THE BOOMERS ARE COMING

By David Skinner, (Self-Professed Boomer)

It should come as no surprise: the Baby Boom Generation has arrived. So what’s the big deal? Who are they really? And economically speaking, what have they done for me lately? Perhaps most important, what will the maturing of the largest generation in history mean to the vacation industry? Let's ask famous comedian Jeff Foxworthy.Take it away Jeff!

 

I’m a Boomer, She’s a Boomer—ARE you a Boomer, too?

 

Not sure if you’re a Boomer? Here’s how comedian Jeff Foxworthy, famous for his redneck jokes, might tell it:

“You know you’re a Boomer if . . . 

  •  As a kid you worried about atomic fallout; now it’s follicle fallout.
  •  Back then we had chicken pox infections; now we want Botox injections.
  •  You used to dream of a Mustang with spoke wheels and a bucket seat, but you ended up with the latter. 
  •  You’ve always been there musically, from “sock-hop” to “hip-hop.”
  •  You use Google Maps not to find your way, but can't remember where you have been.
  •  Girls used to play with Barbie Dolls; now their ex-husbands date them.
  •  The key to being cool was surfing on a surfboard; now you’re surfing the web on your keyboard.
  •  You remember when a visit to the Magic Kingdom did not include a 90-minute timeshare presentation.
    •  One out of every three U.S. adults over 21 is a Boomer.
    •  Every eight seconds, another Boomer turns 50.
    •  U.S. Boomers have about $28 trillion in disposable income.
    •  More than 5 million Boomers already have diabetes. Even more have problems with high-blood pressure and most are struggling with their weight.
    •  Despite their health issues, Boomers are more active than any prior generation entering this period of their lives.
    •  If you reach 50 without serious major ailments, your chances of living to 100 are much higher than ever before in history.
    •  Having "stuff" isn't enough anymore. The older you get, the more meaning you want out of life.
    •  And the less old you want to feel. Or look.
    •  More than 55% of Boomers use the Internet. Over 85% own mobile phones. And this from the group that television came of age during their youth.
  • And what about resort developers? 
    •  Resort developers struggle with civic and government red tape to meet demand. Hawaii passes regulations against building new hotels.
    •  Resale inventory, once a “secret market,” rises in popularity and price to fill the gap.
    •  Travel patterns change as empty nesters no longer haul kids to theme parks.
    •  Boomers now want the fun for themselves; Branson is the new Lauderdale.
    •  Educational, experiential, and historical destinations are in.
    •  Older resorts fall into disrepair; unable to raise fees, HOAs collapse. It’s a mess.
    •  Resorts south of the border offer flexible ownership options because they can.
    •  Doctors on premise 24/7. Plastic surgeons accept RCI points in-trade.  
    •  Caribbean governments seize the opportunity that Hawaii lost. 
    •  Cruises take a greater part of the vacation dollar from destination resorts.
    •  Resorts offer three instead of four par courses. Shuffleboard rules!
    •  Cooking on vacation is no longer de-rigueur; more resorts become all-inclusive.
    •  Vegas-type nightly entertainment is featured. Wayne Newton never dies.  

Still not sure? Well, if you’re between 41 and 59 years old  . . . you are a Boomer!

 

More Boomer facts

  

 “What have they done for me Lately?”

 A recent investment report authored by financial consultant, John Browne, paints an intriguing (and perhaps foreboding) picture of “Boomerism.” Mr. Browne’s professional background spans 37 years in finance and business, having worked with firms like Morgan Stanley & Co., Barclays Bank, and Citigroup.

John Browne:

 

“One way of understanding the U.S. economy in the post-World War II period is to see it through the framework of the baby boomers. Few can argue with this important fact: Both the growth and the peak of the market appear to have coincided with the earnings and investment power of the Boomers.”

Financial Intelligence Report, August 2006

 

What might follow this “Boomer bubble” is hotly contested. Expert Michael Milken, the junk bond king, argues: “The party may wane as boomers begin to retire and draw down their pensions.” On the other hand, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School professor, Jeremy Siegel, sees it differently. He argues that market globalization will come to our rescue. Click here to read the debate: Business Week Online

 

So with regard to timeshare, hasn’t its popularity coincided with the Baby Boom effect? What impact will the maturing of Boomers have upon the vacation industry over the next few years as their impending retirement ushers in the age of Boomer Geriatrics?

 

You can enter the fray and post your own prognostications by following the blog link at the end of this article. But first, let’s take a closer look at who these Boomers really are.

 

THE LEARNING, EARNING, AND YEARNING YEARS

A.K.A. The Grasp, Lapse, and Gasp Years!

