Much has been written and even more spoken about the “generations,” their impact on travel and how we should sell to each group. Purposely, we’re skipping generations X, Y and Z in this column but will address each of their unique issues in the future. Our purpose today is taking a look at how we can sell our traditional mature traveler and the immediate generation(s) following them.

Dave Bodle

Dave Bodle

A generation the tour & travel industry adores is the Post-War Cohort born between 1928 and1945. Yet it is a declining generation. In 2014 its members will range in age from 69-86. Their desire for security and comfort was the backbone of group travel.

It’s difficult to join generations separated by a 20-year age difference and we’re not going to try. One lived through the Vietnam War, while the other missed it completely. Baby boomers born from 1946-1954, numbering 33 million, had good economic opportunities. They were optimistic about the potential for their lives.

Born between 1955 and 1965, Boomers II number 49 million and live in the long shadow of Boomers I. The earlier boomers had already taken many of the best jobs and houses. The latter generation lived in a time of skepticism. They are now between the ages of 49-59.

The No. 1 mistake any business can make is to ignore these huge markets. Here are facts to remember:

  • Between now and 2030 the market for people 60-plus will grow 81 percent, while 18-59 ages will grow only 7 percent.
  • By 2015, 45 percent of the population will consist of those 50 years and older. Today 30 percent are on the Internet, while a staggering 80 percent of the higher incomes are online.
  • Just about every marketing niche – sex, race, income, religion, education and politics – overlaps in the 50-and-above-age group.Understand that they buy 80 percent of all leisure travel.

The bad news is the economy is having an impact on the seniors of today and tomorrow. Their ability to save for retirement has been affected. More are being forced to continue working. Primary homes are slow to sell and bringing less than the planned value. Moving to the retirement dream is being delayed.

However, understand that seniors are a huge segment now and in the future for leisure group travel. The question being asked, “How do we go about selling them?

Seniors do not like to be called seniors. That goes for terms like “elderly” and “old,” too. They may not be in denial, but they are fundamentally different than previous generations. More of them are coming with a youth culture that began in the 1950s.

Seniors have plenty of experience being sold. They’ve seen and heard plenty of ads. You better be direct. Get to the point, show the nature and value of your trip and present the offer.

Forget about using images of blue-haired ladies and stately grandpas. An approach gaining rapid acceptance is “universal design.” Design that’s useful in any market works for seniors and a wider variety of potential travelers.

If you are not part of a guaranteed departure or trip insurance program, seriously consider the value of them. Establishing credibility with seniors is very important. Seniors tend to be careful with their money, so minimizing the risk is very attractive. And finally, make absolutely certain that outstanding customer service is part of your company’s culture.

For years I’ve been hearing, “The baby boomers will not get on the bus.” As an early boomer, I’m here to tell you: Call me old, put me in a rocking chair, hard sell me and treat me poorly when I call for information, and it’s guaranteed I’ll not get on the bus.

However, offer something that fits my interest, provide trip details (I will read them!) and minimizes the risk of travel, and you’ve definitely a shot of seeing me on the bus!