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Are baby boomers taking over the world of travel?

As a working girl with a family who loves to travel I tend to think of myself as ageless and forever young (who’s she kidding you’re thinking) but I relish the fact that I’m now at a life stage with teenage children, where I have more freedom than ever to travel.

Demographic trends on Baby Boomers

It seems that the demographic trends show that there are going to be more folks like me in the future too and I keep seeing that ‘baby-boomer’ catch phrase around the blogsphere and wondering if that’s me they’re talking about.
My interest was aroused by an online article on Travel Mole, with the heading   ‘Middle-aged travellers leading travel media social revolution’.  Apparently a report from media agency Total Media found that in an unexpected role reversal the group most likely (74%) to to book holidays online were consumers aged 35-44, citing reasons of price, information and convenience, while the age group most likely to visit a travel agent were 16-24 year olds, seeking advice on gap year travel arrangements.

Future of Leisure Time report from Lastminute.com

This struck a chord as at the recent ‘Oh you lucky bloggers’ event in London organised by Lastminute.com where I got chatting to Judith from the Future Foundation who had recently worked on a new report for Lastminute.com on the Future of Leisure Time. She mentioned that travel companies would need to be increasingly aware of the growing group of Baby-boomer consumers in their marketing and indeed the report that’s just out mentions three demographic trends that will impact the way people will spend their leisure time.

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;

Donna Hull in Siberia

Donna Hull in Siberia

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.

Barbara Weibel at Copper Canyon, Mexico

Barbara Weibel at Copper Canyon, Mexico

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.

Photo Credits: Featured Content photo and Donna Hull photo by Alan Hull photography at My Itchy Travel Feet  and Barbara Weibel photo by Barbara Webel at Hole in the Donut

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    jen laceda
    April 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I say more power to all the baby boomers! I’m 36 y.o. – so I’m part of that demographic that is most likely to book online. So true! Many of my younger friends and relatives end up utilizing the services of an agent or booking a group tour! Indeed, it’s a role reversal! Great article, Heather!
    -Jen Laceda

  • Reply
    Caitlin @ Roaming Tales
    April 13, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Heather, you are definitely too young to be a Baby Boomer!

    I’m not even sure I agree with Donna’s definition, even though she specialises in the Boomer market. I don’t think anyone born in the 1960s qualifies as a Boomer!

    I’m 33 and the Baby Boomers are my parents’ generation.

  • Reply
    Mary Jo
    April 14, 2010 at 12:35 am

    As a Baby Boomer, born within that time range, I can relate with what Donna said.

    I don’t want to rough it any more. I want a little luxury (like a bed and private bathroom), but that doesn’t mean I want to sit around and play canasta all day. I want to immerse myself in cultural experiences, I want to sample delicious local foods (and wines), and some days I just want to hang out — wherever the locals hang out. And while I don’t want to scale a mountain, I’m up for most any adventure short of that. And yes, sometimes I also just want to rest up on a beach while I plan the next adventure.

    It seems us Baby Boomers want it all — not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  • Reply
    Gourmantic
    April 14, 2010 at 12:58 am

    I don’t relate to anything that labels people or puts them into a classification. My travel needs, likes and dislikes, are not related to the year I was born. I like to meet and mix with people of various age groups, sometimes much older than I am as long as we share commonalities. I feel pigeon holing people into categories serves to alienate some people if they don’t fit the age bracket and is built on assumptions, whether it’s 20s travel, the Contiki style of 18 – 35 travel and now baby boomers. (Are we missing generation X here?) It all sounds like a marketing ploy.

    I relate to Barbara’s viewpoints that travel is defined by the type rather than demographics. I can choose an activity-packed holiday one year, a luxury one the next or a budget city stay depending on my interests and finances. Tempt me with what you’ve got to offer, not the year I was born.

    Good topic, Heather.

  • Reply
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels
    April 14, 2010 at 1:25 am

    Heather: Thanks so much for inviting me to participate in this post. I think you have hit on a fascinating subject that bears more research – just look at the differing viewpoints between Donna and me!

  • Reply
    lara dunston
    April 14, 2010 at 5:10 am

    Great post, Heather!

    However, totally agree with Caitlin that their definition of baby boomer is suspect – & you’re too young to be a boomer.

    I’m 43 and my mother is a ‘boomer’ – ‘baby boomers’ were born during the post-WWII baby boom and grew up in the 1950s and went wild in the 1960s. They had a very different way of thinking to the previous more conservative generation, which is why they embraced the definition of baby boomers and were always very proud of that identity.

