Sizing Up Baby Boomer Travel Trends

Published in the Woonsocket Call on December 16, 2018

Over a week ago, AARP Travel released the long-awaited results of its annual travel trend survey, examining travel behaviors across generations, looking at expectations and planning among Baby Boomers (ages 54 to 72), Gen Xers (38 to 53), and Millennials (ages 21 to 37).

According to the new national AARP survey, Boomers, considered to be enthusiastic travelers, expressed an eagerness to travel in 2019, planning to take a total of four to five leisure trips, on which they will spend over $6,600 (compared to Gen Xers spending $5,400 and Millennials outlaying $ 4,440.)

Meanwhile, a small number of the AARP survey’s respondents say they will only travel internationally (6 percent) while the rest are equally split between traveling throughout the nation (48 percent) or traveling both domestically and internationally (48 percent).

For Boomers, Planning a Trip is Not a Last Minute Chore

According to the 47-page 2019 Boomer Travel Trends report, released on Dec. 3, 2018, this year’s travel planning is taking place earlier as compared to previous years. A significant majority of Boomers (88 percent) planning domestic trips in 2019 have already selected their destination, an increase from 72 percent of 2018 domestic travelers. For Boomers traveling abroad, 31 percent had booked their 2019 trips by September 2018, up from 23 percent by September of the previous year in 2018 and 17 percent in 2017.

The AARP survey notes that when Boomers travel overseas, Europe continues to be the most popular choice followed by Italy and France. The findings also indicate that trips to the Caribbean and South and Central America remain popular, but interest in Mexico is waning.

For Boomers, domestic travel preferences have not changed in several years; Southern and Western states continue to be popular to most older travelers. Boomers are most likely to plan summer vacations (13 percent), weekend getaways (12 percent), and multi-generational trips (11 percent).

Travel destination preferences remain unchanged from last year, with Florida (17 percent) being the top-mentioned location followed by California (11%), New York (5%), Texas (5%), and Las Vegas (5%).

“According to this research, Boomers travel plans in 2019 are focused on spending time with family and friends, while getting away from everyday life,” said Patty David, Director Consumer Insights, and Personal Fulfillment in a statement. “Whether it’s a weekend road trip or an international vacation, Boomers are eager to travel in 2019 and are planning earlier and spending more than in year’s past.” she says.

The AARP Travel survey results also indicate that when traveling Boomers seek connection with locals for an authentic experience, especially over meals or when taking tours on international trips. Work was not found to be the biggest barrier to travel for older travelers, but cost (40 percent) and health issues/concerns (32 percent) were mentioned most often by the survey respondents.

Boomer respondents also tend to travel to get away from the day to day routines (47 percent) to relax (48 percent), and to spend time with family and friends (57 percent). Twenty four percent of the boomers say they have placed taking an international vacation on their life’s bucket list.

Researchers also took a look at intergeneration travel trends, too. Thirty-two percent of grandparents have taken their grandkids on a skip-generation trip, leaving mom and pop at home, and 15 percent of these older travelers are already planning to do so in 2019. Seventy-seven percent of these Boomers will do most of the trip planning themselves and 76 percent will pay for most of the trip.

Working Boomers do not feel compelled to stay connected to the office while traveling but for those who choose to will limit contact time, says the AARP survey’s finding. A few have even taken the opportunity to extend work trips for pleasure and fun or intend to do so in future trips.

Finally, most of the AARP survey respondents say they travel with a smartphone on domestic trips, but about only half choose to bring them on international trips. The top use for these phones while on vacation is to take photos.

Boomer Travel Trends in the Nation’s Smallest State

Lara Salamano, Chief Marketing Officer of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, sees tourism as an important industry in the state. “It is the fifth-largest industry in R.I. by employment, and in 2017, the total traveler economy reached $6.5 billion,” she says.

“Multigenerational vacations featuring extended stays in vacation rentals or weekend family getaways are very popular here in the Ocean State,” says Salamano, noting that tourists are taking full advantage of the state’s authentic experiences, specifically great food, historic, natural beauty including its beaches, walking and bike trails and cultural attractions. “We also have a great array of soft adventure activities for the whole family. This is a case where our size works to our advantage as families can easily experience a wide range of different activities in a short period of time,” she adds.

Salamano notes that water, sailing, horse-riding on the beach, golf also attracts Boomers, too. Rhode Island is playing host to the U.S.G.A. Senior Open in 2020, she adds.

In addition, Boomers are big shoulder season travelers as they are not tied down by school vacation period. They are free to enjoy midweek and off-peak times of year to avoid higher prices, she says…

While summer remains the state’s most popular tourism season, the state’s Marketing Office has identified shoulder seasons as growth opportunities, says Salamano, noting that “Our most popular trip is domestic travelers living within a three-hour drive.

Salamano sees the Ocean States as quite different from those popular travel destinations chosen by the respondents of this year’s AARP’s Travel Survey. “Those destinations are also much larger, whereas Rhode Island’s small size ensures visitors are spending less time driving in traffic or waiting in lines, and more time actually on vacation. This was the jumping off point for our “Fun Sized” ad campaign which we rolled out last year,” she said. To see Fun Sized videos, go to http://www.visitrhodeisland.com/press/fun-sized-campaign/.

Getting the Bang for Your Marketing Dollars

According to Salamano, Rhode Island’s public relations strategy targeting Millennials involves pitching journalists on Rhode Island’s newest offerings such as new craft breweries and wineries, restaurants, special events, and hotel accommodations. This has led to placements national publications (including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Forbes) as well as more targeted publications such as the Boston Globe, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and TimeOutNewYork.

Digital ads are targeted to both Boomers and Millennials. “We have a robust advertising strategy, including digital ad placements to target audiences on websites that include travel planning sites and news publications. Digital advertising allows us to both target audiences and track our performance very effectively. Our ‘Fun Sized’ videos feature a wide variety of activities that appeal to both Baby Boomers and Millennials. This includes rock climbing, horseback riding and bird watching, to music, performances, restaurants and WaterFire,” says Salamano.

To read the full AARP Travel survey results, go to http://www.aarp.org/2019traveltrends. For more information, contact Vicki Gelfeld at vgelfeld@aarp.org.

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