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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

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Riverwalk is at its most colorful at night. Photo from Visit San Antonio.

Riverwalk is at its most colorful at night. Photo from Visit San Antonio.

A short while ago a website called SpareFoot — which helps users find good self-storage units but features a very interesting blog filled with de-cluttering tips and other useful info — compiled a list of what they called “America’s 15 Baby Boomer Boom Towns.”

I guess baby boomers are among the biggest users of self-storage units — to which I myself plead guilty over the years, having archived dozens of boxes representing a massive paper trail of my career (I’m currently in rehab on this addiction). But in any event, SpareFoot put some work into this project and identified 15 of the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S. that were attracting new boomer residents and some of the reasons why (the title should really read “boom cities,” but we’ll stick with “boom towns” as the standard expression).

One criterion was the number of new boomers to move in between the years 2000 and 2010. Other criteria were the boomer boom town’s per capita growth in gross domestic product, per capita personal income growth, housing affordability, and the number of per capita health care workers. That last one stings a little, but does reflect the practical reality that boomers will require additional health care as they age.

Obviously, one could quibble with the criteria used: climate doesn’t seem to have figured in — though 13 of the 15 are in the South, since warmer weather clearly attracts more older boomers — nor do cultural or recreational opportunities, though the SpareFoot blog mentions these in their write-ups.

But using the criteria that they did, San Antonio, Texas, came out on top, followed by Boise, Idaho; Raleigh, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, which is the wild card in the bunch. SpareFoot notes that it “sits just across the Rio Grande River from Mexico and its retailers draw customers from both sides of the border.”

Who could forget the Alamo? Originally a mission, then the site of a famous siege featuring Davy Crockett, it's now a huge tourist attraction in San Antonio.

Who could forget the Alamo? Originally a mission, then the site of a famous siege featuring Davy Crockett, it’s now a huge tourist attraction in San Antonio.

(If you notice a Texas bias, it does seem to be there, especially with Houston also making the top 15 — and it should be noted that SpareFoot is based in Austin.)

All 15, though, had positive growth in their baby boomer populations in the first decade of the 21st century. San Antonio’s came in at 8 percent, while another on the list, Phoenix, Arizona, increased its boomer population by 11.5 percent and Boise by 11.7 percent.

Contrast this with San Francisco and Los Angeles’ baby boomer decline of 10 percent, while Chicago and New York’s boomers each declined by nine percent. Since not all of those can be attributed to cold weather, the lack of affordable housing seems to be the main culprit.

And San Antonio’s housing was deemed the most affordable of all the 15 boom towns, despite the city’s strong economic growth.

The city also has an AAA bond rating, points out Becky Dinnin, vice president of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, allowing it to spend money on infrastructure such as highways and on other public investments such as parks. Dinnin also notes that San Antonio is located about “halfway between the East and West coasts. It’s warm and close to the beach. That adds to the appeal.”

Since plenty of baby boomer travelers visit San Antonio — drawn by signature attractions such as the Alamo and Riverwalk, the scenic and extremely pleasant walkway that follows the San Antonio River for several miles — it stands to reason that  some of the visitors have fallen in love with the city and decided to move there.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in San Antonio not long ago, and spent every spare moment strolling up and down River Walk — that is, when I wasn’t stuffing myself with Tex-Mex food or spending a morning at the Alamo. The Alamo, which is much smaller than I had imagined it, has a special resonance with many baby boomers because Davy Crockett — celebrated in song in the 1950s as the “King of the Wild Frontier” — went down fighting there against the Mexican forces led by General Santa Anna.

I also had a chance to talk briefly with the city’s dynamic young mayor, Julian Castro, whose twin brother is a U.S. Congressman, and was also impressed by San Antonio’s burgeoning contemporary arts scene.

And I was very surprised to learn that San Antonio is now the nation’s seventh largest city — with more than 1.3 million population, it’s now bigger than Dallas — with new baby boomer residents obviously playing a big role in that.

The takeaway: San Antonio is much more than the Alamo and even Riverwalk, much as I wouldn’t mind having that available for my evening stroll on a regular basis. I like to think Davy Crockett would approve. (And I’ll be writing more about San Antonio soon.)

To read the entire SpareFoot blog post, go here.

To visit the Visit San Antonio website, go here.

To read an entertaining new book on Davy Crockett, go here.

This Week’s Travel Quiz:

A Hotwire survey pinpoints 14 destinations Americans would most like to travel to in 2014. Which one of these was not in the top five?

A. New York, New York

B. San Francisco, California

C. Los Angeles, California

D. Honolulu, Hawaii

E. Las Vegas, Nevada

I’ll have the answer in my next post.








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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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