Special Session Summary Older Australians: Understanding Their Needs and Desires For Hospitality, Tourism and Technology Delivered Services


Janelle McPhail (2001) ,"Special Session Summary Older Australians: Understanding Their Needs and Desires For Hospitality, Tourism and Technology Delivered Services", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Paula M. Tidwell and Thomas E. Muller, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 191-192.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 2001      Pages 191-192



Janelle McPhail, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

This session focused on some of the challenges marketers face when attempting to understand and market services to older Australians. Australia, like many other developed nations, is faced with an ageing population, as Australia enters the 21st century. In this session the first two presenters focused their investigations on some of the perceived barriers that seniors encounter when using the Internet and self-service banking technologies. Both these conceptual papers were examining emerging areas of research. The concluding presenter focused on the differences in travel desires (motives, worries and values) between early and late baby-boomers.

In the first paper " Seniors in Cyberspace" by Margo Poole and Thomas Muller, the discussion focused on the perceived barriers to adoption of the Internet by seniors, those aged 60 and over. They also investigated how seniors view the Internet, and further to suggest ways to encourage adoption of the Internet. Early findings indicate that different age groups look at the Internet through very different eyes. The Internet has the potential to empower senior consumers, with current users being able to travel the world without leaving their lounge room.

Usage of the Internet is still very much skewed towards the younger age bracket, with only about 5-7 percent of consumers over the age of 60 using the Internet in the United States. From the data presented by Poole and Muller, Australia could have a slightly higher usage rate of 16% of the consumers over the age of 55 years. Even though the Internet is a medium very suited for older consumers as it provides entertainment, information, communications and commercial transactions, it comes at a price, that older consumers make not be able to afford.

The Internet is perceived as two innovations, the Internet, itself, as a communication innovation, and the change in behaviour required for shopping and other activities on the Internet. Some potential barriers to adopting the Internet by seniors were discussed based on Rogers (1995) perceived attributes of an innovation: relative advantage, complexity, observability, trialability, and compatibility. Perceived risk, an attribute added by Ostlund (1974) was also discussed.

Cost was identified, as the main reason potential adopters of the Internet are not going online, however fo those already online, security and concerns about privacy were the major barriers to undertaking commercial transactions. Further, for seniors to adopt the Internet they must perceive significant advantages over conventional shopping methods.

Certain seniors find shopping problematic due to decreased motor skills, vision and hearing problems and thus need more time to process information problems. Further, as seniors have more time to shop, they also seek out opportunities to socialise and meet friends, activities that are very important to seniors. Poole and Muller stress that interaction is a major ingredient that this groups seeks. To engage more seniors in cyberspace, they recommend designing appropriate portals for this market. These portals offer a range of services suited to the senior market that portrays a community atmosphere where seniors could seek expert advice from both merchants and other seniors. The environment would encourage interaction, provide a site that is uncluttered, larger font and graphics, and in the further voice recognition to help overcome some of the problems faced by the seniors.

The second paper titled, #Determinants and Intentions of Seniors towards using Self-Service Technologies: The Australian Banking Service Industry’ was presented by Janelle McPhail. Despite the role of technology in revolutionising the nature of the service encounter, the focus of research to date has been on the interpersonal relations between a service provider and customer where technology has been used to facilitate the service encounter (Meuter & Bitner 1997; Gwinner, Gremler & Bitner 1998; Scanlan & McPhail 1999). However, self-service technologies (SST’s) that enable customers to perform services for themselves without the assistance of direct service from employee involvement, are now becoming more predominant and thus require firms to gain a greater understanding of the behaviour of consumers towards using such technologies, namely ATM’s, phone and Internet banking; automated hotel check-out and automated airline ticketing.

As addressed in the previous paper, technology uptake is much lower by seniors. Specifically in relation to the financial industry, older Australians are the least likely to use self-service banking, however many do take advantage of these services. Results reported by Aveling (1999, p. 24) based on the 1998 ABS indicate that more than 30 % of people over 55 years (1.1 million people) are using automatic teller machines; 25% (800,000) are shopping and withdrawing cash via EFTPOS; 15% (530,000) are telephone banking, and a very small group are banking via the internet. This acceptance rate is low when compared with a 87% usage rate of ATM’s by consumer’s aged 18-24 years.

Reasons for low adoption of the Internet as outlined by Poole and Muller, can explain some of the reasons for low adoption of self-service technologies. A number of the main reasons outlined by Steinbury and Walley (1998) in their study of use of technology by seniors indicated that 71% were frustrated with automatic telephones; 70% prefer personal contact with banking staff; 55% use ATM’s to avoid bankcharges; 41% worry about forgetting pin numbers; 58% worried about making a mistake, and 41% worried about appearing foolish.

