The Influence of Baby Boomers on Travel and Hospitality

As the baby boomer generation begins to retire and pursue travel or other luxuries, their impact on the travel industry should provide a steady stream of income for the next few decades.

As millions of Americans born between 1945 and 1960 retire — more than one in every four Americans — they will become the largest purchasing demographic for hotels, lodging, restaurants, transportation, and entertainment.

For the 2012 year, four out of every five leisure travelers were those between the ages of 50 and 70.  How are they affecting the hospitality industry?

Cruise Ship Destinations

Two decades ago, you could only go on a cruise ship to the Caribbean or to the Mediterranean.  Today, the options for a cruise ship are immense — any continent in the world offers some type of cruise for its customers, as a forty-billion dollar industry looks to capitalize on the boomer generation.

Retirees have proven more interested in going on cruises than any other age demographic because the pace is slow, there are no set events, and it allows a person to see new sights without having to plan for hotels and transportation.

Today, you can go on cruises to everything from Alaska to Antarctica, on one of three hundred different cruise ships, including ships that hold over six thousand people. Although social media has allowed cruise lines to appeal to the younger market, the appeal of baby boomers is still prominent.

Budget Airlines

Air travel is as popular as it has ever been in the United States, but the trend in the recent past has been to trend down in size and scale instead of up.  This change matches what many boomers claim is an exercise in affordability: more claim that they would rather save money on travel in order to have more to spend at their destination.

Airlines like Southwest and Spirit have accommodated these desires by offering zero-frills air travel.  Southwest has no designated seating, instead giving passengers a free-for-all check-in process, while Spirit has rock-bottom prices and charges for carry-on bags.

Southwest in particular has succeeded with the simplistic formula, having launched flights around the country by running flights through Chicago’s Midway airport, which had previously been little-used by other airlines.

As-Seen-In Travel

For many Americans, the only vision of other parts of the world come in television or film.  As more and more retirees begin to travel abroad without knowing more than they have seen in the media, travel companies have begun to capitalize upon the Hollywoodization of their destination.

Visitors to Paris, for instance, can take the “Da Vinci Code Tour” based on the events of the book and film; those who land in Moscow can take tours based on spy movies.

By appealing to what these visitors do know, even if it is far from accurate, foreign travel companies gather a large audience eager to learn more about representations of another country.

Risk And Reward

Few companies know their customers better than travel agencies.  Those that have polled baby boomers report that only about half report any interest in taking risks during their travel.

This division of customer interest poses a question for a travel business: how do you market a vacation as high-risk and low-risk simultaneously to get the most customers?  The answer, it seems, is in providing a guide who can mitigate the risk or letting an individual try it out themselves.

Travel agencies market specialist travel, where a group or a couple can visit a foreign country on a special program entirely under the guide of a native, or, by contrast, on their own.  The presence of a native guide makes risk-averse boomers more amenable to travel; the option to take it away appeals to those who would rather forge their own path.

This post was contributed by Andrew Deen. Andrew is a writer who creates informative articles related to business. Here, he described the effects of aging on the hospitality industry to encourage continued study in gerontology at the University of Southern California.

Social Media at Sea

Cruise lines have been able to tap into social media in unique ways. In addition to active presences on Twitter and Facebook, they’re also bringing people together by hosting events tailored to the social-savvy crowd.

Like traditional (land) tweetups (networking events providing the opportunity for those who’ve met online to meet in real life), October’s #SEATweetup is fast approaching and offers average joes the opportunity to network with some of the finest social media marketers.

Sea Tweetup

One of the event’s sponsors is CruiseDeals. CruiseDeals has been setting a steller example of branding on social media, and because of their pro-activity, they’ve been able to acquire strategic partnerships; help raise money for charities; and be featured in various legitimate publications.

The cruise line was the first travel agency active on Twitter in 2008. Despite Twitter being a new platform, CruiseDeals hosted a Twitter-based giveaway, providing a cruise to a lucky Twitter fan.

The early adapters also co-hosted the first social media conference at sea – Social Fresh Cruise with Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Jason Keath, and 50 other social media speakers and bloggers.

In 2009, Social Fresh Cruise (#SoCruise) sailed again with Ted Murphy, Kate Buck Jr., and 60 other social media influencers.

In 2010, they planned and promoted the Cruise4Haiti on Twitter to raise money and transport donations to Haiti, in partnership @Kidtravel and @CruiseBuzz.

Due to their pro-active and philanthropic presence, @CruiseDeals was invited to be part of the Twitter beta program for promoted tweets.

In 2011, they teamed up Green Mountain Coffee and VaynerMedia to launch their brew-over-ice product by giving away an Alaska Cruise promoted on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to this sweepstakes, their Facebook fan count increased by 50,000 (yes, fifty thousand!)

They also joined forces with Norwegian Cruise Line and members of the South Florida social media community to host the first #SeaTweetup.

SeaTweetupThe company has thoroughly embraced the social media community by attending and promoting social media conferences, events, and Tweetups, and also acquired a sizable audience that is kept engaged with cruise giveaways and the best cruise deal alerts on the internet.

