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.

Looking to Enhance Your Mental Health and Well-Being? Take a Trip

Published in the Woonsocket Call on October 21, 2018

Just days ago, Washington, DC-based AARP releases survey findings tying health and wellness benefits to just planning and taking a leisure trip. According to the 45-page study, authored by Vicki Gelfeld, those who travel reported better emotional and physical health and improved personal relationships and even increased productivity at work. Additionally, overall well-being is one of the biggest advantages of taking a trip, with the benefits starting during the initial planning and extending beyond the trip. The longest lasting travel benefit reported by the survey respondents is improved relationships with loved ones – lasting six weeks on average.

The AARP Travel Research study, “The Health Outcomes of Travel: Perceptions of Boomers” released Oct. 16, shows 4 in 5 boomers experience at least one health benefit during a trip and 73 percent notice at least one health benefit after coming home. By far, boomers get the greatest boost of health benefits during their trip (56 percent). One in 5 say they experience health benefits before, during, and finally after the trip equally. But, Millennials experience a far bigger benefit from planning a trip (23 percent) than boomers (6 percent).

“When it comes to travel, getting away with your buddies or girlfriends is the lease stressful type of trip as is Spring Break. On the other hand, family reunions, holiday travel, and/or wedding/graduations tend to have the most stress, although predominately still low stress levels,” says the survey’s findings.

“This research shows there are many health and wellness benefits during all stages of travel across generations, and seeing those benefits significantly improves their satisfaction with the trip,” said Alison Bryant, AARP Research Senior Vice President, in a statement. “Any type of travel, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a week-long trip, can be an effective way to renew and recharge and the benefits far outweigh the short-lived drawbacks,” adds Bryant.

According to the AARP Travel Research’s survey findings, 21 percent or the survey respondents say they experience health benefits before, during, and after the trip equally. Of the 73 percent of boomers responding who noticed health benefits post-trip, the most unexpected benefits are better sleep (51 percent), more energy (50 percent) and increased productivity (46 percent).

Additionally, these survey findings also indicated that 72 percent of the boomer respondents credit their travel health benefits simply to relaxation and fun and 67 percent to spending quality time with loved ones. They also indicate that health benefits that most improve during a trip include improved emotional well-being (54 percent), connection with loved ones (52 percent), amount of energy (35 percent), intellectual curiosity (34 percent) and finally, mental clarity (30 percent).

Additionally, planning a trip completely focused on wellness is not done by many and does not differ by generation. The survey findings reveal that a wellness-focused trip is most likely a result of more intergenerational travel happening within the younger group surveyed. When planning and taking a trip, wellness is not thought of as an underlying reason to travel, but as a by-product. However, most are open to just letting the feeling of wellness happen. A significant majority of boomers (96 percent) who planned a wellness activity on their trip, but did not exclusively focus on it, said they were “somewhat or very satisfied.”

As Others See AARP’s Travel Survey Findings …

“This further verifies what we have known for some time,” said AARP Rhode Island Communications Director John Martin. “Not to be glib, but for Rhode Islanders ‘travel’ can also mean crossing a couple of bridges or driving from, say from Coventry to Newport for a night out.”

Martin says, “What I mean to say is that the benefits of travel are not limited to expensive, week-long vacations to distant destinations. Clearly a week in the Caribbean or a trip to relax and enjoy one’s children and grandchildren in San Diego are examples of fulfilling travel. But with so many older Rhode Islanders living on tight retirement budgets, that kind of getaway can be infrequent. When AARP hosts fun events such as a recent vineyard tour and wine tasting in Middletown, the people we see are active and engaged. They arrive full of energy and you just know they are making the effort to regularly leave home and that they understand that being active is a big part of their health and wellbeing.”

Adds Dan Sullivan, Jr., CEO of Pawtucket-based Collette, “We’re excited to see that the AARP Travel survey closely aligns with Collette strategic thinking in terms of the benefits of travel. For years, we’ve really looked at the benefits of pre-travel when the anticipation factor sets in. For boomers, having travel as something to really look forward to it, is invaluable.”

The AARP Travel survey results can be found at: http://www.aarp.org/travelwell.

AARP Travel, (go to http://www.aarp.org/travel/) a valuable resource for Americans age 50 and over, who spend over $125 billion annually in leisure travel, helps travelers stretch their dollar and itineraries while also stretching their minds and possibilities. AARP Travel provides all interested travelers with vacation ideas, tips and inspiration for their next getaway.

