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New boomer groups emerging

Baby boomers are a travel-ready demographic that can’t be ignored, and travel planners know that. College alumni groups and chambers of commerce have recognized the strengths of their baby boomer constituencies and are using group travel to build affinity among their boomer members.

The University of Utah Alumni Association caters to boomers and even older folks. “The brochures go out, and I get phone calls,” said Nanette Richard, who handles alumni travel. “If I’ve been to the location, I can always talk them into going. I get really enthusiastic.”

The Utah travel group doesn’t see many 40- to 50-year-olds, but rather more 60- to 70-year-olds. “We do a lot of European ocean traveling on Oceania Cruises because those lines are so beautiful. It’s often on the Mediterranean Sea or Adriatic Sea and to places like Croatia, Italy or Greece. The line is beautiful, first class all the way,” said Richard.

The heavy Mormon influence in Utah means that many people have been on church mission trips to various places around the world, so they’re particular about where they want to go next.

Julie Preddy, in the University of Arkansas’ travel office, said her travelers are retired or semiretired with discretionary travel income. They range in age from 60 to 75, “but I’m starting to skew lower, down to 55, because of demand we’ve had from young boomers traveling more,” said Preddy.

Trips average 10 to 14 days; working boomers can’t take much more time off than that. Preddy is considering more seven-day trips.

“That way we can capture more of our alumni market, those with less time,” she said.

College travel managers bring their school’s flags and banners on trips to fly or display. The University of Arkansas also provides travelers with branded gifts with the school name, nickname or logo on them.

Chambers of commerce that offer group travel regularly see baby boomers. The Tempe, Arizona, chamber hosted a trip to Cuba in 2012. There was unbelievable demand for a trip to this long-cut-off island nation.

“We put the trip together thinking maybe we’d get 30 people,” said Mary Ann Miller, president and CEO of the Tempe chamber. “We had 140 people go on four different trips.”

Miller said most of the travelers were boomers; that travel segment has the interest, health, finances and time to make such once-in-a-lifetime trips, she said.

As a travel destination, Cuba has been “sort of dangling out there in front of us for so long,” said Miller. “It was a place you couldn’t get to legally.”

The chamber recently completed a trip to Vietnam with 15 people and is looking at organizing a trip to Peru because of the community’s interest in South America.