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Area hopes to attract boomers
High hopes for tourism in the Fredericksburg area for 2008, beyond

Date published: 3/13/2008

By KELLY HANNON

Baby boomers like to splurge on travel, and have four to six weeks of vacation time, on average.

The Fredericksburg region hopes to capture that demographic, and its dollars.

"Not only do they have the money, they have the time to spend it," said Art Webb, president of BCF Advertising, a marketing agency promoting Fredericksburg area attractions.

BCF, based in Virginia Beach, is responsible for the "Timeless" Fredericksburg media campaign. It also handles advertising for statewide Virginia tourism.

Yesterday, Webb described how to market Fredericksburg-area attractions to baby boomers before more than 100 at a regional tourism event.

Sponsored by the Greater Fredericksburg Tourism Partnership, the session at Riverside Conference Center in Stafford was also a snapshot look at the past year's tourism successes, and a glance ahead. Stafford, Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg contribute to the partnership.

The region draws include: golf, Civil War battlefields, Colonial sites, conferences, and visits to places like the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and in the future, the Kalahari water park in Fredericksburg.

The rising cost of gas--hitting a national average of $3.25 a gallon yesterday--may work in the region's favor, said Bob Carter, Stafford's assistant director of economic development.

Travelers may choose shorter trips on the East Coast instead of Florida.

Kelly Hannon: 540/374-5436
Email: khannon@freelancestar.com


Anyone born between 1946 and 1964 qualifies as a member of the baby boom generation. Today, those babies are adults ages 44 to 62 years old.

That's such a a wide age range, you cannot put a label on the group, Art Webb said. One boomer may be starting a family, another is looking toward retirement.

And there's one label to avoid at all cost. "Never ever, ever, ever make the mistake of calling them seniors," Webb said.

Boomers surveyed don't consider themselves old until they turn 73, and the early 50s are just beginning middle age, he said. That translates to a population that expects to do a lot of traveling over the next 20 to 30 years, he said.

Boomers value volunteering on vacation, learning, adventure, multigenerational travel, and memorable and emotional experiences.

This age group controls 70 percent of the nation's net worth, and a significant number live within a six-hour drive of Fredericksburg.

Webb said businesses should think: "How can we deliver a self-enriching experience to this audience that has more disposable income than any other demographic in the history of the world?"

TARGETING OTHER CITIES

The partnership is advertising Fredericksburg tourism to travelers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington, D.C. It's also getting attention from the New York market, according to BCF research.

The target populations within these regions are couples ages 40 and older, as well as families with children, baby boomers and Civil War enthusiasts.

Research of media use within these cities found married individuals, as well as couples with children, used the Internet more than newspapers, TV and radio for news and information, according to Katherine Kivlighan of BCF Advertising.

CONNECT WITH THE WEB

The Fredericksburg tourism Web site, visitfred.com, has had 136,334 unique visitors since July 1, 2007. Most Web site visitors are in Virginia, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the Washington area.

The most popular pages on the site are the homepage, things to do, events, lodging and dining.

Podcasts on local attractions will be added to the site later this year.

ARRIVING BY THE BUS

A one-day motorcoach trip can bring $2,536 to $4,563 to a region, according to the American Bus Association research.

An overnight motorcoach trip can translate to $5,094 to $11,264.

"It's big, it's important to us, and we actively go after the motorcoach business," said Lura Hill, tourism sales manager for Fredericksburg.

At least 89,845 people visited Fredericksburg on a motorcoach tour last year, as part of 2,065 groups.

Hill thinks that number is underreported, since she gets feedback from only a few hotels, one restaurant, and groups that contact the tourism office.

Hill intends to represent the Fredericksburg area at conferences that could attract more motorcoach tours.

DRAWING GOLFERS

Golf brought more than $200,000 into the Fredericksburg region in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and in just two months in 2008, the area already has $133,000 in bookings, with 10 months of the year to go.

A severe winter in the Northeast could be driving interest, Carter said.

Also, Genesis Golf has been hired to promote overnight golf packages in the Fredericksburg area.

M.C. Moncure, Stafford tourism manager, said the company has visited each local course.

"They know what type of grass is at Lee's Hill versus Augustine," Moncure said.