At $120 billion, baby boomers are one of the most active demographics in travel. This cohort can be an especially lucrative target for travel marketers, given its increased leisure time and appetite for exploration.

AARP has been focused on this specific demographic for decades, and has re-focused its efforts in the travel space with a new website at travel.aarp.org.

The site allows members to explore destinations and book related travel, using an image-rich and bright navigation interface to fuel inspiration and conversion.

A map for individual cities brings together Plan, Experience and Share, so users can accumulate experiences on a to-do list which can eventually can be shared with fellow travelers for input and shared planning.

Additional content is surfaced destination-by-destination, pointing potential travelers to further information and blogs about a chosen destination. Notice the top bar, which encourages the conversion by showcasing exactly how much flights and hotels are via a Choose Flight/Book Now button.

AARP discounts are also highlighted to encourage membership – as the tool is available for anyone to use, this is an essential feature, as it can demonstrate exactly how lucrative membership can be.

In an email exchange, Tnooz spoke with Sami Hassanyeh, AARP’s Chief Digital Officer, about the new product – and the research driving delivery of the update travel services.

What insights were driving this latest travel product?

AARP Travel supports the Association’s social mission — to help people 50+ fulfill their goals and dreams and to live their best lives.

Recent research confirms a strong link between travel and well-being. This includes positive effects on relationships and short-and long-term health benefits, both physical and cognitive. Our efforts to empower 50+ travelers and their families are consistent with our strong consumer advocate role.

Travel is the top aspirational priority of people 50+, and AARP’s strategy focused on engaging members and others with new services that respect and fully meet their evolving needs.

AARP Travel seeks to fix what our research showed was broken and missing in the current travel marketplace: consumers spend more time than they want—and on more sites than they want—planning and booking their personal travel. AARP Travel expands the definition of travel and delivers value beyond booking—to dreaming, planning, experiencing, and sharing.

What features are most desired by the 50+ demographic? Was there anything in particular that your market research revealed that affected the site?

Research shows that travel ranks as the top aspiration for people 50+, and according to analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, personal travel spend for the 50+ traveler tops $120 billion per year and will grow as boomers have more time to travel.

AARP Travel answers the need for a simple and comprehensive way to manage the scattered process of travel planning. And through new research conducted on the travel habits of people 50+, AARP found that:

Trips Per Year — Americans in the 50+ age demographic  take about six overnight trips unrelated to business of at least 50 miles from home per year;

Website Planning — Eight out of 10 Americans 50+ use websites to plan as well as book their personal travel;

Time Spent Planning — Travelers 50+ spend about 30–36 hours per year planning personal trips online but would prefer to spend about half as much time per year (12–18 hours) planning; and

Time Spent Booking — The 50+ traveler spends about 18 hours per year online booking personal travel but would prefer to spend about 12 hours per year (at least an hour less per trip) booking.

The new features that address some of the travel needs stated above and are also most desired by people 50+ include:

Trip Finder — a fun, smart and visual series of questions to deliver ideas and recommendations for destinations — including some unexpected ones;

Map Explorer — a detailed street-level interactive map that includes attractions, restaurants, hotels, local color and reviews;

My Trips — a personal page where users can save and organize trip ideas, itineraries and related articles in one place and add to or edit them over multiple visits;

Articles and Destinations — travel tips from AARP Travel Ambassador Samantha Brown, articles specifically geared toward the 50+ traveler and information about hundreds of domestic and international locations; and

Book Trips — booking tools provided through AARP’s relationships with Expedia and Liberty Travel that give you access to member discounts

What can marketers learn from your experience developing this product, especially when considering how to engage the AARP demographic?

AARP is concentrating on a niche often overlooked by the market. Our research showed that 78% of 50+ travel is everyday life travel, trips that are more than a daily routine but not vacation:  family gatherings, life events, emergencies, caregiving visits, quick getaways.

Finally, anything in particular that sets this travel product apart from what other travel websites the AARP member might be using?

AARP Travel is a full experience site that helps travelers from the early steps of dreaming and planning, through booking, and sharing their experiences.

The ability to book directly with Expedia, Liberty or hotels, air and car rentals directly is one component of the site. Travelers have additional ideas, tools and support when using our tools such as the Trip Finder Tool which is especially helpful when you are in the dreaming phase of travel figuring out where you want to go.

Additionally, when members book through the AARP Travel Center, their discount will be reflected in the prices shown so you can compare prices more transparently before you book.

Liberty Travel is a travel agent option for those who may decide that a trip is too complex to book on their own, or would prefer to work with an agent to help plan and manage their trip details. As an AARP member, you can also choose to book directly with the hotel, car rental, airline and other travel partners enjoying your AARP discounts.

NB: Sailing image courtesy Shutterstock.

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