    Another conservative generation followed, the Jones’, which from memory came from the UK and was used throughout Europe and in Australia (though not sure about the US?) and then my generation, Gen X (which came from the US).

    Like Gourmantic, I don’t like to be labelled either (I was never lost or lazy, as my generation was typified as being!) but I can see why marketing people find these definitions useful, because it’s far easier for them than really trying to understand the complexities of different age/gender groups, and yet that understanding is vital to what they do.

    I have a friend in her 80s who I once worked with for 7 years – she emailed me the other day to ask me where she should travel next? She’s been on 3 huge trips this year, travels frequently, always has, and books almost all her travel online. That’s because she’s used a computer since they were introduced to the work environment in Australia in the 1980s. All her friends are the same. I’d love to see where the marketeers would peg her.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    April 14, 2010 at 7:38 am

    It seems that none of us want to be labelled as anything but unique individuals who have our own tastes and travel styles, which seems to be what the Lastminute.com report was saying – that the group they defined as Ageless aspirations refuse to be defined by their age.

    I don’t quite feel part of the baby boomer generation yet, but give me a few years and I may be booking that cruise!

  • Reply
    Clare Appleyard
    April 14, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Wonderful post ladies!
    I think baby boomers are definitely driving the travel market, as they have driven every other market they have moved through in their journey of life (pampers, baby food, toys, nutrition).

    The stats are that approximately 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day – that’s a lot!

  • Reply
    Anil
    April 14, 2010 at 8:36 am

    The more people who feel they can travel the better. We often think about younger people being the adventurous ones but I’ve met travelers of all ages who’ve surprised me. As the world gets smaller (cheaper flights, easier transportation, etc.) and ‘budget travel’ becomes more popular I think we’ll see more people 40 and above traveling.

  • Reply
    Heather Carreiro
    April 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Excellent article. I love what Barbara said about how travel categories would be better defined by luxury, budget, voluntourism, etc. For example, “backpacker buses” may be aimed at 20-somethings, but I’m not interested in that type of travel at all.

  • Reply
    Donna Hull
    April 15, 2010 at 4:33 am

    Thanks, Heather, for including me in this fascinating discussion on baby boomer travel.

    With between 72 and 79 million baby boomers in the U.S., depending on which source you consult, it’s not surprising that Barbara and I would have different viewpoints on baby boomer travel. Just think how many other opinions are out there. Wouldn’t it be boring if we all thought alike? The U.S. Census defines (and counts) this major demographic component of U.S. society as those born between 1946 and 1964.

    There are two major qualities that define baby boomers: time and money. We’re retiring, or in semi-retirement. Our days of raising a family are finished so we have the time to travel. Along with that, our discretionary income has increased (be it small or large)so there is more money to travel.

    With so many of us, our travel styles will be all over the place. Those boomers who postponed travel in lieu of raising a family or climbing the corporate ladder will have far different travel needs than a consummate traveler like Barbara who is ready to take her journeys to a different level.

    I keep an open-minded approach to travel. To me, there is no wrong or right way. There are pluses and minuses to any form of travel. While I might not take the sort of trip that Barbara is on in the Copper Canyon, I absolutely love reading about her experience.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    April 15, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Yes I can identify with different travel styles – I’m happy to rough it for the sake of a bit of adventure at times, while appreciating a comfortable or even luxurious hotel bed at other times. I can’t see that changing as I get older, but hopefully I may have even more time to enjoy all the possibilities out there.

  • Reply
    Cate
    April 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I love posts like these Heather well written insightful and stimulating. Baby Boomers were the post war generation, I doubt if that’s you Heather. I fall under the Gen X and I think it depends on where you hail from and your peers as to whether you believe this labelling or not. I have always labelled myself as a Gen X even though I’m not American.Lost and somewhat mentorless but not lazy.This has dictated my travel style and allowed me to remain guilt free on how I lead my life.

    Baby Boomers are undoubtely driving the market as this co-hort hold the most spending power, are virtually child-free, hopefully mortgage free and are either retired or about to retire. As for the other younger groups – they are already out there travelling, many have travelled since they were in diapers so it’s not a new thing for them as it is for many Boomers.
    To the 80 year old Lara mentioned.. rock on!

  • Reply
    Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences
    April 15, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    As a decidedly non-baby boomer, I found this piece insightful and interesting. I’ll leave you all to further discuss the age boundaries for the boomer title.

    🙂

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    April 16, 2010 at 6:30 am

    I’m not a boomer…but I often find myself thinking forward and trying to determine how I want to travel when I’m in my 60’s. I refuse to go on bus trips and be shuttled around with a bunch of people wearing matching tshirts….so I’m really hoping that the travel industry comes thru with some better options for older travelers. I’m not sure that spa treatments are the answer though!
    Great article – 3 cheers to all of you – Heather, Donna, and Barbara!

