When Kevin Butler was making plans for his group’s recent trip to Italy, a potential traveler hesitated to sign up.
“I’m only 40 years old,” the man said. “Will I be the only one without a cane?”
Butler, director of Eagle Travel Club for American National Bank in Ardmore, Oklahoma, is used to battling this perception of group travel. The Eagle Travel Club has no age requirement, so he has his answer ready when younger members inevitably murmur their concerns.
“I told the gentleman that there would be older people, but it would be a fun and active trip,” said Butler. “I told him he will have a ball.”
Many bank directors have been struggling with attracting younger travelers, and others have had some or even great success. And although having “a ball” is one of the best attributes of bank travel, Butler and bank directors are learning how to translate the advantages of group travel into a language that is appealing to baby boomers and even younger travelers.
Butler, who has traveled on his own and with family to resorts in Mexico and Costa Rica, observed the demographics in those all-inclusive destinations that are wildly popular in those countries.
“These places that provided all the meals, entertainment and beauty in one package were booming with boomers and younger guests,” he said. “Luggage was taken care of the moment we arrived, and once on the property, we were totally cared for.
“Hm-m-m. Isn’t that what we do in bank travel — except more?”
Consequently, Butler is boasting the all-inclusive nature of bank travel, reminding everyone what bank directors have known all along: When you travel with us, you won’t have to do anything but show up.
“Now, that is attractive to people of all ages,” he said.
Savvy bank directors are also well aware that they need to emphasize opportunities travelers may not be able to plan as individuals.
“We have to remember that boomers can jump on the computer and plan trips,” said Laurie Thacker, director of Freedom Travel Club at Independence Bank in Owensboro, Kentucky.
“As a travel leader, advantages I can offer are destinations and experiences they wouldn’t or couldn’t do on their own.”
Consequently, traveling with Thacker might mean riding elephants in Africa, dining in personal homes in Australia and New Zealand, and even visiting nude beaches in the French Riviera. Adventures with Butler have included everything from ziplining in Costa Rica to simply hanging out in a piano bar in Branson, Missouri, with a dozen friends just to have fun.
For bank directors who struggle with the idea of expanding their advantages to opportunities appealing to younger travelers, they need look no further than their favorite tour operators. Those companies have learned that attracting baby boomers is imperative for survival, and they frequently offer tours designed for weekends and smaller groups. Adventure and educational themes and options during free time are built-in bonuses for tours.
Joanie Coates, manager of Experiences at First American Bank in Des Moines, Iowa, and an avid kayaker and sports enthusiast, rates upcoming trips with tour operators by not only cost but also activity level.
“Members of Experiences can be of any age, so defining tours by these two elements right up front makes it easy for group members to quickly decide if they might have interest,” she said.
Coates takes advantages of many tools in helping to recruit members to the travel program.
“Taking advantage of all of the newest communication tools is so important to keeping bank clubs alive today and for years to come,” she said. “I take advantage of my own youth and the youthful attitude of my members by introducing social networking anyway I can.
“This makes the whole process of traveling with a group even easier for our members. We have to do it — bank clubs can’t be the exception in this day and age.”