Reprinted from www.younghotelier.com
By Jennifer Rodrigues, TravelInk’d
The Baby Boomers- that generation defined as having been born between 1946 and 1964, the oldest of whom are turning 64 this year- are far and away the most influential consumer segment the country has ever seen. Most hoteliers have long acknowledged this, and have tailored their marketing strategies accordingly. In the 1980s and ‘90s, when Boomers were overwhelmingly career-oriented and comprised a majority of business travelers, hotels devoted resources to developing and polishing their business offerings. Likewise, as Boomers began to start families, leisure-focused properties honed in on this demographic almost exclusively. So the hospitality industry, like just about every other industry in North America, is very familiar with marketing to Baby Boomers in general.
In this article, though, we want to talk about a slightly narrower demographic in a more immediate time span: Boomer women, today. This subset is perhaps a hotel’s best customers, and where much of a hotel’s marketing efforts should go.
Part of this is necessitated by the fact that Boomer women remain a powerful force in the US economy. One out of every 5 adults today in the US is a female over 50 . Women aged 55 to 64 total nearly 10 million workers in this country – women represent about 51% of the entire Baby Boom demographic- and earn on average $711 per week (in 2008, the latest year for which the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has records). Nearly 2 million of these women earned more than $1,000 per week in 2008, and their average weekly earnings have increased by more nearly 50% since the beginning of this century . These figures indicate an active, high-earning population with both significant disposable income for leisure travel and a high propensity for work-related travel. This means that hotels have the potential to be absolutely full of Boomer women.
As a population, Boomer women seem poised to travel. Impending retirement (what retirement?) across the generation hints at an increase in time available for leisure travel; entire industries like the cruise lines have banked on this uptick in disposable time luring Boomers to their particular recreational activities. Before the financial crisis and the recession, the conventional wisdom held that the Me Generation would most likely continue their spendthrift ways well into their golden years, draining inheritances to fill lifelong dreams of world travel, etc. Now, of course, that has shifted a bit, but Boomers- and Boomer women in particular- seem only to be slowing down or postponing their retirement-age recreation, not scrapping it altogether.
This is driven by not only fiscal ability, but also by cultural evolution. The Boomer woman spent most of her life caring for others. Now as she approaches retirement age, she is turning her attention to herself, and often choosing to spend her time with others: her family, her friends, her community. This often involves travel, but not of the sort that once characterized the Boomer woman, i.e., motel trips to Disney World with the kids, or tagalong junkets to a conference center hotel in Detroit with her husband. Today, it may be a 60th birthday city break with several girlfriends, or a mountaintop rendezvous with the extended family. Or, on the other hand, it could be a crucial business development trip for her brand-new entrepreneurial venture.
The Boomer woman is celebrating her freedom by sharing it, and any hotel that doesn’t aim its marketing efforts toward this ripe emotional opportunity is missing out.
The Purse Strings
But will that hotel be aiming toward an empty wallet? It’s true that the Boomer generation, from a travel standpoint, faces a different outlook right now than it did just a few years ago. Boomers, always projected to extend their working years past the retirement age of 65, are now compelled to, thanks to the global recession and a financial crisis that left 401(k)s pretty well decimated. But this is a resilient generation, at least financially. Their net worth as a generation is nearly double the US median- about $183,000- and their average peak income is almost 29% higher than adults aged 29-34 .
This means that Boomers, if they aren’t already, will soon return to a position where travel is a feasible and desirable leisure time option. And this bodes well for hotels and resorts both in the US and the world over.
Clearly, Boomer women are not a consumer segment hotels want to miss out on. While popular culture is making it seem like this generation of women is declining in influence, for the travel and tourism industry the opposite is true. Boomer women have the potential to be not just the customers of today, but the valuable travelers of the next decade as well. Hotels need to change their marketing focus toward these women starting today.
Because the Boomer woman won’t wait. She never has.
Jennifer Rodrigues, Visibility Specialist with ThinkInk and TravelInk’d, is a seasoned public relations professional with a passion for the hospitality industry, which is expressed in her role at ThinkInk’s travel division, TravelInk’d. At TravelInk’d, she is responsible for developing cost-effective and creative public relations and marketing strategies for clients in the travel and tourism, airline, lodging, cruise and meeting/event sectors. For more information on TravelInk’d, please visit www.travelinkd.com or contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.