Column: What We Want Now

Ruthanne Terrero
Ruthanne Terrero, CTC, vice president–Content/editorial director

Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer travelers have a lot in common. We all want authentic experiences, good food and to live like a local. I’m saying all this with air quotes as these very phrases have already become clichéd and overused.

The Best Restaurant if You’re Over 50,” a recent column by Frank Bruni in The New York Times, however, made me realize there are indeed nuances. Bruni, 54, says that at a certain age you want to dine in places where you can hear each other speak; where the chairs have comfortable, strong backs to lean on and you’re preferably not at a communal table listening to details of strangers’ lives.  You want to dine where you’re enthusiastically welcomed by the establishment and if you do feel like you belong you might go back again and again because that feels so good. Offbeat cocktails crafted by the world’s most Instagrammed mixologist might not always be tempting; Bruni now knows he wants a martini at the end of the day. “Loud is no longer exciting. Trendy is overrated,” he says.

This doesn’t speak for everyone over 50, but it made me laugh out loud and I wondered if the same applies to travel habits for this age group. If the slightly older traveler takes comfort in what’s welcoming and not unsettling, the travel advisor’s challenge is to provide an itinerary that’s an artful mix of being edgy and safe at the same time. 

This is not, however, a column about sending people on boring vacations. You might not want to stand on a long line to get in to a loud place with a lot of people where it costs a lot of money to eat food you’ve never heard of before. Cut out all of the annoyances from this experience and you’ll realize that there’s still a lot to be had. What clients most certainly still want is easy access to dynamic venues with interesting people. They want to try out new places that are chic and most certainly different from what they’ve seen at home.

When I was growing up, one of my mother’s favorite reprimands was that all generalities are false. So having stated all of the above, let’s give a shout out to those intrepid Baby Boomer travelers who are zealously bursting with energy and who prove that everything I’ve just said is invalid.

In a recent conversation, Kathleen Stahl of Kathleen Stahl Travel in Des Moines, said this about Baby Boomers: “They don’t just want a cruise, they want an ‘expedition’ experience. They are pushing themselves because they are in great health and have the financial means to do it.” 

She and I laughed at the time because we noted we could have had the same conversation by e-mail but over the phone it was much more fun and there was the serendipity of wandering off topic and stumbling upon several truths about humanity, husbands and travel. “Pick up the damn phone,” is one of Stahl’s mantras when it comes to training new travel advisors.

This all ties in to knowing your clients on a most human level and to do that, you need to know how to converse with them. As similar as people are because of their age group, they have a million unique distinctions. And that’s where you come in as the travel advisor extraordinaire. What a joy it must be to have a career that’s based on getting to know people and how to make them happy with memorable vacations.

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