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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

Clark Norton

Travel Copywriter

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

Universal Studios Hollywood logo -- courtesy of Universal Studios

Universal Studios Hollywood logo — courtesy of Universal Studios

Universal Studios Hollywood theme park is now aggressively marketing $299 “V.I.P. Experience” passes that allow users to skip to the front of lines — avoiding waits that can sometimes seem interminable.

According to this June 10 New York Times piece,  V.I.P.s also have access to valet parking and parts of the studio’s normally closed back lot, are treated to rides on special escorted trolleys, and are fed two gourmet meals (breakfast and lunch). The park even throws in some hand sanitizer, a poncho to stay dry and some mints.

If you just want to get to the front of lines or shows without waiting, you can shell out $149 ($169 in peak summer), which is considerably more than the already-steep regular one-day admission price of $84.

The allure of not standing in 45-minute lines on hot summer… Continue reading

The Viking Europe -- photo from Viking River Cruises

The Viking Europe — photo from Viking River Cruises

In a previous post  I talked about how Viking River Cruises, the world’s largest river cruise line, is branching out into the realm of ocean cruising, using much the same successful model they’ve used to build a river cruise empire around the globe.

Today I want to talk about the customers they’ve built that river cruise empire around: baby boomers.

In an informative article in Travel Weekly, detailing a press conference that marked the naming of ten new Viking Longships this spring, Viking’s chairman and CEO Torstein Hagen was blunt about his target market: “people with some curiosity, who have worked hard and earned some money. They haven’t had time to see these places — and not just see, but experience the culture. They’re grown-up people. They speak English. They are 55-plus.”

Hagen then continued to say, “We have… Continue reading

Alice's Wonderland logo -- courtesy of Alice's Wonderland

Alice’s Wonderland logo — courtesy of Alice’s Wonderland

Earlier this week I received e-mailed birthday greetings from a car dealer, my dentist, a local restaurant and a store specializing in outdoor clothing and gear, all businesses I have patronized at least once in the past.

While none of these caught my attention as much as, say, the e-cards and e-mails I got from family and friends, they did give me a few momentary warm and fuzzy feelings about these various businesses (even my dentist). But are they more likely to get my repeat business because of them?

Maybe, maybe not. At the very least, they reminded me that they exist, and that’s a start. Only one of them, though, gave me a further incentive to actually pay a visit, and that was the outdoor gear store, which included a printable coupon for $15 off purchases to spend during my… Continue reading

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

Hanging out at the Bronx Zoo. Photo from

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

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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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