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Riding a southbound Amtrak train home to New York last Sunday night, I was asked by the passenger next to me about a whale watching video I was posting on Facebook. I told her I’d just spent a most memorable weekend reconnecting with a college friend, Michelle, I hadn’t seen in 30 years. On Saturday, we’d visited Gloucester, a small fishing town on Massachusetts’ North Shore, where we ate, shopped, explored and went whale watching, my virgin experience doing so.
My curious train companion, a fellow Boomer, then told me about her whirlwind vacation week, which included a wedding in Puerto Rico and a family reunion outside of Boston. “Planes, trains and automobiles… I could’ve written the book,” she said to me with a mixture of enthusiasm, satisfaction and fatigue. We spent three hours talking about our travels past, present and future, and why we loved traveling so much.
Boomers and older travelers are responsible for nearly half of all vacation dollars spent by Americans. So important is travel to this generation that a majority don’t set budgets for their trips and well under half (37%) say that their vacation plans are impacted by increasing airfares. The same can’t be said for younger travelers—over 60% of Gen X and Millennial travelers set budgets and are impacted by increasing airfares.
Recent research reveals three key motivators for Boomer travel, which provide fertile ground for the development of strategic marketing communications that go beyond destinations and accommodations and seek to engage the underlying triggers that impact Boomers’ travel decisions.
1. An Opportunity to Check Something Off The Bucket List
This year, 24% of Boomers, or 17 million, will take bucket list trips. These once-in-a-lifetime trips are the #1 reason Boomers travel to international destinations. As a generation, Boomers are twice as likely as Gen Xers and Millennials to plan bucket list trips.
There’s little mystery why. At some point after turning 50, many Boomers experience a realization that time is no longer limitless and feel a renewed sense of urgency to accomplish significant goals while they can.
Bucket list trips are particularly important to this generation because they tap into Boomers’ lifelong core values of exploration, adventure and learning. According to a recent study by Destination Analysts, exploration is the top vacation priority among Boomers. In another study by Ipsos, it was reported that two-thirds of Boomers value being able to learn something new on vacation.
The most popular destinations for bucket list trips? Europe, followed by the Caribbean and South America.
2. An Opportunity to Enrich Family Relationships
Boomers have developed closer bonds with their adult children and grandchildren than the ones they shared with their own parents and grandparents, resulting in an increase in multigenerational cohabitation and socializing within our society. Despite this trend, the busier lives lived by all generations nowadays make it challenging to gather multiple generations in the same place at the same time focused on the same activity.
Enter multigenerational vacations, in which 21 million Boomers will participate this year. The top reasons for doing so are bringing the entire family together (83%) and building fond memories to be shared by the entire family (69%).
Multigenerational vacations are particularly important to Boomers because they reinforce and deepen the critical roles they play as parents and grandparents long past the age at which previous generations inhabited those roles in such meaningful ways.
Popular destinations range from cities like New York to beaches (think Florida or Hawaii), as well as cruises.
3. An Opportunity to Relax And Refuel
Boomers are perhaps the busiest 50+ generation ever. A majority still work and lead active social lives. Many live with or devote significantly more time to their children and grandchildren than previous generations did, and increasingly Boomers are finding themselves caregiving for aging loved ones.
Not surprisingly, the most popular types of trips among this generation are summer vacations, which 25 million will take this year, and weekend getaways, which 19 million will take this year. These trips are essential in helping Boomers escape their busy lives, create some new experiences, and smell the proverbial roses throughout the year whenever the demands of everyday life get to be too much.
What are Boomers’ favorite weekend and summer destinations? Florida tops the list, followed by several U.S. cities, including Las Vegas, California and New York.
The Bottom Line
Travel provides vital and lasting benefits that enhance Boomers’ lives during and after their trips. By speaking to the underlying life-stage triggers and priorities that impact Boomers’ travel decisions, marketers can increase their odds of engaging Boomers and winning their travel business.