There have been a number of columns and articles about reaching baby boomers, and as this group of consumers is in their prime travel years, the group travel industry needs to refocus on their best core customers.

First, throw out what you know about organized group travel where every meal, activity and shopping excursion is pre-scripted. Flexibility and options rule the roost here. Give people some organized activity, but a chance to pursue individual interests as well.

You might also like to offer what is called a shell trip. This is a trip wherein you make available the framework or shell the round-trip transportation to the destination, the accommodations, daily breakfast, and perhaps one other item. Then you make available a menu of optional activities that they can take or not as the spirit moves. Or what if that New York theatre trip offers each participant their own choice of plays?

This is similar to a cruise wherein one may opt to purchase shore excursions for the various ports of call and others may not, in accordance with individual interests and budget. Some folks like to be part of an escorted, pre arranged city tour, for example, whereas others prefer to strike out on their own. Since many boomers are well-traveled already, exploring a city on their own does not scare them in the least.

A few caveats. Do not offer trips to boomers that you cannot operate smoothly. Since they like to book late, do not try peak season when suppliers will demand early release of unsold space, precluding later bookings. Do not offer so many options that you can’t keep track and you end up with ten options per day, each with one or two people. And do not price options on minimum numbers you cannot hope to reach.

Bearing in mind that the oldest boomers are pushing 75 and the younger ones 60 this year, your trips need to reflect their needs and wishes both real and perceived. And, if in recent years you have been designing trips for elders, it is time you sit down and think about what would interest and attract travelers in this new age group and mind set.

You will want to design trips that are more active, more in depth, and less regimented. Since some of your market may still be employed, eschewing full retirement until later, you will probably want to forgo the longer trips and offer more one week or 3-4 day long weekend type programs. And, since statistics show that nearly a third of your travelers will have at least a B.A. degree ensure that a number of your offerings have intellectual content in order to hold their interest.

You may wish to confer with your nearest college or university as to how you could put together joint programs that perhaps carry a college instructor as en-route educator or even stay in university dormitory lodgings rather than hotels. On a three-day trip to Ashland, Oregon, I became aware that the University of Southern Oregon required we offer bona fide lectures to our tour members in order to be permitted to stay at their dorms.

A similar suggestion might be attendance at one of nine weekly summer programs at the highly-regarded Chautauqua Institution in western New York state.

Benefits of Hub and Spoke Trips

You may want to wrap trips around one single destination rather than being on the road constantly. In that way, people can settle in, get to know their surroundings, and make day trips to nearby points of interest.

Since boomers tend to stay away from rigid schedules and prefer more freedom, this kind of plan will often have greater acceptance than a get on the bus, stay on the bus all day type of trip.

Another thought would be instead of merely wrapping a trip around a single destination, consider wrapping it around a festival, a sports event, or some cultural theme. Fall theatre in New York? Wine tasting in the Napa Valley? How about spring baseball in Arizona? (Plan to have more men on your trips). Maybe a few days of self-indulgence at a spa enjoying a selection of face and body treatments, yoga, or spiritual renewal.

And, do not forget the attractions of Mother Nature and the Great Outdoors; destinations like Costa Rica with its lush rain forests, misty cloud forests, and spectacular volcanoes and waterfalls can have an appeal that man-made attractions seldom equal.

You will need to stretch your imagination to kinds of trips you never thought, in your wildest dreams, that you would undertake a bring along the grandchildren weekend complete with activities for adults and children a pre holidays shop-‘til-you-drop experience for ladies only a five day art and opera immersion in Santa Fe. Put on your thinking cap and come up with an idea that is right for your audience. Do not overlook hiking and more active types of trips.