Aging Baby Boomers and the Desire to Travel: How Early-Boomers Differ From Late-Boomers

ABSTRACT - The enormous size of the baby boom generation creates many opportunities for markets and industries. The travel behaviour of the aging Baby BoomersCthe coming Senior boomCis attracting a lot of attention within the travel and tourism industry. The purpose of this empirical study was to test the hypothesis that early-Boomers will have travel motives and travel worries that differ from those of late-Boomers. The distinction between early- and late-Boomers may indicate the types of changes in travel motives, risks and values that occur with the aging of the generation. The travel motives, travel risks, personal values and educational attainment of 404 Australian Baby Boomers were recorded. Factor analysis of 48 travel motives produced six theoretically sound factors. These six travel motive factors as well as nine personal risks, nine personal values and one demographic variableCeducational attainmentCwere set as the discriminating variables for a 2-group discriminant analysis. Ten measures discriminated the two groups, with all measures rating higher for late-Boomers, than early-Boomers. It was found that late-Boomers were more motivated to travel to seek status, activity and self-betterment than early-Boomers. Younger Baby Boomers were also more concerned with thepossible negative opinions of others, that problems with travel arrangements or the amenities and facilities might occur, that the holiday might not be personally satisfying and that it may not reflect the traveler’s personality or self-image. The value an exciting life was more important to late-Boomers, who were also found to have attained higher levels of education.



Citation:

Megan Cleaver and Thomas Muller (2001) ,"Aging Baby Boomers and the Desire to Travel: How Early-Boomers Differ From Late-Boomers", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Paula M. Tidwell and Thomas E. Muller, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 199-204.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 2001      Pages 199-204

AGING BABY BOOMERS AND THE DESIRE TO TRAVEL: HOW EARLY-BOOMERS DIFFER FROM LATE-BOOMERS

Megan Cleaver, Griffith University, Australia

Thomas Muller, Griffith University, Australia

ABSTRACT -

The enormous size of the baby boom generation creates many opportunities for markets and industries. The travel behaviour of the aging Baby BoomersCthe coming Senior boomCis attracting a lot of attention within the travel and tourism industry. The purpose of this empirical study was to test the hypothesis that early-Boomers will have travel motives and travel worries that differ from those of late-Boomers. The distinction between early- and late-Boomers may indicate the types of changes in travel motives, risks and values that occur with the aging of the generation. The travel motives, travel risks, personal values and educational attainment of 404 Australian Baby Boomers were recorded. Factor analysis of 48 travel motives produced six theoretically sound factors. These six travel motive factors as well as nine personal risks, nine personal values and one demographic variableCeducational attainmentCwere set as the discriminating variables for a 2-group discriminant analysis. Ten measures discriminated the two groups, with all measures rating higher for late-Boomers, than early-Boomers. It was found that late-Boomers were more motivated to travel to seek status, activity and self-betterment than early-Boomers. Younger Baby Boomers were also more concerned with thepossible negative opinions of others, that problems with travel arrangements or the amenities and facilities might occur, that the holiday might not be personally satisfying and that it may not reflect the traveler’s personality or self-image. The value an exciting life was more important to late-Boomers, who were also found to have attained higher levels of education.

INTRODUCTION

Given that the number of Baby Boomers in Australia numbers almost six million, there is considerable economic incentive for tourism and hospitality marketers to sharpen their focus on this segment of the population. As the post-war baby-boom generation ages, it will gradually shift in its consumption priorities away from time saving goods, and toward time-using goods. Chief among these will be leisure pursuitsCin particular, pleasure travel.

Baby Boomers’ past, present and future travel behaviour and value orientation are discussed within the paper. Touristic behaviour of Baby Boomers concentrates on motivation to travel, travel risks and personal values. The purpose of this empirical study is to test the hypothesis that early-Boomers (those born in Australia between 1946 and 1954) will have travel motives and travel worries that differ from those of late-Boomers (1955 to 1971) because of the way in which meaning in life evolves throughout the life span.

