I hope that by now most travel agents realize the power of baby boomers in the travel market, but if not, I hope they’ll listen to these words from Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave (which has tracked boomer trends for decades), as he addressed a group of agents at a recent conference:
Baby boomers, Dychtwald told the agents, as reported in this piece from Travel Weekly, are the catalyst of “an entirely new era” for the travel industry.
Boomers have the money to travel, they want to travel, and they increasingly have the time to travel, as more and more reach retirement age, Dychtwald said. They bring their families along on their trips, too.
And boomers are looking for something different when they hit the road.
“There is an appetite for newness,” Dychtwald told the agents, “for different experiences that (they) can taste and feel” — “so fantastic and so exquisite” that they will never forget them, as Travel Weekly summarized it.
The key here, for me, is the word “experiences.”
Based on my own extensive travels with and writing about baby boomers, I agree with Dychtwald (who I once wrote for on a project back in the San Francisco Bay Area) that my contemporaries are looking for authenticity when they travel.
Boomers don’t want just to see things, they want to do things and feel things — to experience other places and other cultures to the fullest extent possible.
Sometimes this can take the form of adventure travel; it may involve following in the footsteps of historical or literary figures; it may mean going on volunteer vacations or taking tours that specialize in cultural exchange — or any number of other possibilities.
Dychtwald suggests that agents are in a good position to help make these experiences happen, because of their access and connections, and because they can help if anything goes wrong during a trip.
First, though, as Dychtwald also suggests, travel agents have to “see inside their clients heads to ‘sculpt’ their vacations for them,” as Travel Weekly put it.
Too often in the past, though, when I’ve used travel agents, I’ve found that some agents have been prone to try to sculpt my vacations in their image. That is, they didn’t listen to me so much as try to decide for me what I wanted.
I’m sure this is changing as agents find themselves having to adapt to the new world of Internet competition, where consumers can book their own arrangements and can skip the agent altogether if they choose.
Good agents have always listened to their clients — and now all agents find it increasingly important to do so.
I’m convinced that travel agents still have a vital role to play in the industry — as long as they remember whose experiences they are helping to sculpt.
Be sure to download my free report, “How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers,” available here. It’s all about the best ways to market travel to baby boomers — the biggest-spending group of travelers the world has ever seen.
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