They also have a blog,, which is used to share cruise news, deals, and advice. The @CruiseSource Twitter account won the 2008 Shorty award for best Travel content on Twitter.

Thanks to their Cruise Price analysis on CruiseSource and deal alerts on Twitter, @CruiseDeals was recommended by Money Magazine, NY Times, and Travel & Leisure.

And, thanks to social media and blogging, has been been featured in many major publications like Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, along with the ones mentioned above.

Having been passionate about social media since 2008, CruiseDeals has been an integrated part of the community of social media evangelists. Their audience is engaged with original high-quality content that displays their expertise by alerting clients the best cruise deals, which also helped gain a lot of earned media. They participate in social good projects whenever possible. Meeting other social media marketers face-to-face and teaming up on cool projects, along with the willingness to experiment, has been keys to their success.

Visit the site for the current cruise giveaway: 

Social Media Allows The Cruise Industry To Capture A Younger Market

Before the days of social media, cruise lines relied heavily on TV, radio and print advertising to help fill their cabins. Nowadays, they are also turning to social media to reach potential consumers.Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are just a few of the sites that the cruise industry utilizes in media campaigns, but the list is evolving as the social media market changes and grows. Social media affords businesses the opportunity to connect directly with consumers and creates a level of involvement that engages them on a personal level.

Through social media, cruise lines are able to reach a segment of the population that has definite financial potential. Consider that about 18 percent of Americans have taken a cruise, and of that percentage, over half of them are 45 years of age or older. Conversely, over 65 percent of those who participate in social media sites are under 45 years of age.

Although a number of factors contribute to why the majority of cruise passengers are older than 45 years, it is evident that “traditional” marketing methods are not as effective with a younger demographic as they could be. Only time will tell if social media will largely affect the age range of passengers, but these figures show that at least social sites are distributing information to a more youthful audience.

There are a numerous social media sites on the Internet, but a few stand out as the best way to reach potential consumers. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest each offer ways for cruise lines to directly engage users. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have methods to create “updates.” These updates are most effective when they are not merely a running dialogue of specials or available bookings.

They should also include tidbits about great locations and things to actively involve consumers like contests or polls. While Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have ways to add pictures and videos, YouTube and Pinterest attract users based on the visual alone. A video of passengers enjoying on-board entertainment posted to YouTube or beautiful vistas posted to Pinterest can be viewed and shared or even linked back to most social media sites.

Utilizing social media is about more than just generating interest in booking a Fred Olsen cruise. It can encompass the opportunity to provide customer service, post travel advice and more. A study commissioned by Cruise Lines International Association and Amadeus North America helped to determine how various cruise specialists are using social media. The study found that social media was being utilized to:

• engage with customers
• post offers or discounts
• promote new products and/or services
• provide travel advice
• allow customers to share experiences
• provide customer service

Mobile media is a rapidly expanding area of the social media phenomenon. Most social media sites have applications that are available on the iPhone and Android markets. Through these applications, it is literally possible to reach consumers at all hours of the day with updates that stream directly to their phones and other electronic devices. In addition, many cruise lines have their own applications that bypass social media applications and link directly to the consumer.

The cruise industry has an edge in the social media forum because it is so customer oriented. Not only is social marketing done by the cruise line, it is done by the people who are on a cruise as they update their own Facebook pages, add Tweets and pin to Pinterest.

Stephanie Leavitt of Carnival Cruise Lines summed it up best when she stated, “Our biggest lesson learned is that social media changes at a pace that I think marketers are not really used to. It’s incredible. The Facebook platform changes, the policy changes, the way people use it changes all the time. We’re just trying to keep up with that and make sure that whatever we’re developing is easily adaptable.”

This statement applies to any social media site, not just Facebook. The cruise industry has an incredible opportunity to interact directly with the consumer and market in a way that is very focused and user-driven, but adaptability will be the key as the cruise industry rides the social media wave to financial success.

This post was contributed by Eve Pearce. Eve writes social media and marketing articles ranging from content marketing, social outreach and SEO marketing to more traditional e-mail and pay per click ads. The right balance needs to be struck for every campaign, but now more than ever social is where the biggest opportunity lies.


Victoria Clipper Ferry Service Gets Social

Last year, I took my first trip to Victoria BC from Seattle via the Victoria Clipper Ferry Service. Overall, it was a totally pleasurable experience and is an efficient way to travel from the northern coast of the US into Canada. The couple-hour trip was very relaxing and comfortable, and very spacious compared to most plane trips.

I’ve remained on the Victoria Clipper mailing list and was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from them this week that read “Let’s Be Social” in the subjectline.

The entire intention of the message was to convey their social media presence.

They point out that, on their Facebook page, they’ll be giving away prizes throughout the year as well as recently offering fans 10% off their sales prices.

On Twitter, followers can “get the latest local travel deals and event updates plus ‘tweeples’ can win tickets to local attractions and Clipper vacations.”

This is a prime example of a transportation provider reaching out to their audience and making consumers and potential consumers aware of ways to stay-to-date on news and special offers.

Would you be more inclined to pursue water transportation similar to this based on proactive social outreach?