Health, experiences key components of boomer vacations
Health, experiences key components of boomer vacations
19 JANUARY 2018 9:29 AM

Executives from a few hotel companies have found that travelers in the baby boomer generation take trips where they can stay active and are becoming more engaged via mobile devices. 

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Long gone are the days of relaxing on the beach—experts from MGM Resorts International, Wyndham Hotel Group and Xanterra Parks & Resorts have found guests from the baby-boomer generation are taking trips that focus on health and wellness.

Like millennials and other traveler segments, baby boomers are looking for memorable experiences, sources said.

Michael Dominguez, chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, said trips for baby-boomer travelers have become “pedestrian in nature,” and go “beyond the four walls of the (hotel) they may be staying at,” which he sees as an important shift. 

“You can take (Las Vegas) as an example,” he said. “The old adage in Las Vegas was you didn’t have windows, you didn’t have clocks, don’t let them leave the casino.”

MGM built and opened the first urban park in Las Vegas, Dominguez said, and the idea is to encourage people to go outdoors and experience activities outside of the hotel or casino.

“That’s the boomer audience that’s taking advantage of that, especially as we become a sports destination, we’re seeing a much larger group of boomers really be involved in that, but more than anything, we’re seeing them become very pedestrian in their experience,” he said.

For Wyndham Hotel Group, there’s a sizeable number of baby boomers who stay at Days Inn and Super 8 properties, according to Lisa Borromeo Checchio, SVP of global brands. 

Checchio referenced Visa research that shows “boomers are focused on maintaining vitality and resonate with a lifestyle mindset,” she said.

“Enthusiasm for travel can be a major part of that—but brands must create engaging experiences to develop meaningful connections with travelers, across all generations,” she said. “We’re driving brand experiences across each of our 20 brands that elevate the expected.”

Multigenerational travel
A healthy and active trip is one motivation for boomer guests at Xanterra properties, but multigenerational trips are also a big driver among the generation, according to Betsy O’Rourke, VP of sales and marketing.

Multigenerational trips to the parks have grown from one out of every six trips being multigenerational to one out of every three trips being multigenerational in the last 10 years, O’Rourke said, and motivations for these trips include celebrations and bucket-list trips.

“You put all of those things together and what you have is a real huge growth in multigen travel that often combines two or more of those reasons,” she said. “It might be that the kids really want to go to the Grand Canyon, so the grandparents and the parents arrange (that moment). Or it could be driven by the parents who just need a break and having the grandparents on the trip gives them a break because the grandparents get the joy of being with their kids and their grandchildren, the parents actually get a break because the grandparents tend to be front and center with the grandkids.”

O’Rourke added that baby boomers are Xanterra’s largest customer segment.

Mobile devices
Enjoying unique experiences is one desire boomers share with other generations of travelers, but the tendency to use mobile devices as a part of the experience is another trend sources see among the boomers and other generations.

“We have found some of the behaviors in travel are cross-generational, i.e., much of the experience or learning of the destination are being driven by mobile devices,” Dominguez said. “(This is) very much a dramatic shift, and again, cross-generational, and what we’ve seen with this boomer audience as we have with other generations, it’s very much reverted back to that experience economy.”

Checchio said texting is another cross-generational trend.

“Take mobile devices—specifically, texting,” she said. “Boomers are increasingly engaged with their smartphones. A recent report from market intelligence firm Civic Science showed that the number of boomers communicating by text has more than doubled since 2014 and continues to increase every year, while other means of communication like email and phone calls are on the decline.”

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