Cleaver’s (1999) research on the aging process and the transformations of meaning in life indicates that psychological motives, as well as perceptions of risk while travelling, may differ somewhat between those Baby Boomers who are currently in their late-forties and early-fifties and Baby Boomers who are currently aged between 29 and 45.

BABY BOOMERS

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (Castles, 1992) describes the cohort of Australians born between 1946 and 1960 as the baby boom generation. The United Nations Department of International and Economic Social Affairs (Russell, 1982) extends the Australian baby boom to 1964 because, between 1946 and 1964, crude fertility rates were above 100 per 1000 women aged 15 to 44. Foot and Stoffman (1996) claim that the Australian baby boom continued until 1976.

Closer examination of Australian fertility rates (Castles, 1992; Cleaver, 1996) indicates that birth rates were already on the rise when the war ended in 1945 and, whereas fertility dropped slightly in 1964, it remained comparatively (historically) high in relation to the immediate past and present rates.

As seen in the Figure 1 (Castles, 1992: 7), following a slight decline in fertility after 1961, there is a clear rebound in the fertility rate from 1969 to 1971. Thereafter, the fertility rate drops significantly and monotonically, and remains historically low, to just below the replacement level. Thus, these data make a strong case for establishing the Australian baby boom period as 1946 to 1971. If this period is acknowledged as the demographically correct one, then it produced 5 670 700 live births (Russell, 1982) during a 25-year, post-World War II period in Australia.

The baby boom is attributed to several political, demographic and economic factors. The return home of Australian soldiers following the end of World War II saw a surge in marriages and family formation (many of them postponed because of the war). Also, a large number of women were in their prime childbearing years. This growth in the proportion of new families was compounded by the completion of existing nuclear families (Muller, 1996). Economic prosperity during this post-war period fueled the baby boom and was further fostered by the Federal Government’s encouragement with promotional campaigns such as 'populate or perish’ (Collins, 1996).

Because the baby boom generation numbers close to six million people, the degree of homogeneity of this generation is open to debate (Cleaver, 1996). People become more different from one another as they age, so one can expect greater variability within the cohort as time goes by. This is because, as people age, they accumulate differing experiences and knowledge that tend to diverge backgrounds and, therefore, psychesCeven among people of the same generation. In fact, the process of aging itself is a heterogeneous process (Baltes & Baltes, 1991).

The similarities within the baby boom generation are based upon shared birth period and life stage (Braus, 1995). Thus, a group that is born and raised during a certain historical period experiences similar environmental influences. As a result of social change, each generation is born into and grows up during circumstances that are somewhat different from those experienced by the preceding generation (Salk & Salk, 1981).

Life stage refers to the stages of human development. Changes that might occur among Baby Boomers, due to adult development, while moving through life stages are addressed by several competing theories. Russell (1987) argues that, since the patterns of aging are known, how Boomers will change in middle and old age is predictable. Merser (1987) analyses the situation differently. While the patterns of aging for older generations are largely known, it appears that the Baby Boomers’ life cycle is unfolding differently from previous generations and therefore predictions of the future are more difficult for this cohort.

The societal and economic effects of numerically large generations have been modeled by Easterlin (1987). The movement of the large baby boom generation through life stages has a ripple effect throughout society. As the mass of baby boom children moved through school years, the educational system was expanded to cope with this huge cohort. Future pressures on social and health services can be expected and a greater dependence on superannuation schemes and private health cover will result as Baby Boomers enter their retirement years.

FIGURE 1

AUSTRALIAN CRUDE BIRTH RATES

Currently Baby Boomers are aged between 29 and 54. The oldest ones will turn 60 in 2005 and, over the next quarter century, the number of people aged 60+ in Australia is projected to rise by 1,310,800 (McLennan, 1996). Thus, Australia is set to be populated by the Senior boom (Edgar, 1991).

