The short answer to the question in the title above is “yes.”
In the nearly six months I’ve been writing this blog, we’ve laid out a number of characteristics that define baby boomers, and baby boomer travelers in particular, that help separate them from other generations. Here are six of them:
* They are more willing to spend money on themselves — including travel — than the generations previous to them.
* They place more emphasis on value than simply on what things cost; that is, they enjoy luxury and comfort and are willing to spend more for it if they perceive it to be good value. Similarly, they’re less interested in budget travel for its own sake than previous or succeeding generations — largely, perhaps, because they have more disposable income as a group.
* They don’t think of themselves as “old” (they’re now 49 to 67 years of age) and retain a sense of adventure and want to experience new things and go new places.
* Products of the eras of the civil rights, women’s rights and environmental consciousness movements, they remain idealistic and are more receptive to tour operators, for instance, who give back to the localities they visit in some way (for example, making donations to local schools or conservation groups).
* They are independent-minded and individualistic and don’t much like being herded around on big tours without being able to get out on their own to one degree or another.
* Unlike succeeding generations, most boomers did not grow up with computers or all the technological advances of recent years; leading edge boomers (born 1946-55) knew mostly black and white TV and radio. So while the majority of boomers have embraced technology — and many are certainly very computer and social media literate — they still appreciate and pay attention to the printed page, including traditional guidebooks and brochures received in the mail.
Obviously, these are generalities and don’t apply to all baby boomers. Nor are all these characteristics unique to boomers — you can find travelers of any generation who seek value for their money and don’t like large, controlling tours.
But baby boomers grew up with distinct influences that have helped shape their attitudes toward life, which are reflected in their attitudes toward travel (a big part of life for many of us): Besides the movements named above, boomers experienced the traumas of Vietnam, Watergate, and a series of political assassinations; the headiness of rock ‘n’ roll, the sexual revolution, and experimentation with mind-altering drugs; and, for the most part in their younger years, booming economic times.
Boomers never knew the depression that their parents suffered through, but they did experience turbulent times, and many took part in protest movements.
They’ve never really gotten over their propensity to “question authority” (hence the aversion to controlling tour guides); they remain idealistic (hence their favorable disposition toward tour operators who “give back”); and they remain independent minded (hence their desire to plan much of their travel themselves and not simply leave everything up to travel agents or tour operators).
For travel marketers, then, the challenge is how to appeal to boomers — the generation that spends far more money on luxury travel, especially, than any other.
Here are a few suggestions to start:
* Combine adventurous travel with luxurious touches — for instance, African safaris with stays in beautiful game lodges.
* Emphasize environmental consciousness and social awareness; donate some proceeds (if applicable) to worthy causes.
* Offer boomers unique experiences — “bucket list” quality trips that they want to take while they’re still active and physically capable of doing so (for years to come, we hope).
* Don’t worry about being the cheapest place or travel purveyor on the block, but emphasize good value for the money.
* Don’t overlook advertising in print media or reaching boomers by direct mail, in addition to your efforts on the web and social media.
* Consider offering longer trips as more baby boomers retire and have more time to spend traveling.
What do you think, readers? Are there other defining characteristics of baby boomer travelers? I welcome all comments, including those that may not agree with me!
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. It’s also the easiest way to subscribe to my blog, so you won’t miss a posting. Thanks!