By Alan E. Young
Anyone who has watched Dirty Dancing remembers the iconic line, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
Well, hoteliers, what about baby boomers?
Over the last few years, millennials have captured a great deal of attention across industries, with hospitality being no exception. Their unique travel behaviors and impressive buying power have generated sizeable interest from hoteliers around the globe, who are eager to tap into their psyche and earn the loyalty of this generational group.
With that said, however, millennials only account for those born between 1980 and 1999. Although influential, they do not comprise the entirety of today’s tech-savvy travelers with a penchant and the budget for travel, and it’s important not to discount their generational counterparts. Let me put it this way: no hotelier should put baby boomers in the corner. Why? Because they are still a dominating and lucrative group who, you may be surprised to learn, are only just reaching their peak earning and travel years.
Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby boomers bring to the table a well-rounded set of expectations when engaging with prospective hotels, and actively seek out authentic, personalized and memorable travel experiences.
With that said, we’ve pulled together some of the major travel trends and habits of baby boomers, to better inform hoteliers of exactly what boomers expect from a hotel.
1. Baby Boomers have a Budget for Travel
Primarily ‘empty-nesters’ it should come as no surprise that baby boomers have the time, budget, and desire to travel. According to AARP Travel’s ‘2019 Boomer Travel Trends’, boomers were planning on taking a total of 4-5 leisure trips this year, on which they planned to spend over $6,600 (about 20% to 50% more than their Gen X or millennial counterparts). These trips were projected to be split relatively evenly between domestic and international travel.
2. Willing to Go the Extra Mile
Not only are boomers planning to spend more on their trips this year, but they are also opting for longer trip durations, upgraded accommodations, and shopping while sightseeing. In this sense, baby boomers represent an incredible opportunity for upselling and personalized offers or add-ons. Hoteliers, this means more revenue for your property. That is, if you know how to earn their loyalty.
Baby boomers are also noted fans of ‘active relaxation,’ meaning they demonstrate a preference for activities like golfing, hiking, massages, and wine tasting tours.
3. Staying Faithful to Hospitality Tradition
Although millennials are seemingly leading the charge in the rise of non-traditional accommodations such as Airbnb and boutique properties, hotels/motels are sought out most often for both domestic and international travel accommodations among boomers. Once again, this is good news for hoteliers hoping to remain competitive in the modern landscape, as they can leverage their provision of a more traditional, high-touch (face-to-face) guest experience.
Even further, baby boomers, although open to new technology, tend to prefer in-person communication, and are less receptive to certain technology trends (such as AI-powered robots) than their millennial counterparts. According to studies, 62.7 percent of those who said they’d be very excited to utilize the services of a robot in a hotel were millennials, while 69.6 percent of those who said they were not excited about using such a robot were in the Gen X or baby boomer category.
4. A Desire to Disconnect
Although boomers are notably tech-savvy, they are far more likely to use vacations as an opportunity to disconnect from technology, while reconnecting with family, loved ones, and local culture. According to AARP, an estimated 54% of boomers will take a smartphone on international trips, and 92% will take a smartphone on domestic trips, but aside from photos or a brief email check, they don’t express an urge to remain tethered to devices.
Simply put, baby boomers are tech-proficient, but not tech-dependent. They appreciate the convenience of online and mobile services but don’t require it 24/7.
5. Baby Boomers Crave Authenticity
A desire to get in touch with local culture seems to span across generational groups, as both baby boomers and millennial travelers indicate that they want to immerse themselves in the local customs of the places they visit. This trend is especially prevalent amongst boomers, with 50% showing interest in the native cuisines, traditions, pastimes, and cultural nuances when they are abroad.
6. Looking for Luxury
Beyond unique and authentic local experiences, baby boomers are also notably interested in luxury travel. Considering their increased budget for travel, this should come as no surprise. Only 57 percent of boomers say that their budget plays a factor in their trip, and many are prone to booking luxury services including upgraded tour and activity packages. Boomers are responsible for 80 percent of all luxury travel spending.
Despite this desire for luxury, however, it’s essential to recognize that baby boomers will still actively seek out the best-perceived deal. According to studies, 95% of baby boomers want to know that they have found the best deal possible before booking their trip.
7. A Call for User-Friendly Technology
As aforementioned, boomers are not tethered to technology in the same way millennial travelers are; however, technology is still important to them. According to AARP, 85 percent of traveling baby boomers use the internet to plan their trips. Acting on the desire to utilize technology as a convenience rather than a necessity, implementing a user-friendly interface (across both desktop and mobile) is integral for baby boomer guests. Hoteliers should vet and select guest-facing technology with convenience in mind, ensuring that both high-touch and low-touch service options are available from pre-stay to post-stay. A website with easy navigation structure, detailed information, and an easy booking process will go a long way.
8. Don’t Neglect the Mobile Experience
Studies show that 68 percent of baby boomers use a smartphone, 55 percent own a tablet, and 55 percent say a smartphone is essential while traveling. So, although the user-friendly desktop experience may be paramount, the mobile experience surely shouldn’t be neglected.
9. Baby Boomers and Bucket Lists
You may be surprised to learn that boomers’ #1 reason for traveling is to check destinations off their bucket list, preferably while spending times with loved ones or ‘rejuvenating.’ Moreover, surveys have shown that “seeing the world” is a major bucket list priority for most baby boomers.
Baby boomers are a unique travel segment, boasting the high-touch expectations of a traveler accustomed to traditional hospitality, while still exhibiting familiarity with modern, digitally-influenced conveniences. With more disposable income than ever before, combined with a desire to travel and see the world, the baby boomer generation is not to be neglected in the eyes of hoteliers.