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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

Clark Norton

Travel Copywriter

Weaving in Canyon de Chelly -- Photo by Jim Harrison, courtesy of Road Scholar

Weaving in Canyon de Chelly — Photo by Jim Harrison, courtesy of Road Scholar

In 1975, two globe-trotting American educators formed a not-for-profit organization called Elderhostel, which specialized in offering educational programs and tours for older folks who appreciated both traveling and lifelong learning opportunities. The name “Elderhostel” was a play on the youth hostel concept, popular in Europe, which one of the two had experienced during his backpack-carrying wanderings.

Elderhostel trips, which combined various on-the-road classes with inexpensive lodgings, soon branched out from the U.S. into international travel, emphasizing learning about other cultures and their history and people through lectures, excursions and field trips.

While the organization – now nearing 40 years old – has been a success, it became increasingly clear that the name “Elderhostel” was becoming a drag on its growth. Baby boomers – who as they aged were becoming the key target demographic for Elderhostel trips… Continue reading

White-cheeked Gibbons in the Bronx Zoo -- photo from Bronx Zoo

White-cheeked Gibbons in the Bronx Zoo — photo from Bronx Zoo

In a previous post on Re-Branding the Bronx, I talked about the challenges of finding ways to combat the “bad first impression,” as one image consultant put it, that many people have had about the Bronx in the past. When tourists decide where to spend their time in New York City, how many of them are scared off by lingering Bronx images of crime, abandoned burned cars, and Bonfire-of-the-Vanities-meets-Fort Apache-style scary neighborhoods?

Well, it’s a new day in the northernmost borough of the city, so let me reiterate some of the reasons to love the Bronx:

The Bronx Zoo — one of the world’s finest.

The Botanical Gardens — flowers and plants galore near the zoo, a great place to wander.

Wave Hill — overlooking the Hudson, this estate may be be the most peaceful spot in all of… Continue reading

No More Room Service in This Room -- photo from Hilton

No More Room Service in This Room — photo from Hilton

The news that New York City’s largest hotel — the New York Hilton Midtown, with 2,000 rooms occupying a prime piece of real estate on 6th Avenue between W. 53rd and 54th streets — will soon drop room service has created a bit of a stir in the hospitality industry.

No longer will guests be able to call down for meals to be brought to their rooms; instead, if they wish to eat in the hotel at all, they’ll be forced to grab something at the Hilton’s casual Herb n’ Kitchen restaurant, which opens this month in the lobby. Or, of course, they could head to the nearest diner or Starbucks. Either way, they’ll have to get dressed before gobbling their breakfasts.

Hilton says it made the move after surveying thousands of its guests.  “We decided to reinvent… Continue reading

Hanging out at the Bronx Zoo. Photo from Bronxzoo.com

Hanging out at the Bronx Zoo. Photo from Bronxzoo.com

As a former resident of the Bronx — albeit on idyllic City Island, which is more like a New England fishing village than a big-city neighborhood — I recommend this piece in today’s New York Times about the challenges of “fighting the image of the ‘burning’ borough,” as the Times headline puts it.

Not surprisingly, considering its history, the Bronx has a branding problem when it comes to attracting visitors and their cash. Those of us of baby boomer age most likely have three key associations if we hear the words “the Bronx”: “the Bronx Bombers” (the Yankees and Yankee Stadium); the Bronx Zoo; and “Fort Apache, The Bronx” — the 1970s film depicting a scary, crime-and-grime-ridden borough that probably scared off more tourists than King Kong.

And yet, the Bronx does have its share of attractions, something that I wrote… Continue reading

Spirit interior cabin -- photo by Spirit Airlines

Spirit interior cabin — photo by Spirit Airlines

Interesting piece in today’s New York Times on the marketing approach employed by cut-rate Spirit Airlines. They’ve traded in customer service and comforts for low fares, and are charging extra for everything from rolling carry-on bags ($35-$50) to water ($3 a bottle) and more. Can pay toilets be far behind?

Meanwhile, Spirit’s on-time arrivals record is well below the industry average, there are no onboard movies or Wi-Fi, and seats are crammed in, offering less legroom even than the already legroom-deprived other airlines do. What’s more, the seats don’t recline – which, considering that someone reclining a seat in front of you may end up in your lap in these sardine-can conditions, may be a good thing.

So far the approach seems to be working. Spirit’s profits are growing, stock prices are up, and a fleet of new planes is planned for… Continue reading

New Zealand's Southern Alps

New Zealand’s Southern Alps — photo by Clark Norton

A 2010 AARP survey of U.S. baby boomers turning 65 in 2011 caught my eye. According to its findings, those responding picked “travel” more than any other answer when asked what their “major ambition for the next five years” would be. “Travel” topped such categories as “improve health,” “retire,” “improve finances,” “improve housing/home projects,” “enjoy relationships with family and friends” and “relocate.”

Surveys show that boomers want to travel far and wide as well. Australia and New Zealand top wish lists, followed by Europe, and then by North American locations. Asia, Africa, the Antarctic and other exotic spots also attract many boomers.

Boomers are active travelers, willing to spend their money on adventurous, educational and creative forms of travel. Tour agencies, tourism bureaus, resorts and lodges, cruise lines, and other travel companies take heed – if you overlook boomers, you’re… Continue reading

Photo from Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking River Cruises is entering the realm of ocean cruising, and they’re doing it in a bold way, using a similar model to their successful river cruising brand.

Launching its first new ocean-going ship – the Viking Star — in May 2015, Viking will be offering all-inclusive fares that include not just mealtime wine, beer and other drinks but free Internet service and, best of all, free shore excursions.

What’s more, port stops will be lengthier than on other ocean-going lines – averaging around 12 hours per port – and will include several overnights per cruise. To make this possible, itineraries will typically be longer than the average cruise, stretching from nine days up to two weeks or more.

And they’ll do it all for lower fares than the luxury all-inclusive lines charge. The Viking Star will carry a maximum of 928 passengers — considered… Continue reading

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Clark hiking near the Jungfrau in Switzerland — photo by Catharine Norton

Baby boomers — those of us born between 1946 and 1964 — control trillions of dollars of America’s disposable income. Many seniors — those who are age 68 and up — are also affluent.

The difference is that we boomers — unlike Depression- and World War II-nurtured seniors — are willing to spend our money. And travel finishes at or near the top of surveys we want to spend it on — in fact, boomers travel more than any other age group.

Overlooking this market is like emptying your wallet and throwing your money into the ocean. Or, you can ride the baby-boomer wave safely — and profitably — into shore. This blog will help show you how. I hope you’ll keep returning to read and comment on the information here.

And don’t forget to download my… 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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