The voices of older women tourists

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Journal Article
Tourism Recreation Research, 2003, 28 (2), pp. 31 - 39
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© 2003 Tourism Recreation Research. Despite developments in the field of gender and tourism studies over the past ten years, there are noticeable gaps in the knowledge base. While the voices of women as tourists have begun to be heard, the voices of older women tourists have remained silent. Tourism studies have followed social trends in marginalizing this age group. This paper reports a study which was conducted on older women and their holiday experiences over the life course. Taking a feminist social constructionist approach, the research method, memory-work, was employed. This paper focusses on the current holiday experiences of women aged 65+, highlighting the prominent positive theme that emerged, pleasure in the world, particularly the natural world. The study found that women in later life were valuing the simplicity of life, the essence of everyday life, and reconnecting with it. A holiday offered new experiences and the women were open to these experiences. There was an expansion of women’s lives, rather than a contraction. These findings conflict with social expectations of older women. Rather than a decline in interest with aging there was a great enthusiasm, an affirmation of positive aging. While this theme differentiates holidays at the age of 65+ from holidays at younger ages, one theme that continued through the life course was social connectedness. Although the women in the study generally resisted the dominant discourse of old age, a negative theme for this age group was constraints from the tourism industry in terms of facilities and services. Tourist experiences offer opportunities for what has been termed, the Ulyssean adult. From the supply side, it is advisable for the tourism industry to hear the voices of older women. The potential of this market is well documented.
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