The generational gap is a very real phenomenon in the travel and hospitality industries. Just as members of each generation approach their day-to-day lives in their own unique ways, so, too, do they approach the travel experience. In some cases, they are as different as night and day; in others, they are surprisingly similar.
And all of them are spending on tourism now. According to Tnooz Millennials are poised to become the biggest travel spenders among all generations, but the Boomers, Generation X, and even Generation Z must not be ignored. As Boomers move into retirement, they will have more money and time to spend on travel, while Gen Xers, as they move into the upper echelons of their companies, will have the greatest buying power among all generations. This is why it is essential that hotels understand how each uses technology during travel.
This series looks into the travel habits of the three generations travelling today: the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. We’ll wrap it up with a look into the future, a prediction about how Generation Z — the oldest members of which will soon be booking trips of their own — will change the hospitality industry in the coming years.
Today, we focus on Boomer travel. Many of them were born before the invention of colour television, let alone the internet, but technology still plays a part in how they book and experience travel.
Born between 1946 and 1964, PeW reports that the Boomers were the most populous living generation until Millennials overtook them last April. That said, they are still the second largest by far, numbering 74.9 million to Generation X’s 66 million, and the oldest among them are beginning to enter retirement. This means they have more free time on their hands, and many are angling to fill that time with travel.
By and large, Boomers see travel as a necessity. They worked hard throughout their careers, save their money, and now they want to see the world. AARP Travel Trends reports that when they hit the road, their primary reasons for doing so are to see new places, relax, and spend time with family and friends. For them, business is no longer a significant factor in their travel plans, if indeed a factor at all. At liberty to spend their time as they please, they value the opportunity for cultural enlightenment and the freedom to explore foreign cities. Many Boomers also express an interest in learning about their heritage; travel allows them to reconnect with their ancestral homelands.
Some Boomers, keen to stay young at heart, are even dabbling in adventure travel (it’s become so common, in fact, that the Wall Street Journal reports many adventure travel companies are marketing packages specifically to Boomers). Others are aware that there is only so much time left to see the world, and plan their travel around their bucket list items — the big-ticket, once-in-a-lifetime destinations and experiences.
Boomers are sometimes characterized as Luddites, eschewing technology at every turn, but nothing could be further from the truth. While many are traditionalists, a full 55 percent of Boomers say a smartphone is essential while travelling. Similarly, only one in five Boomers uses offline means to book travel; the rest rely on the internet or mobile to plan their trips. They may not constantly be on their mobile devices throughout their travels, but they are often close at hand. Without a doubt, mobile technology is a very important tool for Boomers both before and during their travels.
Many Boomers view retirement as a time of relaxation and leisure, and more than anything, they want to be taken care of when they travel. Because of this, they require a little more human contact than younger generations. They crave convenience and luxury — in other words, a high standard of service — and as eHotelier states: are willing to spend more to obtain it.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Boomers want their travel experiences to be wholly old-school. On the contrary, mobile technology can keep Boomers in constant contact with hotel staff, and it allows for more personalized service. The key to successful interaction with the Boomer generation is to balance the human element with the convenience of technology. Too much technology may be perceived as a decline in service, particularly when aspects of service are automated, but too little technology may make them feel like the hotel is withholding the conveniences of modern life.
What are your thoughts on Boomer use of technology during their travels? Let us know in the comments — and stay tuned for our coverage of Generation X next week. You can follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or on Twitter @Benbria for updates.