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Mr. Williams

Sales & Marketing

Baby Boomer Travel: Get to Know the Market

By Kevin Williams, Vice President of Distribution, TravelWorm

It's a pretty well-known fact that baby boomers currently dominate a huge sector of the consumer market. They have the numbers; they have the influence; they have the money. Born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers represent more than a quarter of the total population, and they generally appreciate the good things in life. And with more than $2.1 trillion in spending power, they can afford them.

Needless to say, baby boomers are vitally important to the travel industry. As such, it's imperative that we note the nuances of this market segment. After all, any category that includes the Clintons, Bush, Madonna, Donald Trump, and John Travolta, among many others, is bound to have its issues.

As you can probably tell, baby boomers are an incredibly varied lot - in age as well as outlook. After all, 1946-1964 is a lot of years to cover for one generation. In fact, most experts actually further divide Baby Boomers into two clear groups: The Boomers (or leading boomers), born between 1946 and 1957, who all went through their teens at the height of the Vietnam War; and the Shadow (or trailing) Boomers, people born between 1958 and 1964, who did not come of age during the Vietnam War, and whose teen-age years were likely defined, instead, by Watergate.

However, regardless of which cohort they belong to and what political event shaped their adolescence, there are a few generalizations that seem to resonate well with the majority of those who identify with the baby boomer generation.

Perhaps as a result of the years that defined their coming of age, baby boomers tend toward unique, unconventional things, and this is true for travel as well. When baby boomers travel, they like to see and do things that are different from what is offered at home. They also like a wide range of choices or a certain sense of travel freedom. Baby boomers will welcome the convenience of a vacation package because it will get them to their travel destination relatively stress-free, but they will rebel at too much structure. "Get them there, show them the ropes, but leave them some room to explore on their own," seems to be the current philosophy.

Baby boomers are an active generation - both mentally and physically. Keep in mind that this is the generation that released a fitness craze (Jane Fonda aerobics) as well as many social and ideological movements. They are the "can-do" generation and feel that they can truly accomplish anything. Also, baby boomers, being in their late 40's to early 60's, have more time, money, and inclination to travel. They are at a period in their lives when they can take more time off (after having climbed the corporate ladder to success), have bigger incomes, and are in a position to demand better things.

A very important thing to remember when planning a marketing campaign is that baby boomers' travel habits are vastly different from their parents. While the parents of this generation may have waited until retirement to travel, and then only cautiously to places like England or France, baby boomers have travelled much more extensively, and have started at a much younger age. In fact, even when they relax, baby boomers tend to shun the passivity of their parents. They want to be able to relax in a more "active way". For example, golfing is a good "active" relaxation activity. So is getting a massage, a trek through the wilderness, skiing in Aspen, wine-tasting in the Napa Valley, and the like.

This is perhaps a consequence of the boomers' tendency to think of themselves as "forever young". Because of this ideology, it's probable that they will refuse to define themselves as seniors until they are well into their seventies. It follows that programs with labels like "senior travel" or "mature travel" should likely be rebranded. This is, after all, the generation that introduced today's current "culture of youth". No matter how old they are, it is likely boomers will not be attracted to the group travel packages that have been such a hit with the previous generation; they will absolutely abhor tour buses filled with grey-haired men and women.

On the other hand, boomers also acknowledge, albeit warily, that getting older is a fact of life. They are either raising families, watching their children raise their own families, and are at or near the pinnacles of their careers. They have begun to really value their personal relationships and continue to look past their professional environments as they envision their transition to another stage of their lives.

As boomers age we'll see a trend towards "luxury adventure travel" as well as a lot of family and extended family vacations. The younger boomers will take their kids; older boomers might take their grandkids, and they will go everywhere. Disneyland and Seaworld will continue to be usual suspects, of course, but apart from those, boomers may also take a safari in Africa, an exploration of China, or a snorkeling expedition in Costa Rica. Because of boomers' keen sense of adventure, exotic places - with their images of youthful action and excitement - are a big draw. However, boomers also believe that adventure doesn't mean a sacrifice of modern creature comforts. Expect them to ask for at least a 3-star hotel when they take that surfing trip to Hawaii or an ocean view suite when they take that Alaskan cruise.

At TravelWorm, we've made it a priority to come up with packages and itineraries that fill this growing niche. We have thematic vacations that directly correspond to Baby Boomers' interests, as it relates to adventure, family, active relaxation, or all of the above. We're proud to say that we've come up with vacation ideas that directly correlate to the market's needs.

For instance, we have a Golf Experience section, which lists a great collection of golf-centered destinations. We also have similar sections for ski trips, adventure travel, national parks exploration, and even food and wine tours. We also have family vacation packages, and we have packages which offer an adventure aspect an entire family can enjoy. No matter how old or young the participants are, no matter where their interests lie (be it in Disneyland or a tropical jungle), and no matter how structured or how unstructured they want their vacation to be, we're sure that we have an itinerary to match. Additionally, we've invested in a US-based call center, ensuring that we deliver the best service, regardless of which platform our customers prefer. Boomers are very tech-savvy and can navigate through the internet with ease, but they also like the convenience of being able to talk to a real person should the need arise.

The Baby Boomer generation is an incredible market - one that we must undoubtedly try to capitalize. What's really astounding about this generation is that they see travel as a necessity, not a luxury. They are the first generation to get a glimpse of the world as a whole, an interconnected sum of its parts, rather than a disparate mass of distinct worlds and realities. This is the first generation for which travel has become truly commonplace. And really, they're just waiting for their next big travel escapade. All we have to do is show them the way.

Kevin Williams is VP of Distribution for TravelWorm. He maintains TravelWorm’s reputation as one of the premier travel sites nationwided. Mr. Williams has served as Vice President of Hotel Operations at One Travel and was responsible for its global expansion. Mr. Williams brings 20 plus years of experience in hotel and resort operations and marketing. Mr. Williams spent 12 years with Hilton Hotels in the Nevada Gaming markets, where he oversaw operations in casino resorts throughout the Nevada. Mr. Williams can be contacted at 702-407-8000 or kwilliams@travelworm.com Extended Bio...

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