Trek Talk - ElderTreks Blog


What's in a Name

Have you ever wondered how some travel agencies get their name? Some are easy to discern without much of a thought process – “Good Times Travel” or “Sunny Skies Tours”. They appeal to our simplest emotions and are supposed to convey a sense of comfort and ease and most importantly with a vacation - the notion that all will be well should you travel with them. Other companies have tried to portray themselves as having an ‘exotic’ angle with names like ‘exotic tours’ or using the name ‘wild’. Wild Asia or Wild Africa is supposed to capture your desire to see the wild side of a particular country or continent. Yet others try for the erudite approach – ‘Road Scholars’ is one example and those connected with museums and universities all have their own travel programs – Harvard Travel, Smithsonian Travel.

Did you know that ElderTreks originally started out under a different name offering adventure-travel trips to all age groups? We realized early on however that there were no other adventure-travel companies catering to the ‘mature traveler’ – i.e. those over 50 years of age and in 1987 we became ElderTreks. We knew we were on to something big when every major newspaper in North America ran a feature story on this new concept. Despite our success some people have had trouble with the term 'Elder' being used.

In essence the word ‘Elder’ means more mature and wise, somebody who may be older than you, but not necessarily old. Granted maturity and wisdom do come with age. The adjective elder is not a synonym for elderly. In comparisons between two persons, elder means "older" but not necessarily "old". In other contexts elder does denote relatively advanced age but with the added component of respect for a person's achievement, as in an elder statesman. If age alone is to be expressed, one should use older or elderly rather than elder. Unlike elder and its related forms, the adjectives old, older, and oldest are applied to things as well as to persons.

Did you also know that there was another reason for the name change? Many of our early trips were led to destinations that were really off the beaten path. They were to places like Java and Irian Jaya where we ventured into small villages and really interacted with the local people. Many of these visits involved meeting up with the local headman and exchanging gifts and greetings and gaining their authorization to enter their lands. The term ‘Elder’ was really referring to the Village Elder and was thereby a term of respect.

We therefore thought it was appropriate based on our clientele and the destinations and types of trips we were offering to use the name ElderTreks. Over the years we still get asked “Why ElderTreks?” There is a least one person a month who says that they love our company but would prefer it if we changed our name. Does it really matter what we are called? If our itineraries are unique and our staff wonderful to deal with shouldn’t this really be the most important thing? Would changing our name change ones perception of themselves? Would it change how others perceive someone traveling with us? I suppose that when someone travels with a small group of people who are over 50 years of age they might not wish to be reminded of how old they are. To me it is more important to be traveling with like-minded people to a destination that we can all enjoy rather that letting age determine things. I have often encountered travelers in their 60’s who have more energy and interest in a country than someone in their 30’s or 40’s.

In the travel industry (just as in other businesses) your name and reputation are everything. While brand imaging is a key factor, name change should really only be undertaken as a last resort. There is one well-known travel company who did in fact change their name recently. The new name they chose was a bit strange. It had an odd Latin-sounding feel to it. I had trouble remembering it and kept referring to the old name. I can only assume others had similar trouble with it for they soon changed the name a third time shortly thereafter.

We have been Eldertreks for almost 25 years now and we are proud of our name. We must be doing something right as people keep coming back year after year to travel with us, despite our name.

So for those who ask “why ElderTreks?” at least you now know “What’s in a Name”.

David Roth - May 02, 2011

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