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.

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.