Big font. Easy-to-print pages. Luxury hotels that can be sorted by amenities like cooking lessons and connecting suites. If you find yourself enjoying the carefully planned features on Preferredfamily.com, you have the baby boomer generation to thank.
From new hotel Web sites to shorter cruises to smaller tours, the travel industry is redoubling its efforts this year to win the hearts and wallets of people between the ages of 49 and 67.
It's a generation that, given its size (about 26 percent of the population) and its collective wealth (it controls the lion's share of the country's disposable income), has been shaping the nation's travel choices for decades. Your lost summer backpacking through Europe? Thank the boomers who in the 1960s and '70s made shoestring student trips to Europe de rigueur. Your naughty romp at Club Med? It was the boomers who propelled the singles resort scene to its apotheosis in the 1970s. Your posh room at the Copacabana Palace in the 1990s? Fueled by boomers' appetite for luxury hotels.
Yet when the economy tanked in 2008, boomers began snapping their wallets shut and stowing their luggage in their closets instead of airplane bins, helping to send the travel industry into a tailspin. Now, five years later, with the economy showing signs of recovery and the first wave of boomers retiring, many travel companies have declared a New Year's resolution: seduce the boomer. (Again.)
Whether it's a yen for Wi-Fi in the Serengeti or a disdain for bus tours, boomers' latest needs, whims and aspirations are determining 2013's large and small vacation trends. Some are new. Others have been around but will become more prevalent. Having studied the predilections of people born between 1946 and 1964 as if they were a tribe recently discovered by anthropologists, travel companies are rolling out services designed to woo and recapture a generation of travelers.
Boomer or not, here's what all of us will be seeing more of in the months to come, and why.
Bon voyage lengthy cruises and tours. Boomers are the most likely of all age groups to say that they have lost money on investments and that their household finances have worsened since the recession, according to Pew Research. Among boomers ages 50 to 61, 6 in 10 said they might have to postpone retirement. That has tour companies - which for decades have offered lengthy trips for retirees with time on their hands - making sweeping changes.
"Speaking from a boomer who feels like I'm going to be working until I'm 70," said JoAnn Bell, vice president of programming for Road Scholar, a nonprofit organization that leads educational tours around the world, "we're very conscious of the fact that so many more people are still working."
To cater to boomers postponing retirement, Road Scholar has shortened the length of some tours. While the organization has international trips that can be 21 days or longer, "we have more and more programs that are 7 to 10 days," Ms. Bell said. For instance, a traditional program is Road Scholar's "Survey of France: Paris, Provence, the Wine Regions and more" - an 18-night tour. A new program for boomers? The seven-night "Allure of France: Paris and Normandy."
With working boomers in mind, Road Scholar has also changed the days of the week that its tours begin and end. Its domestic programs used to begin on Sunday and conclude on Friday; now it's scheduling programs that begin Thursday or Friday and end on Monday. For international trips, the company originally planned its 10-day programs with midweek flights because they are less expensive than weekend flights - but the schedule was not ideal for most working people. Now trips depart Friday or Thursday night and return on Sunday.
Cruise lines are also adjusting their schedules. Crystal Cruises, known for its cruises of 10 days or longer, has increased the number of shorter itineraries it is offering in 2013, making almost half of its cruises 10 days or less. Last year, only three of Crystal's European cruises were shorter than 10 days. In 2013, 22 of its cruises in Europe are 10 days or less. Its Crystal Getaways, 5- to 11-day itineraries that it set up last year, have been so successful among time-strapped working boomers that this year the company is introducing 26 new segments for Europe.
Exotic Locations, Modern Amenities
Boomers continue to be intrepid explorers, even as many express a desire for creature comforts.
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