The findings from a number of other studies were outlined by McPhail that focused on gaining an understanding of consumers attitudes towards using self-service technologies (Dabholkar 1992; Marr & Prendergast 1993; Curran 1999; Bitner, Meuter, Ostrom & Roundtree 2000). However, these previous studies of self-service technologies have a proinnovation bias (Roger 1995), and thus there is a need to broaden the knowledge base on consumer response to innovations by investigating consumer resistance to innovative self-service technologies. This gap in the literature is particularly evident, in relation to our understanding of the senior market.

This presentation outlined the current state of research on self-service technologies and identified a gap in the literature that requires further research. McPhail concluded by outlining the methodology that was being sed to undertake this future research on resistance to self-service technologies.

The final paper was by Megan Cleaver and Thomas Muller, titled "Ageing Baby Boomers and the Desire to Travel: How Early-Boomers Differ from Late-Boomers". As the post-war baby-boom generation ages, it will gradually shift in its consumption priorities away from time-saving goods, toward time-using goods. Chief among these will be leisure pursuitsCin particular, pleasure travel. Research has shown that Australian seniors have various primary motives for travel and touristic behaviours, and can be clustered into quite distinct groups on the basis of travel motives such as discovery, adventure, socialising, escaping, and challenging oneself (Cleaver, Muller, Ruys and Wei, 1999). Ryan and Glendon (1998) also showed that distinct groups of holiday travellers could be identified on the basis of their psychological motives for travel.

Because the number of Baby Boomers in Australia approaches the 5-million mark, there is considerable economic incentive for tourism and hospitality marketers to sharpen their focus on this segment of the population. However, Cleaver’s (1999) research on the ageing process and the transformations of meaning in life indicates that psychological motives, as well as perceptions of risk while travelling, may differ somewhat between those Baby Boomers who are currently in their late-forties and early-fifties and Baby Boomers who are currently aged between 35 and 45.

The purpose of Clever and Muller’s empirical study was to test the hypothesis that early-Boomers (those born in Australia between 1946 and 1954) will have travel motives and travel worries that differ from those of late-Boomers (1955 to 1971) because of the way in which meaning in life evolves throughout the lifespan.

A probability sample of 404 Australian-born Baby Boomers living in Australia’s three largest cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) yielded the data on travel motives, risk perceptions and personal values. Respondents were interviewed at home, during October and November, 1998. Data were collected on 48 motives for wanting to travel (culled from the literature on leisure and tourism) and nine types of "worries" when travelling on holidayCi.e. possibilities that some aspects of their holiday may not turn out as expected (e.g., waste of time or money, incongruent with self-image, becoming ill or getting injured, etc.). Data were also collected on the relative importance of nine personal values in the List of Values: fun and enjoyment in life; a sense of accomplishment; being highly regarded by others; self-fulfillment; security; an exciting life; warm relationships with others; a sense of belonging ; and self-respect (Kahle 1996).

A principal-components factor analysis reduced the data on travel motives to six, clearly interpretable factors which also matched our theoretical expectations. They labelled the factors self-betterment, activity-seeking, learning and discovery, status-seeking, reminiscence, and escapism. Next, the six factor scores, nine risk perception measures, nine personal values and several demographic variables were set as the discriminating variables for a 2-group discriminant analysis. This statistical approach they believed to be appropriate, given that they wanted to profile the early-Boomer and late-Boomer, in terms of these variables, and to determine how each group differed in travel motives, worries and values.

Their findings show that early-Boomers are significantly different from late-Boomers on 10 measures (in order of decreasing ability to discriminate between the two groups): (1) risk that others might have a negative opinion of you for taking such a holiday; (2) problems might occur in travel or transport arrangements; (3) educational attainment; (4) status-seeking as a travel motive; (5) the holiday might not be personally satisfying; (6) activity-seeking as a travel motive; (7) self-betterment as a travel motive; (8) problems might arise with amenities or facilities provided; (9) the holiday might not reflect your personality or self-imge; and (10) the importance attached to the value an exciting life. The derived discriminant function was able to correctly classify an individual, as either a late-Boomer or early-Boomer, in 68% of the cases (against a proportional chance criterion of 57%).

On every one of these 10 discriminating variables, the late-Boomers score higher than early-Boomers. Thus, the younger member of the baby-boom cohort is significantly more status and self-image conscious, when travelling on holiday, than the older Baby Boomer. In addition, the younger members of the cohort are more likely to travel for activity-seeking (to help them lead active lives, acquire physical invigoration, and to find thrills and excitement) and self-bettermentCby looking for ways to express their creativity, seeking spiritual experiences and physical challenges, and staying well informed. Also, late-Boomers are more sensitive to the risks of having an unsatisfactory holiday experience and encountering problems with travel arrangements or substandard facilities and amenities during the holiday.

Their conclusion from this study was that the early-Boomer’s touristic behaviour is more status and image driven than is the case for late-Boomers, probably because early-boomers are still struggling with their place in society and with achieving well-defined milestones in their careers and stages of life. Late-Boomers define meaning in their lives as staying active, bettering themselves, and striving for self-respect by not falling behind, or even surpassing, their generational peers when it comes to leisure travel.



Janelle McPhail, University of Southern Queensland, Australia


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 2001

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