sealPurdue News

May 16, 1997

Boomers bypass ho-hum travel and seek adventure

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The most recent explosion in the travel industry may have been ignited by aging baby boomers who still want to kick up their heels.

Download Photo Here
Photo caption below

Adventure vacations for persons over 50 years old are one of the fastest-growing areas of the travel industry, according to Purdue University travel expert Alastair Morrison.

"We are seeing a large number of 'younger-older people' in the travel market who are choosing to go on adventure vacations," says Morrison, professor of restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management. "When they go on vacation they don't want to be passive; they want to do something."

He says these aging boomers also want a high-quality experience and have the discretionary income to support their demands.

A 1994 survey showed that 73 million American adults had participated in some form of outdoor or adventure travel vacation. The Canadian Tourism Commission reports that the typical foreigner visiting that country for adventure travel is a male over the age of 45, who travels with a companion.

Don't think that you must scale the Alps or bungee jump in order to take on an adventure vacation. Morrison says active vacations come in all shapes and sizes from the "soft" to the "hard." "What people are looking for is a special environment with a range of activities," he says.

Take, for example, the traditional vacation destination of the Grand Canyon. "There are many ways to see it -- hiking, biking, horseback riding, flying over -- you choose," he says.

Many adventure vacations include elements of another trend in travel, eco-tourism. Adventurers may choose to visit a rain forest, go birding or hike to Incan ruins. These vacations are seen as environmentally friendly, because they emphasize activities rather than facilities. "Adventure travelers feel more helpful and less intrusive on locals. They tend to need only smaller-scale facilities such as lodges or tents," Morrison says.

Because of the growth in active vacations, companies are packaging adventures to make them easier. "Hey, you may want to be active, but you don't want to work," Morrison says. Companies organize adventures for every interest and itinerary. You choose the package and they make all the arrangements -- they'll even cook your food and carry your equipment.

Travel magazines are packed with ads for everything from downhill skiing in Nevada to "tramping" about New Zealand. And because most people don't want to do the same thing every day, these adventure vacations combine several activities.

"People want to be on the move -- see something new every day and learn something. That's another key to an adventure vacation," Morrison says.

"Learning is an important part of active travel, because people don't want to passively take in what they see. They want the experience to be informative in a way that's educational."

If the thought of taking off on an adventure with a group of older people still doesn't sound exciting enough, why not take the grandchildren? "Grandparent and kid vacations are very popular as well," he says. "Today's grandparents enjoy travel and want to do something special with their grandkids. Adventure vacations appeal to both generations."

Source: Alastair Morrison, (765) 494-7905; e-mail,;
Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail;
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Photo caption:

Aging baby boomers are participating in one of the fastest-growing areas of the travel industry: adventure vacations. Here Purdue News Service photographer David Umberger scales Der Zerkle, in the Flatirons near Boulder, Colo. Travel expert Alastair Morrison says adventure vacations need not be strenuous, they just need to be active. (Purdue News Service Photo by Matthew Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Morrison/Adventure
Download here.

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page