For details about Collette “one of a kind” tours and vacations, go to http://www.gocollette.com/en.

Herb Weiss, LRI’12, is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, healthcare, and medical issues. To purchase Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly, a collection of 79 of his weekly commentaries, go to herbweiss.com.

Baby Boomers Already Making Reservations

 Newly-Released AARP survey details travel trends by generation next year — 2016

Published in the Woonsocket Call on December 6, 2015

With the coming New Year, Baby Boomers have already begun to plan next year’s vacations.  A new AARP survey released last month gives a little insight into what America’s Boomers are us a glimpse of this generation’s travel trends (about 76 million strong who spend over $120 billion annually to travel), from destinations, to lodging and trip planning tools used.

“The vast majority of Baby Boomers are planning to drive, fly or set sail on leisure trips in 2016, with an average of 4 or 5 trips already in the works,” said Stephanie Miles, VP, Products & Platforms, AARP. “Boomers make up a large segment of the traveling public, and so it’s particularly important for the travel industry to be aware of what Boomers are looking for in their vacations going into 2016. This new survey finds that their travel desires often differ greatly from younger travelers.”

Key motivators for older travelers to take vacations are to spend time with family and friends (54%), to relax (42%) and to get away from the routines of everyday life (39%), note the researchers.  Millennials are more likely than any other generation to plan a trip to “go on an adventure.”

According to AARP’s Travel survey, released on November 24, a whopping 99 percent of Baby Boomers respondent say they will travel in 2016, about three-quarters have already chosen their destination(s).  About 12 percent who are planning on taking a domestic trip have already booked it in September.

Baby Boomers tend not to use online resources and mobile apps for planning and booking trips to the same degree as their younger generations will, note the survey findings.

For the traveling Boomer, the survey says that the most important items to bring on a trip are meds, comfortable shoes, a camera and sunglasses.  But these older travelers do not forget to bring a good book and emergency phone numbers, too

The survey findings indicate that while Boomers carefully watch their pocket books the cost of the trip is not the “deal breaker,” say the researchers.  More than half of Millennials and Gen Xers say that cost is a barrier to leisure travel, but only 45 percent of Boomers agree with these younger generations. Additionally, more than 6 in 10 Boomers say that higher airfares have had no impact on their personal travel plans.

International traveling “will be especially hot” next year for older travelers. About 32 percent of the survey respondents plan to be traveling overseas in 2016 with 29 percent scheduling these trip in the spring.  Europe attracts the interest followed by the Caribbean and Mexico (each 19 percent) for the older travelers who view these “bucket list” trips or “once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” say the researchers.

But America’s Boomers are also planning to take domestic trips next year on weekends and during the upcoming summer. The survey results indicate that nearly a third of the Boomers will take advantage of hot summer weather to make domestic trips, with 23 percent planning weekend getaways.  Twenty-six percent of the older respondents say they will take domestic multi-generational trips (with three or more generations traveling together) in 2016, but that’s down from 32 percent in 2015.

Boomers, heading off to warm U.S. destinations, will be packing their sun tan lotion, shorts and flip-flops when traveling in 2016.  Florida (19%) and Las Vegas (9%) will be the most popular domestic destinations for these older travelers.  Big cities like New York, Boston and Chicago also catch their attention. While hotels will be booked by a large majority, 30 percent plan to stay with family and friends.

When it comes to hotel lodging amenities, Boomers look forward to free Wi-Fi.  Forty-three percent say that when choosing a hotel, free Wi-Fi is key to their booking a room.  Eighty six percent of older travelers seeking rental homes also want this amenity. While roughly 4 in 10 Boomers stay at hotels or motels when they travel, Airbnb and VRBO are gaining in popularity: 1 in 10 Boomers are planning to use those services to rent a private residence instead of using a hotel on a 2016 trip.

The researchers say that during travel Boomers do not tend to linger in an airport terminal and are the least likely generation to take advantage of onsite airport amenities, expect for restaurants.

As to social media, the survey found that when on vacation about two-thirds of the respondents say they will not post to a social media site. About eight three percent will stay connected to “the outside world” by watching news on TV or online.

Finally, older workers continue to behave differently from those in other countries. Slightly half plan to use all of their vacation time next years. When on trips, one-third plan to bring work with them that ultimately will account for 10 percent of their vacation time.

AARP’s online survey was conducted September 17-28, 2015 among males and females 18 and older who had taken at least one trip 50 miles or more away from home, with a two-night stay, in the past two years.  The survey can be found at aarp.org/2016TravelTrends.