Here Come the Baby Boomers. Is Your Hotel Ready?

Baby Boomers

There’s been much ado about Millennials (born early 1980s through early 2000s) lately — and for good reason; as the largest generation in the U.S., tech-savvy Millennials have essentially driven the recent evolution of hospitality (think online presence, mobile apps, social media, and personalized experiences). However, in our warranted efforts to please the young’uns, we must be careful not to neglect those without smartphones permanently attached to their thumbs.
Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers represent a quarter of the U.S. population and are now in their travel prime. According to AARP research published late last year, the 50+ age group spends more than $120 billion a year on leisure travel, and, on average, are expected to take four to five trips in 2015.
Baby Boomers represent a very large and very relevant group of travelers that are beginning to explode into 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 years, those approaching retirement and those already enjoying their early retirement days. Many have the money, time and a strong desire to travel — music to a hotelier’s ears.
Baby Boomers grew up in an era that emphasized growth and learning, and it doesn’t stop with retirement. With their working life behind (or almost behind) them and kids now flown the nest, a Boomer’s life has, in a sense, just begun again. The 50+ age group is healthier and more active than ever, and, already experienced travelers, they seek new and genuine experiences for personal growth.
Baby Boomers are technically proficient too. While they’re not tech-dependent like Millennials, Boomers aren’t new to the Internet or social media. They appreciate the convenience of online and mobile services but are just as (if not more) comfortable interacting with businesses face to face or by phone and greatly value personalized attention.
To sum it up, Baby Boomers are independent, experienced, and looking for some fun. Now in their travel prime, they’re packing their bags and have money to spend. Sounds like the perfect guest!
Targeting Baby Boomers
Much of what you are doing already 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 generations, so it’s important to find a balance that works for your property. For example, both Millennials and Baby Boomers value personalized and attentive service, but while Millennials like to control their stay through technology like self-check-in and other mobile apps, supplemented by human hospitality, Baby Boomers prefer it the other way around. Even with the best self-service mobile apps, well-trained, customer-focused human staff are essential.
When targeting Baby Boomers, here are some tips to keep in mind…
Active Relaxation >> 50+ year-olds are more active than ever. When Baby Boomers travel they like to get out and about and truly experience a location. As the AARP research revealed, the top travel motivators for Baby Boomers are to get away from normal, everyday life (57 percent), to spend time with family and friends (55 percent), and to relax and rejuvenate (54 percent).
Packages incorporating activities that allow travelers to genuinely experience a destination appeal to all generations. When designing packages for Baby Boomers, think activities like wine tasting tours, golf, spa treatments, yoga classes, wildlife photography and cooking classes — experiences that provide opportunities for active relaxation and family time. It’s generally not worth marketing ski packages to Baby Boomers because, according to the AARP survey, they don’t like winter travel, so when it comes to the slopes, stick to the Gen X-ers and Millennials.
In marketing activities or packages to Baby Boomers, never refer to or represent them as “seniors.” Appeal to their forever young attitude… after all, 50 is the new 40. Choice is important too; growing up with the independent mentality of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Baby Boomers like to customize their experiences to meet their needs.
Modern, User-Friendly Technology >> Unlike Millennials, Baby Boomers are not connected to technology 24/7, but technology is still important to them. For example, according to the AARP study, 85 percent of traveling Baby Boomers use the Internet to plan their trips. Baby Boomers view technology as a convenience rather than a necessity — and in hospitality, convenience ranks high. It’s important to provide the option of convenient guest-facing technology like mobile-optimized online bookings and self-service apps, and it’s also crucial to ensure that technology is user-friendly.
The AARP study also revealed that almost half of working Baby Boomers feel the need to stay connected to work while vacationing, and a third anticipate bringing some work with them, so, together with Millennials, Baby Boomers back the argument that properties must provide reliable Internet access for guests — preferably free and wireless.
The Human Touch >> While Baby Boomers appreciate modern technology, face-to-face human interaction is more important to them. Baby Boomers do book travel online, but they are also happy to pick up the phone and call. Your front desk staff must be personable and knowledgeable and available to answer the phone.
During their stay, Baby Boomers find mobile apps convenient and novel and get a kick out of ordering room service or controlling the TV with just a few taps on their smartphone. But, overall, they desire more of a human connection than Millennials do. Upon check-in, for example, Baby Boomers are more likely to go for the smiling front desk agent rather than the self-check-in kiosk. Even better — especially in a busy lobby — is for a guest to be greeted and shown to a comfy chair by a receptionist armed with a tablet PC for a mobile, paperless check-in experience complete with a warm, human welcome.
Earn Their Trust >> Baby Boomers wanna have fun but they are also a little skeptical. They weren’t born yesterday; they have a lot of life experience behind them. Hence, 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 matter to Baby Boomers just as they do to Millennials, with the AARP study showing that 30 percent of Boomers consult travel review websites when choosing a place to stay.
Baby Boomers represent a large, lucrative group of travelers that are now reaching 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 the benefits of the boom!
For further insight into the travel trends of travelers over the age of 50, read the complete AARP report: 2015 Boomer Travel Trends.