Trends in Leisure Group Travel: Baby Boomers continue to boom, and friends getaways continue to grow

By Mike Stacy Chief Executive Officer, Groople.com | January 27, 2012

There are two trends in leisure group travel that represent a substantial opportunity to hotels. These trends are not so much new to this travel season as they are a continuation of important travel industry developments. The first trend is the increasing size of the Baby Boomers as a percentage of total travel consumers. Baby Boomer households are defined as having a head of household age 41-64. This consumer segment has high levels of disposable income, and according to the Travel Industry Association this age group accounts for more total annual trips than any other age group. The second trend I will address is the increasing popularity of friends getaways.

According to John Naisbitt what sets trends apart from fads is their predictable, long-term impact on a system. Fads become quickly popular, and then their impact fades away just as quickly. In contrast, trends have a lasting impact that shifts society or an entire market in new and interesting ways. True trends have long-term effects that must be considered in order to succeed. As more and more Baby Boomers near and reach retirement age, they are shifting the overall travel industry. While groups of men and groups of women have been getting away on trips, these kinds of trips are growing in popularity. Buzzwords, such as mancation are simply fads that will likely fade away. However, girlfriend getaways and guys-only trips will continue to grow in popularity and will continue to represent a great opportunity for leisure group travel bookings.

Baby Boomer Travel

Baby Boomers are highly likely to travel with children under the age of 18, according to TIA. Why is this important? These travelers are likely to want adjacent rooms, multi-room suites, and other conveniences appropriate to families. Multi-family vacations are becoming increasingly popular, which multiplies the number of people in a single booking that have special requests. The so-called Late Boomers are most likely to have children still living at home, so expect these travelers to be on the younger end of the Boomer age range. Does your hotel currently offer guaranteed adjacent hotel rooms to small groups? Your hotel should offer this because more and more leisure group travelers are likely to want hotels to make these basic considerations.

On the older end of the Baby Boomer spectrum, travelers are opting more and more for spa and luxury travel options. One way to speak to this consumer group is by offering your guests more amenities and services that satisfy the desire to be pampered on vacation. Do not simply offer these amenities and services. Incorporate them into your hotel's personality and messaging so you explicitly speak to these desires. I cannot overemphasize the need to tell these customers you are the right choice for them if you want to be in their consideration set.

Friends Getaways

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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.