 

Previous timeshare marketing studies by RCI and Interval International confirm Holiday’s own recent study results: Boomers comprise an overwhelmingly dominant sector in the growing leisure travel market. All three reports concur that 45 to 60 year olds make up the majority of timeshare owners—with many owning more (often several more) than a single week.

 

Mark Twain said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”Keeping in mind that statistics may not reveal the whole truth, and that averages are either half right or half wrong, Holiday wanted to approach its study differently. We first classified a database of 14,000 owners and non-owners based on demographics using the PRIZM system developed by Claritas. PRIZM (Potential Rating Index for Zip Markets) assigns 66 cluster codes of socioeconomic characteristics to different population groupings. The results were so detailed, they showed family size, makes and models of cars owned, and magazines subscribed to (Timesharing Today was highly ranked!).

 

The results were then sifted, filtered, and sorted until the unique personas of timeshare owners emerged. Then something both startling and serendipitous occurred. This astonishing fact came to light:

 

Three of the 66 possible PRIZM groupings appeared 300% more often among timeshare owners than in the population at large.

 

Think about that. There are three types of people that are more likely to be timeshare owners than their peers by a whopping three-to-one margin. We then further sorted the results by age and interests. To our total surprise, they were almost evenly divided between what socio-anthropologists call the Leading Edge and the Trailing Edge of the Baby Boom Generation. Wow!

 

Let me restate that.

 

The three groups of people that largely comprise timeshare owners can be fairly equally divided between those who were born before, and those who were born after 1955—the year that separates Leading Edge from Trailing Edge Boomers. 

 

Let’s take a closer look at these three groups.

 

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Timeshare Boomer

 

Group 1: Our first PRIZM sector is clearly part of the Leading Edge Boomers. From their early adolescence they faced strong winds of social change and resisted all attempts at categorization. It is no different today. They are a diverse, often misjudged (if not misquoted), part of a larger generation. Those that own timeshare can be described in this way:

 

They often reside in the most exclusive neighborhoods. They have attained wealthier lifestyles, and many are empty-nesting couples over 55 years old. Their household earnings may exceed $200,000, so that no other group enjoys a more opulent standard of living. Did I mention they owned timeshare?

 

GROUP 2: It should be noted that each generation shares characteristics with the one before and after. This is the case with Leading Edge Boomers and the so-called Silent Generation before them, and also with Trailing Edge Boomers and the Gen-X’ers after them. So, too, this middle group shares certain traits with both their older and younger siblings. When viewed by age, they belong to the Leading Edge; when viewed according to their interests, they have more in common with the Trailing Edge. The differences that exist are mainly due to lifestyle and career choices.

 

As timeshare owners they, too, are older, upper class, college-educated professionals. While their income may be less than Leading Edge Boomers, they also tend to be empty nesters and enjoy many of the same vacation options. They see themselves as upscale, enjoying the trappings of success, often belonging to country clubs and maintaining investment portfolios. Yet they also resemble the Trailing Edge, since they enjoy more active recreational pursuits and are willing to spend freely on computer technology.

 

GROUP 3: Despite the age difference, Trailing Edge Boomers share some of the traits of the two older groups. However, they came of age at the end of the Vietnam War. Theirs was a time of peace and economic gyrations—but certainly not lethargy. When the “Get Fit” and “Just Do It” craze arrived, they were a big part of it. As timeshare owners, Trailing Edge Boomers exhibit these characteristics:

 

Many represent America’s up-and-coming business class: wealthy suburban, dual-income couples who are highly educated, typically between the ages of 35 and 54 and often with children. Given its high percentage of executives and white-collar professionals, there’s a decided business bent to this segment: it ranks number one in owning small businesses and having a home office.

 

Of Geeks and Geezers

 

There has never been an event in modern history akin to the Baby Boom. To better understand its effect over time—its contribution to technology, wars fought and peace made—it is better to view Boomers as a process rather than a demographic label.

 

Regardless of your perspective, the Baby Boom Generation has caused at times disruption, excess, shortage, chaos, creativity, and compromise. As we view their approach and their becoming timeshare’s most likely owners, we should ask ourselves this question: is the industry really prepared? What do you think?

 

For fun, let’s apply what we’ve learned so far and make a few prognostications. I’ll list some below and you may add your own by following the Blog link below. Here goes:

  

ON BEING A BOOMER

 

Former President Bill Clinton summed his generation up in a recent BBC interview: "On balance, I'm proud to be a Baby Boomer. I think we've been a force for equal opportunity, for harmony among people, for peace, for reconciliation and for the notion that we have to go forward together." Thanks, Bill!

 

And finally, how Jeff Foxworthy would close his act:

 

“You know you’re a Boomer if . . . You are one of those lucky people most likely to own timeshare.” And thank you Jeff!