Travel and tourism is already a $1.3 trillion industry in the United States, generating $100 billion in tax revenue for local, state, and federal governments.1 With Boomers entering a life stage typified by extensive travel and immersive learning, they are bringing new opportunities to an industry already responsible for over seven million domestic jobs and the nation's number one service export.
Throughout their wandering lives, Boomers have contributed to the growth of many new forms of travel entertainment, from European excursions to backcountry trekking. As the generation prioritizes more time for travel and learning - so-called edutainment - tourism industries will continue to realize substantial growth and evolution.
For example, two up-and-coming trends being fueled by Boomers include heritage and cultural tourism.
Heritage tourism is tied to a geographic location and connected to neighboring history, customs, historical figures, traditions, and mythic stories. This form of travel presents underdeveloped opportunities for smaller communities and off-the-beaten path destinations. In concert with the period of life when history takes on added significance, Boomers will progressively seek out locales that showcase fascinating, transforming journeys into the past.
Locales that amplify Boomers' own nostalgic coming-of-age experiences will become breakaway top-sellers. For example, London tourists can enjoy one of several all-day walking tours of The Beatles' most famous landmarks, including Abby Road Studios and The Palladium Theater, birthplace of Beatlemania.
Equally compelling as a travel industry growth prospect, cultural tourism involves immersive experiences with less emphasis on a specific locale. For example, Boomers are rushing into regional art museums to see rock icon photographs by Linda McCartney (the late wife of Paul). Ronnie Wood, guitarist for The Rolling Stones, is luring hip crowds into hip galleries to view his striking sketches of the band that made him famous.
For culture-thirsty Boomer travelers, a trip to Milwaukee must include a tour of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle factory. In Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has become a Woodstock generation must-visit destination.
National Geographic has responded to these trends by developing its travel product called Expeditions, in line with changing Boomer tastes. Expeditions include out-of-the-ordinary journeys, education from preeminent tour guides, and access to off-the-beaten path experiences (such as a private tour of the Sistine Chapel after hours). Emphasis is on learning, cultural immersion and peak experiences.
Finally, hotels and resorts will continue to create new travel experiences that appeal to Boomers, offering gourmet cooking, wellness education, skill improvement in leisure sports, and room/event packages tied to neighboring festivals and special attractions.