Are baby boomers taking over the world of travel?
Demographic trends on Baby Boomers
Future of Leisure Time report from Lastminute.com
Social soloists – who embrace their single status as a passport to travel and experiences
Ageless aspirations – a new group who refuse to be defined by age and will continue to demand increasingly active and enriching activities, from medical travel to personal improvement, mental wellness to active holidays where older people set the pace.
GranTravel – a new generation of active grandparents who travel with their grandchildren, making the most of their free time and spending power, while parents continue to work.
I decided to quiz a couple of my fellow travel bloggers who fly the ‘Baby-boomer’ flag with enthusiasm what they make of it all – and here’s what Donna from My Itchy Travel Feet and Barbara from Hole in the Donut had to say;
What’s your definition of a baby-boomer traveller and do you consider yourself one?
Donna from My Itchy Travel Feet ; Any person born between 1946 and 1964 is a baby boomer. I definitely qualify as a boomer traveler since I fit “somewhere” in that range.
Barbara from Hole in the Donut ; I really don’t have a definition for a baby boomer traveler because I don’t consider myself to be one. Although I am a baby boomer (born in 1952), it’s not how identify myself when I travel.
What’s your personal style of travel and how typical is this of other baby boomers?
Donna from My Itchy Travel Feet ; My personal style of travel is all over the place, or perhaps I should say, all over the map. I want to go everywhere and do everything. From luxury cruises to road trips, my husband and I look for travel that is inspiring, active and adventuresome combined with a little luxury. Like many baby boomers, we’ve moved beyond hard-core roughing it. I would say we are a very typical example of baby boomer travelers.
Barbara from Hole in the Donut ; My style is very loose and unstructured. I usually have one way tickets and rarely have reservations beyond the first couple of nights after arriving. I travel with a medium size day-backpack in which I stuff everything of value, and also a 22″ rolling suitcase, and even that is going to be reduced for my next round of long-term travel this fall.
Most of the time, my accommodations are hostels. Prior to this latest four-month trip, I would only stay in the private rooms in hostels, although I had no problem with shared bathrooms and showers. However, to save money this time, I decided to try out the dorms and discovered I really like them. Not only do dorms save me money (my average is somewhere around $12-15 per night, and sometimes that includes food), I also meet great people and learn even more tips from the in-the-know crowd about off-the-beaten track destinations and sites that should not be missed. While hostels now attract people of all ages – from teenagers to octogenarians – the majority of travelers in a hostel dorms have previously tended to be younger. However over the past few years, whole families and some baby boomers are traveling in this fashion, although I suspect it is not typical of the way most baby boomers prefer to travel.
I also eschew the typical tourist experience and seek out travel where I can interact with the local people, learn about the cultures of the countries I visit, and make life-long friends in the process. All-inclusive resorts are a fate worse than death for me, as are organized tours.
Bottom line, for me, is that I don’t think travel is defined by an age or a label; it is better defined by style, i.e.: luxury, all-inclusive fans, budget travelers, traveling for volunteerism. In all of these categories, I find that the participation crosses all age barriers.
How should travel companies respond to the Baby Boomer market?
Donna from My Itchy Travel Feet ; I think travel companies are already responding to the baby boomer travel market. Cruise lines are offering more active port excursions than ever before. On a recent Regent Seven Seas Cruise in Alaska, my husband and I took a canoe excursion to the foot of a glacier; and in Siberia we hiked to see smoking volcanoes. Even luxury properties, such as The Ritz-Carlton are emphasizing active travel. They recently opened a new property near Tucson, Arizona with a focus on hiking, off-road biking, horseback riding and, of course, golf.
Another popular travel topic with baby boomers is educational travel, as well as journeys that include a volunteer component. And, since many baby boomers are already well-traveled, they are looking for lesser-known destinations, but always with a high-level of comfort included.
Barbara from Hole in the Donut ; I believe tour operators will need to modify their itineraries to provide more free time to allow participants to discover destinations on their own. Baby boomers not old and should not be considered as such. We are the youngest generation of our age, in terms of looks and health, and we have the ability to hike up mountains and camp in remote jungles. We also have the resources to dominate the travel industry, so travel companies need to take note of what is happening with us.
Baby boomers often complain that customer service seems to be a lost art. If I owned a travel company, I would have a concerted social media presence, with an employee dedicated to monitoring Twitter, Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc. I would take every complaint seriously, answering immediately and to the best of my ability. We baby boomers have the resources to travel and we tend to quietly vote with our feet. A company that does not care about me simply never sees me again.
Next I decided to ask Lastminute.com who commissioned the Future Foundation report what they made of it all;
What did the report tell you about Baby Boomers as a group that surprised you?
The report looked at the ‘baby boomers’, those who are now in their 50 and 60s and a couple of trends surrounding this age demographic have been identified.
Ageless Aspirations – a group that refuses to be defined by age and will continue to demand increasingly active and enriching activities, are considering medical travel, holidays that focus on personal improvement, activities that allow them to set the pace.
The influence of contemporary culture has been identified as a reason behind this trend, it is a fertile ground for older role models with celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Robert Redford and Helen Mirren all proving that one can remain attractive, dynamic and ambitious into one’s fifties, sixties and seventies. It is an increasingly accepted truth that reaching middle-age does not imply a sudden slowing down of activity, a disintegration of one’s looks or a sudden disinterest in fashion.
Grantravel – A new kind of demographic mixing where a new generation of active grandparents (including those that are often referred to as ‘Baby Boomers’) will travel with their grandchildren, making the most of their free time and spending power, while the parents continue to work.
How will Lastminute.com be meeting the needs of Baby Boomer travellers now and in the future?
Lastminute.com and the wider travel industry will need to consider the demand for holidays and experiences that will meet the needs of the Ageless Aspirations, with products such as hyper-performant spa treatments; plastic surgery procedures; tailored fashion, nutrition and fitness experiences; will all become increasingly important in the future. Beauty treatments during lunch become an acceptable way to spend the lunch break for all age groups – and the site is already addressing this with its spa offering.
For GranTravellers, travel companies need to consider targeting not only parents but also grandparents with “free child” travel deals. Grandparents will also be responsible for the hobbies that their children entertain: in the future, there will not only be “soccer moms” but grandparents dropping off their children’s offspring at swimming pools, football pitches and music classes. Travel experiences will need to appeal to the grandparent and grandchild so experiences such as cycling tours and walking holidays will remain important, and entertainment, movies, museums will need to appeal across the generations.
So there you have it folks – I think the theme is that baby boomer travellers refuse to be defined by their age and are a force to be reckoned with whether they stay in budget hostels or luxury hotels.
Do you consider yourself a Baby Boomer? and if so (or even if you’re not) do let me know what you think…..
You can take a look at the summary of that Future of Free Time Report here, published with permission of Lastminute.com – I feel sure you’ll find some interesting factoids in there, especially if you’re in the business of selling travel products and services.