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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

Clark Norton

Travel Copywriter

Explore Europe on your own on a Rick Steves "My Way" tour. Photo by Catharine Norton

Explore Europe on your own on a Rick Steves “My Way” tour. Photo by Catharine Norton

The recent well-publicized flap about George Zimmer — founder and longtime TV pitchman for the Men’s Wearhouse — being fired by the company he started got me thinking about the power of personality in travel product branding.

Zimmer and other celebrated pitchmen — notably KFC’s Colonel Sanders, Frank Perdue of Perdue Farms chicken fame, Wendy’s hamburgers Dave Thomas and popcorn king Orville Redenbacher — all became the public face of the companies they founded.

And when they died or became too old or too controversial and were no longer able or considered suitable to serve in that role, their companies all suffered to one degree or another. (This New York Times piece offers good background on the topic.)

I had to think a bit before coming up with an equivalent personality… Continue reading

Does it pay to create a baby boomer travel niche — to market only to baby boomer travelers?

Brian Luckhurst of believes it does.

I’ve been lucky to “meet” Brian (in a virtual sense) through this blog. Brian and his wife Catriona live in London, England, and started their home exchange website four years ago, as a way to create an online business they could run when they retired. Because there was already a fair amount of competition in the market, they decided to specialize and aim just for baby boomers — the 50-plus crowd.

And they advertised that fact right in their domain name, so that all those searching for 50-plus travel could find it and know immediately that the site was targeted to them. (Members pay a small fee to list their home on the site and view other members’ homes for potential exchange.)… Continue reading

Overlooking the Atlantic in Casablanca, Morocco -- a baby boomer favorite destination. Photo by Clark Norton

Overlooking the Atlantic in Casablanca, Morocco — a baby boomer favorite destination. Photo by Clark Norton

It’s been a widely accepted premise in the travel industry for years that Americans want shorter vacation options. The classic two-week vacation of days of yore has gone the way of nickel candy bars and Cokes, a relic of the 1950s. (Yes, folks, there once were such things as nickel candy bars and Cokes.)

In its place are “long weekend” trips or — if the traveler is really fortunate — a week to get away and recharge. Everyone is too busy, office work is piling up, the kids have to get back for soccer practice, the dog is lonely — all the usual reasons in a stressed-out society.

Understandably, the travel industry has responded by offering shorter tours, long weekend getaway packages, and other ways to feign a true travel experience without using… Continue reading

Boomers Atop Masada in Israel. Photo by Clark Norton

Boomers Atop Masada in Israel. Photo by Clark Norton

Baby boomers — the most-traveled generation in history — are ready to hit the road in record numbers as they gain more leisure time in retirement, but are you ready for them?

Boomers account for a third of all leisure trips taken and four-fifths of all money spent on luxury travel, yet many tour operators either take them for granted or ignore them altogether. One reason might be that they don’t know what makes boomers tick.

Of course, not all boomers — born between 1946 and 1964 — are alike or think alike, but in general (like all generations) they have some key characteristics in common.

Here are five ways to attract more boomers — and their spending power — to your tours:

1. Avoid the terms “seniors,” “elder” or any implications that boomers are “old.” Boomers may be aging, but… Continue reading

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. Is the beauty enough to overcome the obstacles?

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. Is the beauty enough to overcome the obstacles?

The last two times I visited Brazil, I loved lazing on the beaches of Rio, cruising down the Amazon, hiking through the rainforests and touring the remarkable opera house in Manaus.

But jumping through the bureaucratic hoops to get there in the first place almost convinced me I’d never make it down. Brazil seems to do everything it can to discourage American visitors by making visas expensive and annoying to get.

The regulations keep changing. One time I had to wait in a long line at the Brazilian consulate in New York City, then go next door to a particular bank to deposit $100 cash and get a receipt for same, then return to stand in another long line to hand that in along with my completed visa application, only to be told I would have… Continue reading

Baby boomers birding in the Caribbean. Photo from Carefree Birding

Baby boomers birding in the Caribbean. Photo from Carefree Birding

Many baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s and were nurtured in the anti-war, civil rights and environmental movements have retained a good deal of their youthful idealism throughout their lives.

