Baby Boomer Travel: Get to Know the Market

By Kevin Williams Vice President of Distribution, TravelWorm | January 27, 2012

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.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.