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Past Webcast - October 30, 2007

Research Forum

Past Webcasts Home

VT Cast #12: "Boomers" & VolunTourism


What do the 77 million+ persons born between 1946 and 1964 have to say about the course of VolunTourism's continuing unfoldment? Well, it could be quite substantial. My guests will discuss the answer to this question and many others as we explore the VolunTourism for the "Boomer" market.

[Listen To The Cast] (Click Here To Download)


Kenneth Budd, AARP The Magazine [Bio]; Kathy Dragon, Eons.com [Bio]; and special guest, Bruce Turner, Medishare [Bio].


[What are some of the caveats for this audience?]

"Well, I think that we've really hit on it. It's what I kind of think of as the 'air-conditioning' factor; that people are willing to go and get dirty and do anything, but at the end of the day, they want to be comfortable. And I'm not sure if all of the organizations have picked up on that. Certainly where we were the accommodations were very simple but very clean and fine. But I don't know if they've finally totally picked up on this - - some of these organizations.

My experience with the web site for Cross Cultural Solutions was that the only picture you saw of this town was this sort of sunset and it looked very country-like and everything. And the reality was that the town itself, while having everything you need, was by no means charming. It was sort of like expecting Mayberry and getting Newark instead. I think they just have to be a little more careful with how they're marketing this and not over-romanticize it. And just be aware that people are looking for something basic, but something comfortable that's not going to be a miserable experience for them that way.

Yeah, and I think also people don't want to waste their time. These are people, they're older, a lot of them have had management positions, they don't want to go and feel like they're wasting their time. When I was in New Orleans, I did a trip and there was that sense, particularly among some of the older people, that 'My God, this is so unorganized this could be so much more efficient,' and that's a turn off, particularly for people who are fifty and up." Ken Budd

[Listen To This Quote]

[How do the expectations of Boomers compare to those of other groups?]

"I'd love to talk to that. Specifically, I think that, I have actually taken student groups years ago to Costa Rica on a rainforest expedition and did some volunteer work with them.

What we look at - - first of all, I'm going to put on my tour operator hat, because I've been a tour operator for the last twenty years - - so I own a company that does cultural walking trips around the world, I've taken over three thousand people in this Boomer market and, generally most of them are between the ages of fifty and seventy. And though they're interested in giving back, and connecting and making a difference, they really need a different level and they want a different level of comfort. They want to feel like they can reach out and connect during the day, but at night they want to know that they can... where they're going to sleep, that it's not generally going to be on the floor, though a guest house might be okay. Shared bathrooms might be okay, they might not be. They want to know that they can eat the food without getting sick. So they're not there for a six-month program where they have the time to really get sick. They need to know that they're not eating off, sort of, street food, that the water is being used to clean the food properly, that it's being cooked properly.


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There is also a medical issue where they feel like they need to know that the company who's, from a tour operator perspective, has really developed a great infrastructure if something happens. So especially as we get into the later stage of the Boomer market, or even beyond the Boomer, the sixty to eighty-year-old market is saying, 'If something happens to us, what do you have in place?' So I think those are some differentiators; and they don't want to feel uncomfortable during the day that maybe they're not getting dirty as much or they don't know how to do things the way a younger, back-packer audience might know how to. They don't want to feel uncomfortable; they want to feel like they're being relevant, and they're connecting to the local people, and that they're offering something of value to both of them." Kathy Dragon

[Listen To This Quote]

[On his trip to Liberia and the make up of the participants...]

"Well, it was cross-generational. Probably two of us were Boomers and the other team members were younger than that.

You know one of the things I've noticed about, Boomers seem to be - and I am a Boomer, I'm 57 - seem to be more 'me-centered;' as was said, they're interested in some of the creature comforts. Whereas Millennial Generation, Generation X seem to be really motivated by this whole idea of making a difference and so forth. What I've found though is that once a Boomer makes that initial trip and begins to sense and feel the rewards that come from that, then that 'me-centered' attitude begins to take a back seat and they become motivated in a totally different way.

I also want to say a unique thing that I'm seeing is that a lot of these faith-based, initiated trips have awakened in people a desire to travel. I see a lot of people for whom a faith-based trip was like their initiation into international travel; and I see many of them doing travel on their own, coming up with their own plans and programs and things like that, or hooking up with other groups, like VolunTourism, and so forth. So it was like the catalyst that moved them into wanting to do other things besides just the project-oriented, group-oriented kind of thing. So that's been my experience." Bruce Turner

[Listen To This Quote]

Guest Bios

Ken Budd, Features Editor, AARP The Magazine

Ken Budd has been with AARP since 1998, and became AARP The Magazine’s travel editor in late 2006. His work as editor of the magazine’s Navigator section was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2005, and he helped the magazine earn a Lowell Thomas Award for General Excellence from the American Travel Writers Foundation that same year. He has provided travel commentary on TV and radio (including a recent segment on Martha Stewart Living Radio), and he appears monthly on AARP’s national Prime Time Focus radio program. Before coming to AARP, he was the editor of Common Ground, an award-winning magazine on condominium and homeowner associations, and he is the author of the popular condo legal guide, Be Reasonable!. His writing credits include Smithsonian, The Washington Post, The Washington Post Magazine, Stuff (published by Maxim), Washingtonian, Modern Humorist, McSweeney’s, Might, Modern Maturity, and AARP The Magazine. Since 2003, he has been the editor of an annual health report that appears in USA Weekend. Ken is a contributing editor to The Mason Spirit, the George Mason University alumni magazine.

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Kathy Dragon - Consultant, Eons.com

Kathy Moyer Dragon, Founder and Owner of The Dragon's Path, ActiveWomen.com, and Dragon Consulting Inc. has spent the past two decades in the center of the active and adventure travel industry. Having researched, designed, marketed, sold and then personally escorted and facilitated the travel experiences of over 3000 Boomers on small group experiential and cultural trips around the globe Kathy has developed front line experience that few marketing experts in the world can match. These natural focus groups proved to be the ideal arena for defining the growth of the active boomer market; from how Prime Time Travelers (50-70) select a trip, to why they are traveling; from what products they love (can’t stand or wish for) to how different generations of perceive themselves in an active environment. All these questions and answers have changed over the past decade as the Active Boomer and Boomer Women’s markets has evolved and yes, exploded.

Kathy is a frequent national speaker and consultant on the influence of Women, Boomers, and Matures on the travel industry as well as industries attempting to reach these consumers in the active, outdoor, travel, technology, and natural products categories. She has presented at key marketing conferences including the Marketing to Women (M2W.biz), and J.Walter Thompson’s Mature Market Conference. Industry specific speaking includes the Adventure Travel World Summit, the National Ski Area Association, The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association the Travel Society National Convention and the GORE Women’s Council and the Adventure Travel Professional Symposium & The Kitchen 07. Kathy is a contributing author of BOOM: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer—The Baby Boomer Woman, as well as JWT LiveWire Spring 2006 and Fall 2007Magazine and a number of webcasts and webinars for the travel trade.

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Bruce Turner, Development Field Manager, Medi-Share.org.

Bruce Turner has been a pastor/church planner for 35 years and has pastored churches in Mississippi and Florida. Bruce has made numerous mission trips to foreign countries, including Africa and Eastern Europe.

Bruce currently lives in Lynchburg, VA and is employed by Christian Care Ministry.

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