Recession reveals Baby Boomer travel limits

When I was back in the corporate strategy world, all the talk was about the Baby Boomers. That generation had the bucks – and the inclination – to do whatever it wanted. And, it was ready to follow through … to the point where consumer product manufacturers and hospitality companies were ready to cater to this large generation’s every whim. Well, the latest research from travel industry-watcher PhoCusWright suggests that the recession beat the Boomers down in 2009.

Nobody thought 2009 would be a great year for the travel industry … according to PhoCusWright (and everyone else). Leisure travel feel 11 percent year over year, which wasn’t exactly shocking. What is interesting is that the Baby Boomers backed off a little earlier than other generations, due largely to the fact that they are on the brink of retirement. Every dollar, of course, needs to be considered against the “rest of life” standard.

The Boomers, described as age 55 to 64, stand in stark contrast to the prior decade, which spent more time on the road in 2009. Young people, on the other hand (age 18 to 24) posted a 15 percent decline in travel. Broke kids with disposable income, it seems, don’t have as much disposable income as they used to … or they can’t sponge off their parents as much when they’re in a bind.

Galley Gossip: Will the volcanic eruption trigger a baby boom?

During 9/11 I was stuck in Zurich, Switzerland for over a week. Sure there are much worse places to be, but I spent ninety percent of that time sitting around the airport waiting to get back to the United States. Every single day I checked out the hotel, dragged my bags a few blocks in the dark to the train station, and waited at the airport just like thousands of other stranded passengers. I was number 800-and-something on the standby list and all the flights departing to the US – two of them a day – were full. Some passengers became impatient and decided to rent a car and drive to airports in neighboring countries in the hope of getting out sooner. A few days later they were back. The rest of us just sat around waiting for our names to be called. It didn’t take long for strangers from all over the world to become friends.

Now with a volcanic ash cloud over Iceland shutting down European air space, thousands of passengers are stranded at airports around the world. With so many passengers spending time together, I can’t help but wonder if any love connections have formed over the last few days. What can I say, I’m romantic like that. Put a group of people together, throw in a natural disaster, and relationships are bound to form. And with all that time just hanging around airport hotels with nothing to do but, well, ya know, babies are bound to be born nine months later. Don’t ya think?

Remember the 2003 New York City blackout? I wanted to know if it resulted in a rise in births. So I did a little research and found out that the baby boom theory after a disruptive event is an urban legend. Isolated events like blackouts, and I’m going to assume erupting volcanos, do not cause babies to be born. It’s a misconception that people use their downtime to, well, ya know, get busy. Apparently that is the last thing on their mind. Don’t know why. I guess they’re just a little too busy waiting to board a flight that isn’t going to leave for days than to get jiggy with it. So what does cause a baby boom? According to Judith Nolte of “American Baby” magazine in an article written in 2003, the only thing that will create a baby boom is a surging number of women who are fertile. Like we didn’t know that.

I don’t care what the scientists and baby experts say, I predict there will be quite a few babies born as a direct result of Eyafjallajokul erupting. So what do you say we help name all those little volcano babies? After I sent out a tweet asking for a few suggestions, the names came pouring in. Valen, one of the more interesting ones, came from Infobitsystems. It’s a variant of Valentinus; the name of more than fifty saints and three Roman emperors. Now that’s a powerful name! NavyAirCrewman came up with Pele for a girl (Hawaiian volcano goddess) and Hephaistos for a boy (Greek god of fire). Now it’s up to you to decide.



Photo courtesy of OMI

Spending boom(ers) in Australia

For the past six years, people over age 55 spend more than anyone else on travel, according to Tourism Australia. For the first nine months of 2008, they accounted for 20 percent of all cash dropped on domestic travel. Once open wallets are starting to close, but the empty nesters are still taking advantage of their freedom.

And, they’re getting picky.

Members of the “baby boomer” generation – born between 1946 and 1964 – have high expectations, particularly when it comes to hotels. They want exactly what they want … and insist on being treated like they’re still in their 30s (who could blame them?).

So, when you see the aged tourist making a scene at the front desk, don’t bother shooting dirty looks or muttering under your breath. Either he won’t hear you or just won’t care.