Boomers on Vacation? Don't Expect Much Sitting Around
Although the travel industry was hit hard by the downturn from 2009 to 2011, signs of recovery from the airline and hotel sectors may signal a turnaround for the entire market. Despite the economic cloud, however, Boomers – never content to sit around – have found new resources (or perhaps, excuses) for travel. As this is the first official week of summer, we thought we’d take a break from the heavy issues and spotlight some emerging Boomer travel trends.
Although most Boomers aren’t looking for an immediate career change, a “vocation vacation” can help broaden the horizons of those open to experiencing a different profession. And it’s spawned an entire sub-industry. VocationVacations is one company dedicated to providing consumers with this type of career test-drive. Options include everything from group memberships to one-on-one programs that mentor participants in their choice of numerous possible careers, including as an actor, architect, chef, baseball announcer, boat captain or guitar maker. Transitions Abroad specializes in short-term jobs overseas, while CoolWorks.com matches people with seasonal jobs of three months or longer.
Competition-based reality shows (“Amazing Race¸” “Survivor”) have opened up interest in, and a new market for travel options. Cleveland-based Competitours offers a travel competition in which participants join one of 16 teams vying for prizes over the course of a nine-day trip across four different European countries. Promoters promise “playful rivalry with the other teams by day, and cheerful revelry by night.” Tribal Council not included.
This is a mix of traveling and devoting volunteer time to charitable causes. A possible incentive for this choice: 16% of Baby Boomers who have taken a domestic vacation in the last year or a foreign vacation in the last two years report seeing/experiencing something that disturbed them on their trip, such as poverty, a high population of orphans, earthquake or flood damage, deforestation, pollution or beach erosion.
Companies specializing in this type of travel can certainly leverage cause-conscious Boomer vacationers to put in some volunteering time, especially if they don’t have to commit their entire trip to a cause. According to VolunTourism International, there are at least 10,000 different opportunities that combine vacationing and volunteering time, ranging from far-flung locales across the globe to local trips.
One caveat: the voluntourism phenomenon has received some negative publicity recently. Before you go, do your homework. Find out where the money goes, be aware of the ethical questions that might arise, and be sure you’re volunteering for the right reasons, not just to feed your ego.
Independent souls that they are, many Boomers would rather map out their own itinerary rather than join a packaged tour, according to some tourism surveys. That’s now easier to do, thanks to smartphone apps such as mTrip and websites such as TripIt. Amateur travel agents can use these apps to access currency converters, GPS functions, hotel/restaurant recommendations, map/direction features and, of course, make reservations.
This one’s for the empty-nest parents, many of whom are Boomers. Feel pressure to rekindle a romance or take “the honeymoon we never had”? The kids are gone. Take it now.
The emergence of these options and others gives marketers a better idea of the unconventional things Boomers say that they enjoy doing and might like to pursue away from home. For the travel marketer, it encourages them to tap into this growing consumer segment, as well as some outside-the-box thinking when it comes to promotional messages and outreach. Unique, even unusual vacation options could encourage Boomers to venture out of their comfort zone well before retiring. If they retire at all.