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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

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Viking River Cruise boats glide through Europe. Photo from Viking.

Viking River Cruise boats glide through Europe. Photo from Viking.

The travel site Skift.com has just named its top 50 global travel marketers for 2013, including the senior vice president for marketing of Viking River Cruises, Rich Marnell.

Little wonder — Marnell was hired in 2007 as Viking’s director of marketing for North America, and since that time Viking’s share of the burgeoning European river cruise market has risen from 20 percent to fifty percent, remarkable considering that competition is getting increasingly fierce.

I’ve written previously about Viking River Cruises’ approach to marketing: a laser-like focus on their target customer — the classic baby boomer.

“What we’ve done is tailored the product experience for the 55+ culturally curious in mind,” Marnell told Skift. “We don’t try to be everything to everyone. For us, we see that as an advantage rather than a disadvantage.”

At a press conference last spring that marked the naming of ten new Viking Longships, based in Amsterdam for plying European rivers, Viking’s chairman and CEO Torstein Hagen was even more blunt. “We have no need whatsoever to say we want some younger people onboard,” Hagen said. “We don’t encourage [inter]generational travel. We market to North Americans, Brits, Australians. Nothing else…It is for people like me who want to have a quiet time and travel with people like myself.”

Hagen identified their target market as “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.”

Viking claims to have run at more than 96 percent capacity for 2012, and, even in the wake of adding 40 percent more capacity in 2013 with its new Longships,  most of Viking’s Europe cabins were already sold out through October by last spring.

In May the company expanded further by launching Viking Ocean Cruises, which will sail in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas. (Read my previous post on boomer-friendly Viking Ocean Cruises here.)

As I noted before, Viking is a prime example of one of the basic rules of marketing: know thy target customers and go after them, single-mindedly. When sales are soft, Hagen said, Viking will employ direct mail, trade ads, Web ads and television.

And it’s worth repeating: they’re targeting one key market: baby boomers. Baby boomers who have money, curiosity, and time to spend on a river cruise in Europe, as well as Russia, Asia and Egypt, which Viking also offers.

While Viking is by no means the most luxurious river cruise line, it delivers a solid product to boomers looking for good value. And it’s working.

 

This Week’s Travel Quiz

In a recent survey of U.S. travelers, which two hotel amenities and services topped the list as most important to consumers?

A. Free breakfast and personal care items

B. Free parking and free in-room Wi-Fi

C. Spa and mini-bar

D. Business center and free lobby Wi-Fi

I’ll give you the answer in my next post and would be interested to hear which hotel amenities and services are most important to you.

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to Viking River Cruises Thrives on Boomer Business

  • Quiz answer is a no-brainer (as far as I’m cocerned): B. Free parking and free in-room Wi-Fi.

    I would have selected: E. Free cocktail at 6 p.m. and a mint on my pillow by 9 p.m. had it been offered. Keep up the highly informative focus on boomer travel. I hope to be able to afford a European river cruise before I’m too old to enjoy it. Perhaps I should heed the words of my financial planner: “Fly first class, or your heirs will!”

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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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