellinezhi
The Hindu
Illustration by Satheesh Vellinezhi

Senior citizens are learning to please their travel appetite with international holidays

After their trip to Sri Lanka, 79-year-old K.P. Vijayaraghavan and his two friends, Purushothaman M.K. and Mohana Kurup are contemplating a trip to Cambodia sometime next year. Requisite enquiries are done. “It is a great wish to see Cambodia which is significant for its cultural heritage,” says 59-year-old Purushothaman, a retired college teacher. 

Tour operators in Kozhikode say those like Vijayaraghavan and friends are now gathering strength as a travelling segment. Retirement, for them, is not merely playing doting grandparents. Indulgent grandparents they might still be, but they have also kept alive their spirit to seek and explore. Senior citizens opting for international holidays are no more isolated instances in a city like Kozhikode. They might still be a lean number but one that is gaining might.

“A surprise” is how Mithun Mohan, counter staff at Cox and Kings, describes this segment of travellers. If they comprised 13 to 15 per cent of the company’s sales last year, they have contributed between 25 and 30 per cent of their sales in 2013, says Mithun. 

The profile of these travellers from Kozhikode, according to Madhav Pai, director – leisure travel (outbound), Thomas Cook (India) Ltd., range from “retired government employees and diplomats, professionals from private sectors, expatriates, businessmen and skilled professionals” and their preferred destinations are “Europe, USA, Africa, Asia and Australia”.

Holidays for them are about putting up their shoes after a lifetime’s work. Those like Purushothaman bank on their retirement funds for these trips. “Even now, I take tuition,” he says. On these trips he forgets his ‘retired’ status. “I get my rest when I am travelling this way,” pitches in Vijayaraghavan, a retired railway employee.

Husband and wife Karunakaran Nambiar and Nirmala are taking their travel plans a notch higher. International travel in the past was to Singapore to meet their son. However, this year the couple is set for an out-and-out holiday to Europe. “We are just carrying forward our lives,” says Nirmala who “used to be a teacher.” “The kids are far away. These travels were common in the West, now it is getting here too,” she adds.

Pleasure blends with satisfying the curiosity of a lifetime on these holidays for some couples. Travels, international and domestic, have dotted the lives of retired Wing Commander P.S. Haridas and his wife Bharati the past few years. “It is a way of finding out more about places we have studied and read about,” says Bharati. Holidays are blended with meeting their son who lives in the United States. “In case he cannot come to India we meet him at some other point,” says Bharati. “It is a change of environment for us. We can meet him and also see other places. It meets both the purpose,” she adds. Over the past six years, they met their son in Egypt, New Zealand, South Africa and Bali. 

“We have always been enterprising,” says Bharati. But retirement has offered leisure, she adds. “Further, we are with similar-minded friends who like to travel and we compare notes about the places we have seen.” 

These travellers are a different clientele, says Mithun. “They are very particular about what they want. If they have made up their mind, they are not easily swayed from it,” he says. “Their main concern is security and medical attention,” he adds.

“Health is the major concern. We don’t want it to be a tedious journey,” pitches in Nirmala. At Thomas Cook, to cater to this segment, are “personalised holidays”, informs Pai over e-mail. The tailor-made itineraries, he says, concentrate on “easy paced sight-seeing, adequate stops for rest and comfort breaks. So typically, half-day sight-seeing tours are included rather than full day tours; also special meals as per their health and dietary requirements. The quest to explore destinations in- depth is far more pronounced in our senior citizen segment.”

“The clientele in the segment is mostly between 60 and 70 years. They are very particular about their insurance and medical updates,” says Madhu Menon, Branch Manager at Air Travel Enterprises India Limited. “Now children start earning early and are not dependent on their parents’ money. So the parents use their savings to travel and kids encourage that. Children pitch in by checking on the location and properties on the net,” explains Madhu. 

The travellers, meanwhile, have already chalked out their next big project. “We are pondering about a trip to China with friends,” says Bharati.

Keywords: senior citizens

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