Just over 60 years ago Britain saw its first Baby Boomer. Released from the strictures of global warfare and making up for lost time, couples started to do what couples do best!
The effect of this surge in population after almost half a century of constraint (excepting the great post war fumble of 1920-22) has been like a wave crashing across the sandy beaches of population infographics.
So taking one niche in particular, the travel industry, what can we expect to seeas Baby Boomers Travel across the country start to see their children leave home and some pretty big milestones start to come their way!
The first realisation will be that although they have lost their children, those children are not starting families yet, so there is no need to hang around to make themselves available for grandparent duties. Traditionally, the children have moved away from their old neighbourhoods, but will parents start to follow suit? The Expat community continues to thrive on such notions as the nuclear family become ever more globalised, partially driven by an increasing number of British pensioners living abroad (9.2% in 2009*).
In addition to the rip-tide of pensioners leaving these shores, work remains the biggest single reason for the move but, according to the 2012 HSBC expat explorer survey, our baby boomers account for 38% of expats: a much larger slice of the pie than the expats born in other countries of the world.
This may be a temporary result of the recession, or the recession may just be acting as a short term dampener on these figures and we will see even more dramatic changes as the country recovers over the next 10 years.
What the recession has done is reduce the relative risk of the job market abroad over the job market at home, so the generation that has seen the “job for life” consigned to history doesn’t have to be such of a risk taker to want to look further afield.
The variety of destinations also continues to widen often to the detriment of traditional ex-pat hot spots like Spain and Australia. Considering our baby boomer generation, the reasons for this broadening of the horizon is likely to be a combination of:
- a reflection of the preferences of a wider travelled generation returning to favoured holiday spots
- an increase in demand for a more highly regarded British workforce as the reputation of the British person abroad continues to improve around the world – especially in the job markets.
The duel affect of which will be to maintain the popularity of traditional holiday hotspots whilst challenging new destinations to provide facilities for those staying long term (and their short term visitors) in an attempt to make sure that the majority of travel is done to the new domicile rather than away from it.
Baby Boomers however do not have to make such life-changing decisions to still have a major impact on the travel industry.
Coinciding with the departure of their children from the family home is the advent of a series of important anniversaries, from 40 year wedding anniversary to 50 year birthday parties. Some will be celebrated in groups, some as couples.
Those “group” occasions will draw an international attendance from all corners of the globe as the extended family, friends, ex-workmates, school mates, etc come back from, or travel out to, wherever they have settled in the intervening years. Local travel agents especially may well start to see a growth in anniversary-led travel queries as families start to consider the arrangements for bringing everyone back together again.
Those occasions celebrated as a couple may demand a lesser administrative challenge, but when multiplied by the 20 million over 50’s in the UK (Source: BBC) represent no less of an opportunity for the travel industry, as couples revisit honeymoon destinations, or places they met, or holiday resorts where they enjoyed previous breaks.
The camping trip may well have lost its appeal within this market sector, but the coastal destinations they served have not.
London has remained a popular destination for Baby Boomers with a huge variety of motivating factors prompting short breaks, often offering up some surprising data. For example, advance bookings for theatre and hotel packages for the summer school holidays of 2015 have predominantly featured, not family musicals as one might expect, but romantic stage adaptations of favourite late 20th century films and, most notably, the musical “Jersey Boys” featuring the music of baby boomer icons, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: the very band that provided the soundtrack to their lives.
Even with a recession and rising fuel prices, travel amongst the over 50’s is increasing in its popularity, offering more challenges and opportunities to a travel industry that itself is going through a rapid period of change. It will be interesting to see whether the industry as a whole is light enough on its feet to drive the changes in travel culture required by the continuing increase in demand, or whether it just enjoys the ride.
Ultimately I believe a third factor, the willingness of both parties to embrace new technology, will be the key to successfully negotiating the journey ahead.
Author Simon Harding has promoted culture-led travel for over 30 years and now runs a series of sites promoting destination-unique events: from London’s Theatreland, Vienna’s Spanish Riding School to the Harry Potter Studio Tour! He recently wrote London Theatre and Theatre Breaks – a guide to getting the best out of a London theatre trip
*Source: Making the most of the British Diaspora 2010
Image: will baby boomers happily embrace new technology to unlock the new world around them