Ageing consumers driving change in travel

While it can be dangerous to generalise, there are some trends in the USA travel industry that can be attributed to ageing baby boomers everywhere.

This very good article in the NY Times covers many of them. I’ve tried to summarise the key points here.


Boomers have been shaping travel choices for decades. In the 1960s and ’70s boomer made shoestring student trips to Europe de rigueur. Boomers propelled the singles resort scene to its apotheosis in the 1970s. Boomers’ developed the appetite for luxury hotels.

Some of the ways companies are trying to seduce boomers:

Shorter Itineraries

Boomers are the most likely of all age groups to say that they have lost money on investments and that their household finances have worsened since the recession, according to Pew Research. That has tour companies shortening their trips and changing the days of the week that its tours begin and end. International trips now  depart Friday or Thursday night and return on Sunday to accommodate boomers who have delayed retirement and continue to work.

Crystal Cruises have increased the number of shorter itineraries it is offering in 2013, making almost half of its cruises 10 days or less.

Exotic Locations, Modern Amenities

Boomers continue to be intrepid explorers, even as many express a desire for creature comforts.

The research company Euromonitor International predicts that boomers will “lead the way” to places that were not always possible to visit, including Myanmar and Cuba. And American Express Travel Insiders said boomers are heading off to destinations like Machu Picchu and Patagonia before they reach an age when they can’t handle the physical demands that may come with visiting such places.

Yet researchers also note that boomers do not want to rough it once they arrive. In a study of the impact of the economy on vacation travel among boomers, the market research company Mintel posited that boomers are “ideal candidates” for upscale camping, fondly referred to as glamping.

‘Glamping’ is camping minus the sleeping bag and dome tent. Safari lodges in Africa now are installing Internet connections to allow boomers to update their Facebook page.

Multigenerational Travel

As boomers join the ranks of grandparents, many are financing vacations for their children and grandchildren. Preferred Family was designed to make booking those multigenerational trips to places like Morocco and India easier: users can search for hotels with amenities like connecting rooms, kitchenettes and storytelling for children. Big font. Easy-to-print pages. Luxury hotels that can be sorted by amenities like cooking lessons and connecting suites.

Meanwhile at Road Scholar, families are chartering entire 16-person boats in the Galápagos that the company uses for its natural- and cultural-history group tours.

Of course, boomers are not strictly grandparents. Plenty are starting second or third families.

Emphasis on Local Color

Tour operators say that boomers prefer an authentic hotel that reflects the local character of the destination.

That not only applies to where they sleep, but also to what they do. Industry professionals say boomers do not want to be isolated from the local culture.

Customized Travel Options

If travel companies had to write a boomer operating manual, they would include this warning: do not herd them. They have no interest in being with ‘a group.’

Travel companies, in turn, are making their tours more intimate, which boomers say they prefer because there are fewer stragglers to slow them down and it’s easier to develop a relationship with the guide or lecturer.

Flex programs provide travellers with free time to pursue their own interests.

Critically, boomer travellers don’t want to wear hats that say “Boomers.” The key to a successful seduction is never to stereotype boomer travellers, particularly when it comes to ageing.

Thanks to Silver Tsunami Brief for bringing this article to my attention.