In 2001, Australia will have three million people aged over 60, and in twenty years this will increase to five million, or 22 per cent of the population (Wright, 1989). The coming of the, so-called, Senior boom creates opportunities in many markets and industries. Members of the baby boom generation tend to be better educated, healthier, better housed, and more self-sufficient than members of previous generations of middle-aged Australians (Edgar, 1991; Muller & Woodcock, 1996). A major challenge is to predict the values of Baby Boomers as they become older and to set in place strategies for solving their future problems and meeting their future needs. The sum total of a person’s life experiences, and the resulting attitudes and values, define how the consumer will behave in the marketplace (Silvers, 1997). Business and industry needs to understand the values of the mature market in order to develop products and services to satisfy its value-driven needs (Leventhal, 1997; Moschis, 1992; Moschis, Lee & Mathur, 1997; Wolfe, 1990).

People’s values are shaped by the "process of being raised and influenced in the society in which they live, work, play and grow old" (Muller, 1995). The baby boom generation was born during a prosperous period in Australia’s history, but due to the sheer size of the cohort, the social and economic conditions that they created as they entered the workforce were characterised by intracohort competition, falling wages, job and career stress and unhappiness (Easterlin, 1987; Mackay, 1993; 1997; Muller, 1997). Analysing data on personal valuesCnamely Kahle’s (1996) List of ValuesCcollected at two points, ten years apar, in North America, Muller (1990; 1991; 1995) predicted a change in Baby Boomers’ value orientations toward three values: self-fulfillment, self-respect and fun-enjoyment-excitement.

Muller (1996; 1997) predicts that Baby Boomers will move away from their current materialistic interpretation of fulfilling values, and will move toward more needs-driven values. His research indicates that there is already a shift toward community-orientated values, altruistic behaviour and political involvement within the baby boom generation. The trends that are predicted for Baby Boomers’ value orientations during middle age and later life are: voluntarism, commitment to grandchildren, spirituality, nostalgia, entrepreneurship, political activism, learning for self-fulfillment, and discovery tourism. These predicted value-driven behaviours represent a shift from the economic preoccupations of Baby Boomers, during young adulthood, toward more attainable, less materialistic activities which should give greater meaning to their lives (Muller, 1997).

The focus of this paper is on the tourism consumption behaviour of the baby boom generation. The aim is to use touristic behaviour as the background from which to explore the effects of aging and changing sources of personal meaning by comparing the early- and late-Baby Boomers. Because leisure and tourism consumption decisions are driven partly by the need for value fulfillment (Muller, 1991; Pitts & Woodside, 1986; Pizam & Calantone, 1987), recreational travel provides a context in which to explore the changes in value orientations and personal meaning as the person ages.

BABY BOOMERS’ TOURISTIC BEHAVIOUR

The aging baby boom generation will provide the travel and tourism industry with many opportunities. The sheer size of the generation, and the changing demography that make up the Australian population will ensure that the travel and tourism industry cannot ignore the opportunities that the older segments of the population will provide.

The travel and tourism industry are faced with a growing senior marketCan important market to them already. Muller and Strickland (1995) give three reasons for the importance of the senior segment to Australia’s tourism industry. Firstly, seniors have the time to consume extended tourism products. Secondly, seniors have the financial resources to spend on tourism since, typically, they have already bought all the major consumer products for their lives. Thirdly, seniors are looking to learn, both about themselves and the world around them. Travel can provide a vehicle to self-fulfillment through opportunities to learn and discover.

Considering that the lifelong travel experiences of Baby Boomers would have been vastly different to those of the previous generations, dissimilar preferences for travel when they themselves become seniors is not a surprise (Oppermann, 1995). Therefore an understanding of Baby Boomers’ current travel behaviour and predictions of future travel behaviour will provide invaluable information and direction to the industry to ensure that the opportunities of the future are fully exploited.

Recreational travel behaviour is related to need satisfaction (Gilbert, 1991; Mill & Morrison, 1985; Pitts & Woodside, 1986). The motivation to travel often comes from long-term psychological needs and life plans and, with older age, needs such as self-actualisation become increasingly important as a travel motivator (Cohen, 1984).

