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.

PhoCusWright: Travel biz to drop 11% in 2009

Everything that came after 2006 sucked, right?

If you feel this way, you’ll love the latest study from travel research firm PhoCusWright, which estimates that the travel industry will fall back to pre-2006 levels this year. The U.S. travel market is forecasted to decline by 11 percent by the time the ball drops, reflecting a change in consumer demand levels. Frankly, people who are out of work aren’t likely to demand a hell of a lot of travel services.

For those of us sick of hearing how the Baby Boomers will change the world, the study has a nice, bright silver lining. Generation Y (the one that comes after Generation X, for those of you wondering) are opening their wallets – unlike the boomers.

People in the 25 to 34 age bracket are spending the most per household on travel, and if you’re 18 to 34, you’re more likely to plan a bit more travel this year. The Boomers (45 to 64), who pride themselves on being the wealthiest generation alive, are spending the least per household on travel. And, they’re the group most likely to make more cuts.

Generation X doesn’t care. It never cared. It’s just mad that Kurt Cobain is dead.

Unfortunately, the Gen Y surge and Boomer cut doesn’t bode well for the travel industry. The people making the least are increasing their spend, but the deep-pocketed Boomers’ cuts will more likely be felt by a struggling travel and tourism industry.

By the way, props to PhoCusWright for putting some meat in this press release.

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.

When it comes to fonts on travel websites for boomers, size does matter

A former travel agency owner and public relations consultant Liza Dahl had the right idea when she started Boomerotopia, a travel website catering exclusively to baby boomers. The hook? The fonts are large enough to read. Ouch! I think I just heard Michael Douglas and Richard Gere shudder in disbelief.

Baby boomers, or those over 50, apparently control 75% of the nation’s wealth and the majority of all travel booked. There are approximately 88 million “boomers” and 44 million are online. It only makes sense to address the needs and desires of the mature traveler demographic. Boomerotopia covers anything from fishing trips, anniversary getaways to scuba diving.

Remember, 50 is the new 40! (Except when it comes to font sizes. There, I would argue that 14 is the new 12.)