Posts Tagged ‘Baby Boomers’

There already have been sightings of vehicles with out-of-state license plates from places like Washington, Oregon and other northern climes.

They herald the start of the annual winter season, when thousands of people from up north migrate to Yuma to bask in the sunshine, preferring shuffleboard for their activity of choice over shoveling snow.

Last winter, slightly more than 80,000 winter visitors descended on Yuma. That’s fewer than in some years but still a big temporary increase to Yuma’s population and an infusion of an estimated $600 million to the local economy, Jon Heidrich told the audience at Thursday’s Know Yuma Inside and Out.

Heidrich, who owns and operates Shangri-La RV Resort with his family, was one of the speakers for the monthly business forum that focuses on various elements of the local economy.

The typical winter visitor is a retired blue-collar worker or farmer coming to the Southwest to get out of the cold, Heidrich said.

“We fondly refer to them as the Old Guard. They’re happy to get a reasonable place to stay and sunshine.”

But things are changing, he said.

“We’re seeing the front end of the baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1965. There’s 78 million of them … 35 percent of the U.S. adult population. It’s a huge segment.”

And they’re reaching retirement age by the millions every year. As they do, they want it all, Heidrich said.

“The first thing,” said Mac McCann, director of operations for Palms RV Resort, “is get to know your customer. The ‘boomerbird’ is different from the ‘snowbird’ with their demands and expectations.”

They have every intention of enjoying their retirement, and many of them are getting a head start with long vacations in the cold winter months, he said.

They’re also a more affluent group. McCann noted that last year, 50 percent of the Palms RV residents were in motor homes valued from $150,000 to $2 million.

McCann agreed with Heidrich that the new wave of winter visitors is looking for activities and entertainment. And the resort delivers with a series of concerts by professional entertainers and a jam-packed 26 weeks of 200 diverse events, activities and classes from jewelry design to music lessons and sailing, along with fitness programs and a spa that stays busy all day.

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The generation that grew up with “On the Road” is hitting the highway once again. Only this time, they’re leaving the bedroll and taking their granite countertops.

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The second home is out. The winter home is for the birds. Baby boomers and retirees are instead turning to luxury RVs — the behemoth land cruisers that promise the allure of travel without the indignity of airport security, plus all the comforts of home.

RVs are getting increasingly fancy. Buyers have gotten used to stainless steel appliances, flat-screen TVs and hardwood floors in their primary residence; now they want them in their motor homes, too. “Luxury is more in demand,” says Kevin Broom, a spokesperson for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. And as the economy picks up, consumers are getting more comfortable spending on high-end goods, notes Brad Schaefer, an analyst at Sageworks, a trend that extends from companies like Tiffanys and Porsche, both of which saw double-digit sales gains last year, to the luxury RV market.

RV lovers cite the ability to travel without airport lines or security hassles, to go “glamping” (imagine camping in Yosemite within feet of your flat-screen), and to see parts of America that are off the well-beaten path as reasons to hit the road in a motor home.

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It’s no secret that South Dakota’s low taxes and lenient vehicle registration policies have made the state a haven for out-of-staters who license vehicles here.

License plates are cheap, and so is the state’s excise tax on vehicles. There’s no state income tax, and the law allowing out-of-state people to register their vehicles does not require them to set foot in the state to get South Dakota plates. The state is especially popular with people who live full time in recreational vehicles, a growing trend among baby boomers heading off to retirement.

But South Dakota officials are attempting to crack down on abuses of the system. Debra Hillmer, director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, recently sent a memo to county treasurers asking them to demand more information from out-of-state residents before issuing licenses. A similar memo went to 10 mail-forwarding businesses, services popular with people who live outside the state but have vehicles registered here.

The goal, Hillmer said, is to discourage falsified applications and collect information on where people really reside. Ultimately, that information could be used by other states to crack down on their residents who license cars, boats and motor homes here.

But critics say it could cost South Dakota millions of dollars by discouraging out-of-state registrations. South Dakota’s licensing fees help counties pay for road repairs, and the state collects a 3 percent excise tax on vehicles purchased and then licensed in South Dakota. New motor homes can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the tax revenue adds up.
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