Shaped by such wide-ranging commonalities as “Howdy Doody” and Beatlemania, the baby boomer generation is ready to travel. Those born between 1946 and 1964 account for 22 percent of the U.S. population and over 40 percent of consumer spending, according to USA Today.
These travelers have the means and the desire to travel, which is why the travel industry has courted boomers for years. But for some group travel leaders, convincing boomers to take group tours, a travel style originally designed for older generations, has proven tricky. The rock-’n’-roll-loving demographic might wish to travel, but they hate the idea of tour guides herding them from one destination to the next.
For years, tour operators have reached out to baby boomers with restructured tours that better serve the desires of this adventurous generation. If you are trying to crack into the baby boomer market, try these strategies when building and marketing your tours.
When and Where
When crafting an itinerary that will appeal to boomers, start by finding the right combination of tour length and destination. Because many boomers are either postponing retirement or only semi-retiring, the longer tours common with the traditional senior market don’t work.
Tour operators like Crystal Cruises, Road Scholar and Atlantic Tours all report offering a growing number of shorter tours that will attract more working travelers. Instead of 20-day tours, the typical boomer international tour lasts seven to 10 days. Bookend these trips between weekends to cater even more to this working market. Middle-of-the-week flights are frequently cheaper, but working boomers are often willing to pay more for weekend trips that cause less disruption in their professional schedules.
Tours to exotic destinations like southeast Asia often still run at least 14 days due to the travel time involved. These bucket list destinations entice some boomers to stay away from work longer. Many tour operators report that boomers choose exotic destinations in much greater numbers than did older generations.
Safaris in Africa, cruises in the Galapagos and voyages to Antarctica remain among current favorites for intrepid boomers. In or nearing retirement, many boomers want to tick off their dream destinations and are willing to pay to have someone take care of all the details for them.
But attracting this demographic doesn’t always require traveling abroad. Boomers enjoy returning to previously explored destinations when given a new twist. Domestic trips with a theme, such as a wine-tasting tour in California, can excite boomer groups.
“Europe is our most popular destination,” said Laura Benn, sales manager for Butterfield and Robinson, a Canadian tour agency with upscale, active tours that attract the boomer market. “Within Europe, our top destinations are Tuscany and Provence. Those are places that people may have visited before but are happy to return to with a slower tour and more experiential activities.”