In a study conducted with Ypartnership and Harrison Group, they sought to uncover why Boomers travel, where they want to go, what they want to do, who they travel with and how they book their travel. Results of the study were announced at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, France.
The research was based on interviews with 1,185 Boomers, a subset of a larger study of 2,524 active U.S. leisure travelers. The subjects had household incomes of $50,000 or more and had taken at least one leisure trip requiring overnight accommodations during the past 12 months.
The study called this group the “healthiest, wealthiest and most active senior generation.” The study also said that Boomers cited travel on the top of the list of where they want to spend their time and money, and that they still have money to spend on leisure travel despite the global recession.
“Even though many have been affected by recent events, they will still be the wealthiest generation,” said Lindsey Ueberroth, president of Preferred Hotel Group. “They still plan on making travel a priority. This will not deter them from the things they plan to do when they retire.”
The study found that Boomers spent an average amount of $3,324 annually on leisure travel and expected to spend about the same amount in the coming year.
Boomers took an average of 3.6 trips in 2009. Two-thirds (67 percent) took a trip of five or more nights, often including a Saturday night, while one-third took a mid-week trip of up to four nights.
The majority (73%) said they traveled at least once with a spouse or other adult, and nearly one-third took their grandchildren on a trip. A quarter of them (25%) made a journey alone.
More than half traveled to visit family or friends, while 38 percent reported taking a family vacation. Another 35 percent took a nature-inspired trip and 18 percent spent time in casinos.
Their favorite domestic destinations were California (44 percent), Florida (42 percent), and Hawaii (42 percent), followed by Alaska (34 percent); Arizona, Nevada, and Washington, D.C., (each at 28 percent) and Colorado (27 percent).
Almost 30 percent of the Boomers in the survey took international trips. The top destinations were the Caribbean (33 percent) and Europe (28 percent), followed by Mexico (19 percent) and Canada (18 percent).
Interestingly, the study found that Boomers embrace technology when researching their travel. In fact, 84 percent reported using the Internet to book one or more trips. They visited an average of 3.5 sites for a hotel/resort, 3.6 for an airline, and 2.9 sites for a car rental.
Understanding these travel trends will help hotel companies cater to this generation as they plan “Bucket List” trips and celebrations that involve travel. In fact, the celebration of a major event accounted for 66 percent of trips taken during the 12 months surveyed.
“How can we market to the anniversary and monumental birthdays after 65?” Ueberroth said. “When we did the research, the thing Boomers want to do for their birthday is travel. Not, ‘Let’s go out to dinner.’ It’s, ‘Let’s go to Napa and celebrate with friends.’”
Boomers are different from past generations in that they are prolific travelers, Ueberroth said, and they don’t expect that to change as they enter retirement and semi-retirement.
Another interested note, is that about 68 percent have valid passports, according to the survey, compared to about 30 percent of Americans overall.
“Intrepid world travelers, many older boomers have circled the globe more than once and are unafraid of new cultures, foreign languages, exotic cuisines,” according to the study. “Preferred Hotel Group has observed a distinct eagerness to expand horizons with the education afforded uniquely by travel, and to explore the lifestyles of increasingly distant shores. The pursuit of special interests has sparked a growing preference for themed trips with a focus on topics that include art and architecture, history, golf, sailing, fishing, spa and wellness and cuisine.”
The survey asked Boomers where they would like to travel. Domestically, their wish lists include the Hawaiian Islands (70 percent), the National Parks (67 percent) and Honolulu (63 percent). Also popular are the Florida Keys (56 percent), Las Vegas (51 percent), San Francisco (47 percent), Napa Valley (46 percent), San Diego (45 percent), Washington D.C. (45 percent), Orlando (44 percent), and the Florida Gulf Coast (43 percent). They also expressed interest in visiting Hilton Head (39 percent) and Colonial Williamsburg (37 percent).
Overseas, Europe remains a top destination (61 percent), with Italy, the UK, Ireland and France the hottest markets. Other popular overseas destinations included the Caribbean (46 percent), Canada (34 percent), and Australia/South Pacific (33 percent). Also cited were Mexico (25 percent), Central America (23 percent), Asia (18 percent), South America (13 percent), the Middle East (9 percent) and Africa (8 percent).
Matt Walters. Grape Leaf Hospitality. Marketing Consultant for Inns, B&B's & Hospitality Industry