Surveys, including my own research, have shown that boomers in general are more likely to choose a particular tour operator if that operator gives something back to the localities they visit — whether to schools or health clinics in Nepal, conservation efforts in Kenya, environmental clean-up in Ecuador or other causes or charities.

Ken Burgener and Linda Warschauer, who run Carefree Birding birding cruises out of their Florida office, make it a practice to donate all the money they would otherwise make in profit from shore excursions during their cruises to various birding-related causes in port.

In Roatan, Honduras, for example, they donated the money… Continue reading

Heading off into the sunset -- that's where you'll find today's boomers. Photo by Lia Norton

Heading off into the sunset — that’s where you’ll find today’s boomers. Photo by Lia Norton

Like most consumers, baby boomers are value conscious: When they travel, they want to receive the best value for their money.

And they’re willing to spend top dollar to get it.

If that sounds contradictory, well, it makes perfect sense to most baby boomers.

Boomers — the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 (and this doesn’t even count the millions more born in Canada, the UK, Australia and other English-speaking baby boom countries of that era) — control 70 percent of the disposable income in the United States. And they purchase 80 percent of luxury travel.

Think about that: 80 percent. Is that a market you ca afford to ignore?

Many seniors — those born before 1946 — are also affluent. The difference is that boomers — unlike Depression- and World… Continue reading

Will boomers fill these seats? Photo by Lia Norton

Will boomers fill these seats? Photo by Lia Norton

I came across this piece (“A Booming Business”) on the National Restaurant Association’s  website and found it mostly on target, even though some of the items come close to parodying the notion of baby boomers as, well, starting to dodder a bit.

The premise is that — as I’ve been pointing out frequently on this blog — baby boomers are a huge potential market for travel-related businesses, though many restaurant owners simply don’t know how to attract them.

According to the piece, America’s boomers — 76 million strong — spent $172 billion in U.S. restaurants in 2012 and spent more per capita than did younger diners (boomers now run from ages 49 to 67).

Yet, an industry analyst (who authored a report on the subject) found that “this is a group of people who feel neglected. Restaurant operators… Continue reading

Savvy tour operators and destination marketers are taking aim at a big newly emerging travel force: baby boomers traveling with their grandchildren.

Leading edge baby boomers, reaching age 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day, are finding themselves with more time to travel, and affluent baby boomers are ready to both spend some quality time on the road with their grandkids and spend the money necessary to make sure everyone has a memorable trip.

In a report prepared for, the Future Foundation identified GranTravel, as they called it, as one of the key new trends in travel and leisure. The foundation described “a new generation of active grandparents who travel with their grandchildren, making the most of their free time and spending power, while the parents continue to work.”

Austin Adventures offers a family adventure trip to the Grand Canyon. Photo from the National Park Service

Austin Adventures offers a family adventure trip to the Grand Canyon. Photo from the National Park Service

Traveling with… Continue reading

Former Carnival CEO Bob Dickinson

Former Carnival CEO Bob Dickinson

According to a recent Harris poll, cruising has taken a serious hit in the wake of the Carnival Triumph’s power failure at sea, which received saturation coverage in the media. The public has less trust in cruises, perceives the quality of cruising in a more negative light, and is less likely to book a cruise now.

It also regards air travel as safer than cruising, the poll says.

While the results were particularly bad for Carnival, they also extended in varying degrees to other cruise lines the poll tested.

Carnival is now working to regain its tarnished reputation. Carnival Corp. — which owns not just Carnival Cruise Lines but several other lines including Holland America, Princess, Costa, Cunard and Seabourn — has hired Carnival’s former CEO, Bob Dickinson, as a consultant to “reassess the brands.” Dickinson is a legend in the industry and as… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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