Muscat: Oman’s tourism and economic diversification could allow it to access the “silver economy” worth US$15 trillion, according to a visiting expert from the Republic of Ireland.
Speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman, Anne Connolly, CEO of the Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange (ISAX), said, “While Oman is a young country with a very young population, it’s likely that it will age rapidly as other countries are doing; so, planning ahead is important. Globally, the over 50s market is estimated to currently be worth $15 trillion.”
Connolly’s organisation, ISAX, is an independent network of businesses, academic institutions and government agencies fast-tracking the R&D and commercialisation of solutions for the global ageing economy.
“We are focused on exploiting the business opportunities that arise from what we term the smart ageing economy or what the EU calls the silver economy,” she said. Connolly was speaking to the Times of Oman in the leading up to Ithraa’s Inside Stories seminar, where she was the keynote speaker.
“By having this seminar, we are bringing together key players from businesses, academia and the government to start the conversation about whether this is or could be a key economic development policy as part of Oman’s diversification, and if so, where are the opportunities that fit Oman’s advantages,” she said.
One such opportunity, she explained lay in tourism.
“There has been a huge growth in the older traveller market. The older market quite often travels in large groups as part of packages or with family, and then the younger ‘elderly’ such as the 50-, 60-, and 70-year-olds take their gap year such as young kids and look for authentic experiences, which combine leisure with cultural activities. What they are looking for is an opportunity to experience more culture in the country rather than mass tourism. So, that independent discerning traveller is a very large part of the international tourism market,” said Connolly.
“I’ve only been in the country for three days but I think Oman has authenticity. I’d heard so much about Oman before I came here and what everyone kept repeating was its hospitality and warmth. And it just hits you as soon as you arrive; fostering that, protecting that authenticity is very important. And then, it’s about having consistency in making available the products and services to this older traveller segment.”
Connolly felt there were many similarities between Oman and Ireland. “We, similar to Oman, have a population of 4.5 million, it’s a very young population compared to the rest of Europe, life expectancy grew by 30 years in the last century. That’s an extension of middle age, not an expansion of the old and frail age. That’s a huge market opportunity.”
The rapid demographic ageing is one of the main factors determining future global economic development. While presenting a challenge, some countries are now looking at their ageing population as an opportunity.
“Life expectancy has increased at such a rapid rate, most countries will see over the next 30 years a probable doubling of the amount of people in the 60-65 year range and a quadrupling of the number of people over 80. Half the children born in downtown Tokyo today are projected to live to 107, in Ireland it’s 105, and in Oman it’s clearly catching up fast in terms of demographics,” she said.
According to Oxford Economics, the silver economy is defined as “the sum of all economic activity serving the needs of those aged 50 and over, including both the products and services they purchase directly and the further economic activity this spending generates”.