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Here Come the Baby Boomers. Is Your Hotel Ready?

A group of baby boomers at the beach

There’s been much ado about Millennials (born early 1981 through 1996)—and for good reason. As the largest generation in the U.S., tech-savvy Millennials have driven the evolution of hospitality (think online presence, mobile apps, social media, and personalized experiences). However, in our warranted efforts to please the young people, we must be careful not to neglect those without smartphones permanently attached to their thumbs.

Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers represent a fifth of the U.S. population and are in their travel prime. People over 50 in the U.S. plan to spend an average of over $8,369 on travel in 2022 compared to $5,000 for people under 50. The over 70 crowd really plans to up the ante with some ready to spend over $11,500. 

Baby Boomers represent a very large and very relevant group of travelers exploring hotels across the globe. Let’s get to know them a little better…

Baby Boom—Who?

Spanning 18 years, the Baby Boomer generation consists of those at their peak earning period, those approaching retirement, and those already enjoying their retirement days

They grew up in an era that emphasized growth and learning, and it doesn’t stop with retirement. With their work behind (or almost behind) them and their kids flown from the nest, a Boomer’s life has, in a sense, begun again. The 50+ age group is healthier and more active than ever, and they’re already experienced travelers. They seek new and genuine encounters for personal growth.

They’re packing their bags and have money to spend. Sounds like the perfect guest!

The Balance

Much of what you are doing to target Millennials will also appeal to Baby Boomers—like quality website content, online bookings, free Wi-Fi and an emphasis on the stay experience. However, a central focus on Millennials may also alienate older guests, so it’s important to find a balance that works for your property. 

Look at family packages that appeal to all generations. Even in late 2020, 57% of USA boomers said they intended to travel to see family and friends. 

Bucket List Trips

With travel opening up, many of us look to cross a few things off our bucket lists while we can. That includes Boomers. Bucket list trips are the main incentive to travel internationally for 23% of USA Boomers, and Boomers account for 80% of luxury travel spending. 

Top international destinations include Aruba, Barcelona, London, and Paris. Who wouldn’t want to take a whirl on the London Eye or stroll through the Musee d’Orsay?

Activities

Boomers enjoy “active relaxation” activities like hiking, golf, massage, and wine tastings, so spruce up your spa and promote any nice trails around your property. 

They also want to genuinely experience their destination, so send them where the locals go. They aren’t only looking for the perfect Instagram glamor shot. In fact, as of 2020, only a third of people over 56 in the USA even used Instagram at all. 

Modern, User-friendly Technology

Unlike Millennials, Baby Boomers are not connected to technology 24/7, but technology is still important to them. Eighty-four percent of Boomers use online services to book their travel, so don’t neglect your OTAs (online travel agencies), your website, or your online booking engine. Having a mobile-friendly site matters as well. (Our hotel website designers are experts at creating sites that can be used on any device.)

Baby Boomers view technology as a convenience rather than a necessity, and in hospitality, convenience ranks high. Sixty percent said the quality of a travel brand’s digital experience was important to their purchasing decision, and that was pre-pandemic in 2019.

It’s important to provide the option of convenient guest-facing technology like mobile-optimized online bookings and self-check-in, and it’s crucial to ensure that technology is user-friendly for everyone. 

You don’t want your boomer guests bonding with their grandkids over how hard your app is to figure out. You want them bonding over your fresh-baked cinnamon rolls that come with breakfast. 

Earn Their Trust  

Baby Boomers wanna have fun, but they’re also a little skeptical. They weren’t born yesterday, so don’t treat them like it. 

You have to earn a Boomer’s trust to gain their business. In your marketing efforts, don’t make promises you can’t keep. In addition to quality content that portrays the experience of staying at your property, make sure your website offers complete information and is easy to navigate, showing that you have nothing to hide. Baby Boomers won’t soon forget if their expectations aren’t met.

Including positive testimonials on your website is a great way to build credibility, and it pays to encourage guests to leave reviews on TripAdvisor too. Reviews are valuable user-generated content; consumers of all generations are 2.4 times as likely to believe user-generated content is more authentic than brand content. 

Make sure your staff are polite, respectful, and uncondescending. In-person connection is important to Boomers, and it can ensure you get good word of mouth. 

Covid-19

Seniors are the ones most likely to end up in the hospital with Covid-19, so show them you take it seriously. Offer contactless check-in and let them know the precautions you are taking to keep them safe, including sanitization procedures. Use your property management system’s housekeeping reports and housekeeping checklists to ensure no room or spot is ever missed. 

Boomers are cautious about their budgets as well—offering flexible cancellations goes a long way towards giving them the confidence to book a stay at your hotel. 

Offer Deals

Ninety-five percent of Boomers like to know that they’re receiving the best bang for their buck before booking a trip. They want to make sure they get what they pay for at a fair price. But even if they spend a little less on lodging, there are still ways to make it a win-win for your hotel. 

With the kids out of the house and in retirement mode, Boomers have more flexibility in their dates. This means that they can travel during the off-season when it makes sense for hotels to reduce their rates and offer special packages. 

Seventy-six percent of Boomers also belong to a hotel loyalty program. Give them discounts and membership points in exchange for business you can rely on year after year. 

Value adds like a bottle of wine or chocolates delivered to the room are also a good idea. Just because Boomers want a fair price doesn’t mean they’re cheap. They have money to spend, and they’re ready to treat themselves. You can tie these value adds to your unique selling proposition. What about swapping that wine for whatever the local delicacy is? (In Napa, that’s still wine.) 

 

Baby Boomers represent a large, lucrative group of guests in their peak travel age. They’re keen to try new things (and new places to stay), so make sure you focus sufficient marketing efforts on them and reap a boom in bookings!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published May 2015 and updated June 2022.