Pearce (1988; 1991) has developed a Travel Career Ladder which details the motivations to travel and travel behaviour through a travel career based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The travel career model incorporates both internal and external motivations and records changes in these as travellers age. Pearce discusses the travel career, which we can link to age, since, with growing travel expeience one is also getting older. Lower-order need attainment (rest and relaxation, family travel needs) are usually the prime motivation in early-adulthood. This reason for travel changes as the person gets older and higher-order need attainment becomes the goal, while travel constraints lessen.

Mackay (1997) mentions a boom in 'significant’ holidays for aging Baby Boomers. While relaxation and leisure remain holiday purposes the need for heightened self-awareness increases with ageCwhether that be through the need for simplicity, sophistication, discipline or exploration.

Mannell and Iso-Ahola (1987) introduced escaping and seeking dimensions to travel motivation. While some individuals are motivated to travel for escapism, others are seeking personal or interpersonal rewards. They suggest that older travelers will be motivated to travel in order to seek, rather than to escape. Focusing on the travel behaviour of newly-retired tourists, Guinn (1980) described this group as moving from work and achievement goals to leisure goals.

Understanding what motivates a person to travel does not ensure that travelling will take place. Just because a Baby Boomer is motivated by the need to learn and discover a new activity, such as skiing, it does not automatically follow that a skiing holiday will occur. There are a number of factors that prevent a person from acting on travel motivations. The factors that may be barriers or constraints to travel include cost, lack of time, health limitations, family stage, fear and concerns for safety, and lack of interest (McIntosh, Goeldner & Ritchie, 1995; Roehl & Fesenmaier, 1992).

It is a marketing professional’s task to "make people aware of their needs and present them with an objective, the purchase or attainment of which will help satisfy that need" (Mill & Morrison, 1985: 12). Knowledge of the balance between travel motives and perceived travel risks will ensure greater satisfaction to travelers’ needs. Understanding how this balance changes with age will aid successful prediction of Baby Boomers’ future travel needs.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

A probability sample of 404 Australian-born Baby Boomers living in Australia’s three largest cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) yielded data, including respondents’ travel motives, risk perceptions and personal values. Interviews were carried out in October and November 1998 by trained interviewers from a commercial research firm specialising in sampling techniques and fieldwork. In-home personal interviews were conducted with respondents selected using probability cluster sampling with the federal electorate system as the primary sampling unit. Within an electorate, a starting address was chosen at random. From the starting address, interviewers set rules for the selection of addresses to interview and the selection of respondents within a household.

In order to ensure that the sample contained only Baby Boomers, all respondents had to be born in Australian between 1946 and 1971 and have lived in Australia for the first twenty years of their lives.

Data were collected on 48 motives for wanting to travel, developed after careful review of the literature on recreational motivation. The final pool of items was chosen to represent:

1. The four-factor components of leisure motives: intellectual, social, competency/mastery, and stimulus avoidance (Beard & Ragheb 1983).

2. Eight travel benefit factors: excitement, self-development, family relation, physical activity, safety/security, social status, escape and relaxation (Moscardo, Morrison et al. 1996).

3. Several aspects of the eight predicted value and lifestyle trends among Baby Boomers approaching their retirement years: voluntarism, commitment to grandchildren, spirituality, nostalgia, entrepreneurship, political activism, learning for self-fulfillment, and discovery tourism (Muller 1996; 1997).

The travel motivation items were presented as "My own reasons for holiday travel are" and respondents indicated on a 10- point rating scale whether they agreed or disagreed with each travel motive statement.

