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"The Traveling Baby Boomer Generation" presented by Lauraday Kelley, CTC, MCC. Vice President Education & Training, Vacation.com

When Roberta called and asked if I would be the keynote speaker for the opening general session for this year’s SATH conference, I was more than happy to accept. However, when I realized the reason why she asked me, I wasn’t so sure. You see, I quickly guessed that she was inferring that I look my age, as the topic she asked me to speak on was the effects of the Baby Boomers to the future of travel. Her exact words to me were: “since you are on the cutting edge of the baby boomer generation, would you speak to us about how you see this affecting the travel industry?” Yes, Roberta, I am on the cutting edge of the Baby Boomer Generation, as I was born in the very first month of the baby boomers, January of 1946. And I was in some pretty good company, some notable Americans who joined me in 06 were George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Sylvester Stallone, and two ladies who appear to be aging better than me, Cher and Dolly Parton. What Roberta may not have known, is that I am also one of the few baby boomers who had a child born the last year of the baby boomer generation, my daughter, Madeleine, was born in July 1964. Thus, yes I guess I do look my age, and yes, I’m delighted to talk about the baby boomers and the role we will play in the future of the travel industry.

Let me begin by looking at the facts:
The U.S. experienced an “explosion” of births after American soldiers returned home from World War II. The sociologists define those born between (and including) 1946 and 1964 as “baby boomers.” Using the years 1946 through 1964 as boundaries, boomers are now between 42 and 60 years old. And today represent 28% of the U.S. population. The U.S. census bureau estimates 330 people per hour turned 60 in 2006, a total of 7918 each day. Multiply that by 365 days, that’s 2,900,000 of us who turned 60 last year! WOW! Can you see the tremendous opportunity for our industry in these statistics?

Analysts are continually asked how the boomers will affect the future economy. Well folks, in 2006 the baby boomers were the economy. We represented the vast majority of the work force. There are 76 million of us, and we ARE the economy. (That is not bragging; that is just a statistical reality.) The huge growth in the economy in the 90s was due in no small part to 76 million of us working up to our peak earning and spending years. And that growth continues.

So what are we spending our money on?
That is a loaded question, as there is an 18 year span.
1. Many of the younger boomers still have young children at home; many are still climbing their career ladders; many are buying big homes, and many are saving for the kids’ college and for their own retirement.

2. Those of us entering our mature years are now downsizing our homes, are loving being grandparents, and many are either thinking about retirement in the next few years or are taking early outs to enjoy some of the things they’ve not had time or money for in the past, such as travel.

THUS: The travel industry is in a position to experience record growth in leisure travel for many years to come. So if you’ll indulge me I’d like to give you ten trends to watch in 2007 and beyond. Let me first give credit to ASTA, The Travel Industry Association, Yeswich, Pepperdine & Brown, whose research assisted me in compiling my top ten travel trends:

1. Family travel will continue to grow at a faster rate than all other forms of leisure travel as parents and grandparents look at travel as a way to reunite families in a world that is dominated by the demands of work. Grandparents’ traveling with grandchildren is one of the fastest growing segments of travel today.

2. The cruise industry will continue to enjoy remarkable growth helped by the arrival of yet more exciting new ships; by the baby boomers who are anxious to be pampered and entertained in a relatively controlled atmosphere; And by the cruise lines who are planning to spend more money on national consumer advertising campaigns geared more to the ship as not just a cruise but the destination.

3. Interest in spa-going will continue to grow as those in the work force seek ways to manage the mounting stress in their lives and fueled by the baby boomers desire for the de-toxing of their body and mind.

4. All inclusive pricing” (one price for a bundle of basic services) will grow in popularity beyond cruise lines and all inclusive resorts as more and more consumers on fixed incomes want to have greater control over their travel expenses.

5. The new lifestyle hotel brands such as NYLO and ALOFT will continue to gain both exposure and popularity among the next generation of travelers (the Millennials), as well as for those baby boomers who wish to look, act and feel like Millennials.

6. Adventure travel will continue to grow, with distinctions between those who really want to experience life on the edge and those older boomers who want to think they are experiencing the edge, but want to do so with moderation and comfort.

7. Religious Travel posted their fourth year in a row of big gains in 2006. From chartered cruises to large number of consumers taking pilgrimages to religious destination, this is an up and coming travel phenomenon, particularly for the older boomers as many return to their houses of worship and religious heritage.

8. The role of the internet will continue to rise as consumers become more comfortable with online travel research and planning, whereas internet usage to actually book reservations will also continue to grow but at a significantly lower rate than we have observed during the past three years.

9. Comparison shopping will become even more commonplace as consumers discover the latest in search engine options, such as kayak.com. And the new dot travel (.travel) Internet domain will also continue to grow in popularity as consumers seek to eliminate the maze of mis-information that clutters many of the the dot coms (.com).

10. And finally, the Travel Agent will not become an endangered species. Because of our travel experience and expertise, we have the personal insights into the best-value deals, whether it be package tours, cruises , hotels, bed-and breakfast accommodations, domestic and foreign airlines, special client needs and oh so much more. All available with just one phone call to a professional travel agent; one perhaps that belongs to north America’s largest seller of leisure travel marketing organization, like Vaction.com.

Yes, travel is a tough and competitive business that relies on repeat customers. Still travel agents sold 87% of cruises, 81% of travel packages, 51% of airline tickets, 47% of hotel bookings and 45% of car rentals in 2004. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects travel agent employment to decline through 2014, the year the back end of the boomers become 50. But don’t fret, there may be fewer of us, thus all the better for those of us who are here today to capitalize on our professional skills and to earn more money doing what we enjoy most, fulfilling dreams.

In closing, 2007 should be another year for the travel record books barring the impact of any catastrophic political, economic, social or terrorist event in the months ahead. And the years to come will be filled with many more Americans reaching retirement as the Baby Boomers continue to reach 60 during the next 18 years. Yes, leisure travel is on track for many more record breaking years. I, for one, am looking forward to the opportunity to providing professional travel services to the millions of traveling baby boomers for many years to come. I hope you are as well.

May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours good health, much happiness and great success in 2007?

Happy Selling.

Thank you.