  • Reply
    Doris Gallan
    April 17, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I’m a baby boomer (born in the second half of the boom, 1959) and didn’t think of myself as such until I was on a ’round the world trip with my husband. It was while planning and then executing our two-year trip that we realized how little marketing and travel resources were targeting our age group. And, I agree, that it isn’t so much an age group as a state of mind.

    It was during my travels that I met and spoke with so many people in their late 40s, as well as in their 50s and 60s who wanted to know how we had done it. All they saw were the limited options of tours and cruises which they felt didn’t fit their travel styles. The braver boomers did undertake their trips in a more or less independent manner but they, too, felt there was little out there to guide them.

    I’ve been following Donna and Barbara’s websites and Tweets and enjoy their differing points of view in this article. There is so much work to be done to educate the industry on the needs of this groups of people as well as the boomers themselves who often don’t know how to get started on their adventures. Donna and Barbara (and, dare I add myself to the group) through our blogs and travel tips are trying to make it easier for boomers to start or continue traveling — regardless of whether they see themselves as part of that group.

    Great article Heather.

  • Reply
    Nancy D. Brown
    April 21, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Sung to the Dr. Pepper jingle (you’ll know the tune if you are a Baby Boomer.)

    I’m a Boomer, he’s a boomer, she’s a boomer, we’re a boomer, Wouldn’t you like to be a boomer, too?

    I’m a tale-end boomer and I LOVE to travel.

  • Reply
    My Itchy Travel Feet in the News
    April 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    […] Heather on Her Travels, Donna gives her views on baby boomer travel along with Barbara Weibel from Hole in the Donut. The interviews have generated an interesting […]

  • Reply
    Fida
    April 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Wonderful discussion. Isn’t it great that not everybody travels the same way? That we have a choice and can explore Mother Earth in different ways?

    Even though I fit birth-wise into the Baby-boomer generation, I never thought of myself as one. I never even thought of any label at all. I’d call myself an independent free-spirited wanderer, that loves to interact with locals and takes every opportunity to travel as slow as possible for as long as possible. Barbara’s way of travel fits my stile perfectly – most of the time. Off an on, especially if I travel long term – I indulge in a luxury-style stay to recover and pamper my soul – though all-inclusive Resorts or luxury cruises will never make it on my wish-list, even if they would be a gift 😉

  • Reply
    Connor Campbell
    July 11, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    my grandfather is also a baby boomer and he is also a war veteran;”.

  • Reply
    Lucy Robinson
    August 29, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    my grandfather is a baby boomer and i am quite proud of his longevity all these years::’

  • Reply
    j choban
    September 8, 2010 at 1:54 am

    This brings up some interesting points. I’m 40 and like to travel cheap. It can be tricky to find places that are inexpensive, but not party hostels (not interested in hanging out with drunken 20-somethings). Some older (65+) friends of mine are quite affluent and have to be careful not to end up with a “cruise crowd” -people who are out of shape, unadventurous and complain when things aren’t just like home. Ah, the middle ground…
    j choban´s last blog post ..Five Things You Should Know About Pushing Your Backpacker Lifestyle into Middle-age

  • Reply
    Kristy Hargrow
    February 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I love to travel too!! I mean who wouldn’t want to travel, especially if we all had time and money freedom..right? Its quite a phenomenon we are all about to experience, so ask yourself are you in the right industry? Will you be able to go to your dream destination this year? Id love to get your feedback Boomers!

  • Reply
    Heather
    July 31, 2011 at 8:15 am

    @J choban – I think hostels can be a great option for all ages – we often stay in them with our teenage kids, but you do have to go for the ones that are not for the party crowd if you want a good night’s sleep

    @ Kristy We are lucky in the UK and Europe that we get enought holiday to take multiple breaks in a year and don’t have to travel too far to find plenty of interesting things to enjoy.

  • Reply
    http://Ys-Houston-Home-Site.skyrock.com/
    July 14, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Hi! I hope you don’t mind but I decided to post your web site: https://www.heatheronhertravels.com/baby-boomers-travel-trends/ to my on-line directory. I used, “Are baby boomers taking over the world of travel? | Heather on her travels” as your blog headline. I hope this is okay with you. In case you’d like me to change the title or perhaps remove it entirely, e-mail me at
    lisettevelasco@gmail.com. Many thanks.
    http://Ys-Houston-Home-Site.skyrock.com/´s last blog post ..http://Ys-Houston-Home-Site.skyrock.com/

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