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Interview With Gayland Anderson

Catching up with the president of Senior Travel Genie

Linda Hohnholz, eTN  Aug 20, 2009

Senior Travel Genie is an interactive online community that offers travel gems for savvy seniors. Originally launched in 2004 as Senior Genie, a site offering coupons and information about businesses and professionals located in US vacation and retirement areas, today’s Senior Travel Genie is the only travel website designed by and for seniors and baby boomers who have passed the 50+ milestone. Easy to navigate, the site allows seniors to submit travel photos, travel tales, reviews, and new city destinations, in addition to participating in the site’s online forum and blog. Seniors have also added international destinations to the site, so visitors can learn about vacation areas worldwide.

Gayland Anderson, president of Senior Travel Genie, is a colorful fellow – he is a licensed private pilot, gun expert with shooting prowess, and a semi-retired senior who worked for more than 40 years in private business. During this time, he traveled extensively for business and developed a love for travel. Anderson conducted most of his travel by private plane, owning several planes and RVs at one time or another. His vast knowledge and experience have greatly impacted the creation and development of many features of the Senior Travel Genie website experience.

As a businessman, Anderson was known as “Wholesale Anderson” because of his habit of never paying full retail for anything. This propensity carried over to Senior Travel Genie in the development of the “Coupon” feature, which allows paid advertisers to offer up to two coupons (a daily coupon and a weekly coupon) on their Senior Travel Genie listings, so that seniors can save money while traveling.

Several of Anderson’s senior friends are handicapped, though they still travel for recreation. They alerted him to the need for handicap accessibility information while making travel plans, something that is very hard to find online. For this reason, Anderson added the Handicap Accessibility Rating information to all paid listings on Senior Travel Genie and encourages all advertisers to include Handicap Accessibility information on their listings.

As a seasoned traveler, Anderson also recognized the need for reliable reviews written by his peers. Without personally inspecting a hotel or restaurant, it is impossible to know which places are clean and well-maintained and which are “high-priced dumps.” Senior Travel Genie’s “Reviews” feature helps seniors avoid wasting money on below-standard establishments, enabling seniors to have the best travel experience possible. Anderson believes the seniors' viewpoint is so important because it can be quite different from the younger generation. For instance, seniors for the most part do not appreciate loud, noisy restaurants even when the food is good, whereas younger patrons may enjoy the loud ambiance.

Anderson is also an avid amateur photographer, so the “Submit Photos” feature is one of his favorites on the site. Seniors are encouraged to submit their travel photos to Senior Travel Genie so their images can be viewed online by a wide audience of interested travel buffs.

As a senior, Anderson appreciates the need for instructions, text, and photos that are large enough to be easily viewed by those with “older” vision, so he helped design Senior Travel Genie with a senior-friendly typeset and font, and the submission process for reviews, photos, new listings, new destinations, etc., are intuitive.

Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with this active senior and ask him a few questions about his web site.

eTN: Are you the founder of Senior Travel Genie?

Gayland: Yes, I am one of the original founders of Senior Travel Genie.

eTN: What made you decide to start a travel web site specifically for seniors?

Gayland: We started as Senior Genie as a complete information center for seniors. Having gone through much difficulty with my wife’s and I aging parents, we wanted to be able to provide an online answer. We found most seniors just don’t want to recognize and deal with the unpleasant aspect of growing older, health problems, and care options. We decided to focus on the wonderful side of retirement of travel and doing the things you have always dreamed of. In searching the web, we found no comprehensive directory for individual travel locations giving things to do, where to stay, all the great small niche eating places, shops, and just a feel for the city. In order for us to accomplish this, we created a way for seniors to contribute all of their wonderful knowledge and photos. This was changed to Senior Travel Genie about a year ago with a total remake of the web site. The site is very senior user-friendly with large text and easy navigation.

eTN: Do you have anything you want to say to the senior population in general about traveling?

Gayland: Seniors now is time to travel, now that you have time to travel! We recognized that seniors have the time to travel as they retire and reduce their work load. If they are ever going to travel, they must do so NOW!

eTN: Do you have any favorite destinations?

Gayland: Some of my favorite travel destinations are British Columbia; Washington, DC; and Genève, Switzerland.

eTN: Do you still fly private planes and RV around the country?

Gayland: I have been so busy with the web site for the last few years, I am afraid that my personal travel has suffered. I am looking forward to someday returning to the air. Flying private is truly a wonderful experience. My family grew up in the back seat of an airplane. I can only think of about 3 or 4 road trips we made as a family as our children were growing up. We always flew private from Mexico to Canada and a large part of the US. I love to RV but that, too, has been severally reduced the last few years.

eTN: If you don’t mind our asking, just how “young” are you?

Gayland: I am currently 70 years young. I am going to need at least another 40 to just finish all on my to do list.

eTN: Thank you for your time, Gayland. You certainly lead an interesting life. Do you have anything you want to add?

Gayland: Thanks for your interest in Senior Travel Genie. I know your readers have a wealth of information and photos of their own cities that they could contribute for other seniors to enjoy.

Catching up with the president of Senior Travel Genie
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