With the baby-boomer generation starting to hit retirement age, Insight Vacations' global chief executive believes there has never been a more lucrative time for the touring sector. By Rupert Murray
Movers and shakers in the travel industry talk regularly about what the future for the sector might hold and how holidaying trends might change by 2020.
However, Insight Vacations chief executive John Boulding is so confident of one trend that the escorted tours specialist has invested time and money in creating a product for a particular demographic.
Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations has been designed to cater for the travelling demands of the baby-boomer generation – people born between 1946 ?and 1964.
“In 2010, just 1% of baby boomers were retired. In 2016, 18% of them will be retired and this will continue to grow quickly. It’s astounding how fast this segment is growing,” he says.
“With retirement comes time and an imperative to travel. I am 60 so I know how these people feel. I have 20 years of extensive travel left if I’m lucky, so I’d better do it now and do it properly.”
By “properly”, Boulding means in the lap of luxury, just as the ?Insight Vacations Luxury Gold experience defines it.
“This sector wants to be looked after more and more,” he adds.
“They want everything to be done in style and they want everything taken care of. That means things such as private transfers and their luggage being in their hotel rooms when they arrive. The baby-boomer generation drove themselves and their kids all over Europe, but at my age you start thinking ‘why should I drive? I want someone else to take care of it’.”
Boulding is sincere when he says “I don’t believe there has ever been a more important moment to introduce a product like this.
“I think there is a golden 15 years of a colossal swathe of people perfectly tuned to be travelling like this.”
And the potential is growing constantly, he says. His stats suggest the number of affluent travellers has grown by 41% in ?the last four years and that there is an abundance of what he calls “lower-tier millionnaires”.
And Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations is a product that will appeal to this market, says Boulding. “There has been a huge change in lifestyle in my lifetime and today it is very sophisticated in terms of what people have in their houses and the things they can do locally.
So when people go on holiday, why would they want to down-trade?” he says.
Luxury like no other
He claims Insight’s new luxury product is like a guide to what luxury should be built on. Its four simple pillars are hotels, VIP experiences, dining and service.
The hotels are the the “most outstanding” available wherever the tour goes, the VIP experiences are “genuinely exclusive” – think going into the Sistine Chapel when it’s empty. Every European tour features dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, and service levels have been increased, tapping into the experience of Insight’s sister companies Red Carnation Hotels and Uniworld.
“There isn’t another product on the market like this,” Boulding insists. “I’ve spoken to hundreds of agents and consumers and the reaction is clear – this is what they have been looking for.”
No time like the present
But is this 15-year opportunity just one for Insight Vacations to enjoy, or is it relevant to the trade in general?
“For the travel trade, there is a serious opportunity. The earning power is high as commissions are phenomenal,” says Boulding.
“The boomers are an affluent generation and their number-one ambition is to travel – and the best way to see a country is to travel across it on a tour.
“My real message to the trade is that you have 15 years to tap into this market, which is already here. It’s not a future fuzzy thing, it is here now.
“I hope agents will realise, and if they don’t, they are missing out. This brochure we have created defines luxury and actually, ?it’s simple.
“There isn’t a product more clearly explained than this one. If agents want to understand and get into luxury, this brochure can help.
“And I would say to younger agents or those with less experience, that they should never go in with the lower-end product. Show the high-end product, show the quality and explain the differences. It’s clear what they are, and in touring, you get what you pay for.”
Boulding is not narrow-minded about the opportunity or what the boomers will spend their money on over the next 15 years. He doesn’t expect everyone to suddenly start touring.
“People will still cruise and stay in hotels but now touring has reached a level of luxury that matches the best of other types of trips, which means clients who hadn’t considered it before may now be interested.”
He is so confident his product belongs in front of top-end clients that his team are happy to meet agents simply to talk about luxury, how to sell it and who to – whether that be Insight Vacations product or something else entirely.
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