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The Key to Connecting With Baby Boomer Travelers

Travel brands can build trust with the baby boomer generation through their kids and grandkids
June 11, 2024 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Nearly 4 in 10 baby boomers said they plan to take a leisure trip within the next three months, representing a huge opportunity for brands to engage.

  • Baby boomers are very trusting when it comes to longstanding travel brands, but less than half say they trust rideshare providers (45%) and vacation rental companies (46%).

  • Still there’s opportunity for newer travel brands to build trust through their kids or grandkids given spending time with loved ones is a key travel motivator for baby boomers.

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The 2006 film The Bucket List, which popularized the term so synonymous with the travel industry these days, was the story of two men seeking to do all the things they wanted to in life before it was too late. And despite the fact that both Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson are members of the Silent Generation, the narrative is one that resonates with baby boomers. It’s not anything new necessarily — boomers had The Endless Summer and Easy Rider in the 1960s as inspiration — but in their golden years, they’re making the most of their freedom and planning trips everywhere from Cancun to Cairo. So while the travel industry rightly focuses on catering to millennials and Gen Zers, they shouldn’t ignore the bucket-listing boomers.

Baby boomers are more trusting of traditional travel brands

When it comes to baby boomers, one thing the travel industry has going in its favor is history. This generation has been going on trips for decades, so the level of trust they have in the sector outpaces that of younger generations — that is, for the most part. Baby boomers have high levels of trust in the heritage sub industries within travel: hotels and loyalty programs, airports, airlines and rental car companies. In other words, the brands they’ve been interacting with for years. 

High trust in travel brands is common for baby boomers

Shares who say they trust the following “a lot” or “some”
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Survey conducted April 1-3 2024, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

But sub categories that are newer to the landscape have some work to do to build rapport with baby boomers, who are less familiar with the brands’ products or services. Rideshare companies in particular are trusted by less than half of the generation, and vacation rentals don’t fare much better. The ironic thing is that these companies can serve the life stage and travel needs of baby boomers very well  — vacation rentals offer space for larger family trips and rideshares can be convenient for those who would prefer a chauffeur in unknown locales. But when push comes to shove, baby boomers tend to lean towards the familiar.

A potential inroad for vacation rentals in particular is through travel advisors. Baby boomers highly trust and frequently leverage advisors for their travel planning, using them to help plan, research and book trips that feel overwhelming or challenging to do on one’s own. Building a rapport with travel advisors and becoming a trusted recommendation can lead to bookings and eventually a foundation of trust in these brands as well.

Brands can establish connections through baby boomers’ families

Another potential way for brands to build trust with baby boomers is through their family. Members of all generations prioritize connection with loved ones while traveling, but this motivator is more potent with baby boomers than any of their younger counterparts. About  two-thirds of this generation say they’ll travel in the next year to spend time with friends and family, at least 12 percentage points higher than any other generation. 

That’s not to say they’re not seeking other benefits from travel: nearly 1 in 5 say they are looking for adventure, and almost as many say they’re traveling for mental health or cultural experiences. But marketers can’t ignore the primary driver, especially as it presents new travel occasions. For example, multigenerational travel has risen in popularity, with baby boomer grandparents traveling alongside their millennial kids and Gen Alpha grandkids. But there’s also skip-generational travel – grandparents taking their grandchildren on a trip, leaving out the middle generation. 

Spending time with loved ones tops the list of baby boomer travel motivators

Shares who said the following were a reason for upcoming leisure travel
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Survey conducted April 1-3 2024, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Traveling alongside members of younger generations can expose baby boomers to brands within newer-to-the-industry subcategories. Perhaps their millennial child hails an UberXL to transport the family from the airport, or their Gen Z grandkid suggests an Airbnb so everyone has their own space on the family reunion trip. The younger generations engage with and trust these brands and multigenerational or skip-gen trips are the perfect opportunity to introduce baby boomers to their services.  

Why baby boomers should matter to travel brands

It may be easy to write off baby boomers and focus on Gen Zers and millennials, who comprise the lion’s share of leisure travel bookings. But brands who do so are missing a big opportunity. More than three quarters of baby boomers said they plan to travel for leisure within the coming year, a number that is up 10 percentage points from October 2021 when Morning Consult tracking began. 

Most baby boomers are travelers

Baby boomers said when they will take their next leisure trip
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Surveys conducted Oct. 22, 2021, to April 3, 2024, among samples of at least 582 U.S. adults each, with unweighted margins of error of up to +/-4 percentage points.

And when they travel, they spend more than millennials and Gen Zers — perhaps surprising given that many are on a fixed income. But it’s a sign that the generation’s engagement in travel won’t subside, and may in fact grow as more baby boomers retire. In short, the time is now for brands in all areas of the industry to engage with this travel-happy generation.

Lindsey Roeschke is a travel & hospitality analyst. Lindsey’s work focuses on behavior and expectations in travel (among other categories), particularly through a generational and cultural lens. In addition to her research and advisory background, Lindsey has more than a decade of experience in the advertising world.
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