While motivations to travel drive travel behaviour, perceptions of risk may constrain that behaviour, or prevent a person from acting on travel motivations. Nine travel risks were developed from theoretical risk scales (Roehl & Fesenmaier 1992). Travel risk was measured on a scale of (1) "This would not worry me at all" to (10) "This would worry me a lot". The nine risks are: "Your holiday might not be personally satisfying"; "You might become ill while on holiday"; "Your holiday might not give you good value for money"; "You might be put in danger or get hurt"; "Your holiday might not reflect your personality or self-image"; "Problems might occur in travel arrangements or in getting to your destination"; "Some people might get a negative opinion of you for taking such a holiday"; "Problems might arise with some of the amenities or facilities provided during your holiday"; "Some aspects of your holiday might take too much time or be a waste of your time".

Data were also collected on the relative importance of nine personal values in the List of Values (Kahle 1996). These values are: fun and enjoyment in life; a sense of accomplishment; being highly regarded by others; self-fulfillment; security; an exciting life; warm relationships with others; a sense of belonging; self-respect.

A principal-components factor analysis reduced the data on travel motives to six, clearly interpretable factors which also matched our theoretical expectations. We labelled the factors self-betterment, activity-seeking, learning and discovery, status-seeking, reminiscence, and escapism. The overriding objective was interpretability of the resulting varimax-rotated factor matrix, not maximum explained variance or the inclusion of all factors with eigenvalues of 1.0 or higher. The factor loadings are presented in Table 1.

Next, the six travel motive factor scores, nine risk perception measures, nine personal values and a demographic variableCeducational attainmentCwere set as the discriminating variables for a 2-group discriminant analysis. This statistical approach seemed appropriate, given that we wanted to profile the early-Boomers and late-Boomers, in terms of these variables, and to determine how each group differed in travel motives, risks and values.

TABLE 1

ROTATED FACTOR STRUCTURE

FINDINGS

Our findings show that early-Boomers are significantly different from late-Boomers on 10 measures (in order of decreasing ability to discriminate between the two groups): (1) risk that others might have a negative opinion of you for taking such a holiday; (2) problems might occur in travel or transport arrangements; (3) educational attainment; (4) status-seeking as a travel motive; (5) the holiday might not be personally satisfying; (6) activity-seeking as a travel motive; (7) self-betterment as a travel motive; (8) problems might arise with amenities or facilities provided; (9) the holiday might not reflect your personality or self-image; and (10) the importance attached to the value an exciting life. The derived discriminant function was able to correctly classify an individual, as either a late-Bomer or early-Boomer, in 68% of the cases (against a proportional chance criterion of 57%).

On every one of these 10 discriminating variables, the late-Boomers score higher than early-Boomers. Thus, the younger members of the baby-boom cohort are significantly more status and self-image conscious, when travelling on holiday, than the older Baby Boomers. In addition, the younger members of the cohort are more likely to travel for activity-seeking (to help them lead active lives, acquire physical invigoration, and to find thrills and excitement) and self-bettermentCby looking for ways to express their creativity, seeking spiritual experiences and physical challenges, and staying well informed. Also, late-Boomers are more sensitive to the risks of having an unsatisfactory holiday experience and encountering problems with travel arrangements or substandard facilities and amenities during the holiday.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS

The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that early-Boomers will have travel motives and travel worries that differ from those of late-Boomers because of the way in which meaning in life evolves throughout the life span. The importance of the baby boom generation to the travel and tourism industry necessitates the close monitoring of possible changes in travel behaviour with age.

We conclude that the late-Boomer’s touristic behaviour is more status and image driven than is the case for early-Boomers, probably because late-Boomers are still struggling with their place in society and with achieving well-defined milestones in their careers and stages of life. Late-Boomers define meaning in their lives as staying active, bettering themselves, and striving for self-respect by not falling behind, or even surpassing, their generational peers when it comes to leisure travel.

The fact that early-Boomers are not as motivated by staying active, bettering themselves and striving for self-respect may indicate that these motives may wane as the late-Boomers age. The motives that are significant to the older Boomer segment will need to be investigated in future research to help build a pattern of behaviour that may lead to more accurate predictions of changes in travel behaviour of the baby boom generation with age.

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Authors

Megan Cleaver, Griffith University, Australia
Thomas Muller, Griffith University, Australia



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 2001



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