President and Owner
Grand American Tours
Q: Is 2011 a growth year for your business?
Yes, it is. We have done better marketing, and we have negotiated better deals and offers with our suppliers, which has helped. People are more willing to think about travel this year than they were last year. Their mindset has changed for the better.
Q: You do a lot of cruises. What is the customer profile for your cruise customers?
Our cruise customers are 60 to 85, and they want to go to the places they’ve always dreamed of going. They want to cruise in Alaska, on the rivers of Europe, Hawaii and other places while they have the health and the income. You can still sell the concept of a “dream trip” to older travelers.
Q: Where do boomer-aged travelers (47-65) fit into your business?
Baby boomers who are traveling with us right now are referrals — we haven’t marketed to them. Once they do cruise with us, they love it.
They have a great time. But that’s a market we’re just beginning to introduce ourselves to. The boomers traveling with us are taking high-end cruises — $15,000 per couple, for instance.
Q: Any tips for selling to boomers?
I think this generation of traveler will respond to offers that have a social impact. We’re doing a trip that is a fundraiser with Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, and they are responding very favorably to that. I think this will be an annual trip for them. So charities may make good partners with boomers.
Q: Your website is addressed to group leaders. What is the biggest change you’ve seen in that group in the past five years?
I find that group numbers are smaller. That’s why cruises work well with group leaders. A cruise may offer one free with eight paid or one free with nine paid, and they can make that work. And we’re seeing a lot of longer trips.
Every group leader is someone with a bucket list, and they bring a group along with them for the experience. And I am getting group leaders to fill their trips on my website. Their members actually get on our site and book into a trip, and the group leader gets instant notification.
Q: Is the cruise industry getting its arms around baby boomers’ travel preferences?
Yes. Royal Caribbean’s newest ship has 24 restaurants. There is no more sitting at the same table every night with the same waiter. That’s gone. Instead of one show each night, there are five to choose from. Shore excursions include much-more-active options that are rated by physical activity levels. Boomers are driving a lot of that.