Many vacation businesses offer special deals to customers who book well in advance, so it’s the wise travel consumer who plans head. When it comes to cruises, for instance, putting down a sizeable deposit or pre-payment a year and a half prior to setting sail often provides significant savings and perks. But are these early birds being rewarded for their foresight and commitment, or being strategically targeted for their probability of canceling these often non-refundable packages?
Senior citizens, in particular, are prone to cancellations due to their tendency to have unforeseen health issues or, to be blunt, die.
When latter-day cancellations are made, the company gets to keep the non-refundable deposit and then has the chance to resell it to a new customer. If a full payment was made (often an incentive to score the best deals), reimbursements are notoriously hard to come by – even where the cruise, flight ticket or holiday package is then sold to someone else with no financial loss to the provider.
On one hand, this is just the risk consumers take. It’s a strong reason to read the small print and take out proper trip cancellation insurance that covers not just your own well-being, but also kicks in if a family member is taken ill.
On the other hand, some cynics are saying it’s part of the business strategy to specifically target older customers to cash in on this probability, hoping they might get to sell the same package twice.
According to actuarial consultants who calculate these kinds of probabilities, an 80-year-old couple booking a vacation 18 months in advance has a one in five chance – about 18 per cent – of needing to cancel because of one of them falling critically ill.
That’s more than double the risk of a 70-year-old couple, who have an eight per cent chance of needing to cancel their holiday because of illness.
A couple of 55-year-olds only have a two per cent chance of needing to cancel.
As for ambitious travelers who want to enjoy a vacation at 85, the chances of one of them coming down with a critical illness becomes 26 per cent (over a quarter!). Furthermore, the probability of one of them dying is 21 per cent.
Those are some pretty stacked odds. It makes one wonder if that’s not a consideration when developing senior-friendly holiday packages with early booking incentives. Customers in their twilight years aren’t a top priority for many of these vacation firms. As the likelihood of repeat business is generally diminished, consumer-centric practices like refunding deposits or pre-payments are rare, and these customers usually find themselves out of luck and out of pocket.