What to find out about journey advertising throughout generations post-COVID-19

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Recovery from the fallout of COVID-19’s social distancing orders will be shaped by each generation’s ability and desire to begin traveling again.

As travel and hospitality industry leaders begin to think through their future marketing strategies, they should consider the ways in which each generation is formed by unique generational characteristics, which in turn are shaped by historical events during each distinct generation’s formative years.

Here are some tips that travel providers can look to when making adjustments to accommodate the future needs and proclivities of distinct generations of American travelers.

The Silent Generation

According to generational research, the Silent Generation, born 1925 to 1942, was wedged between two powerful generations: the World War II generation and baby boomers. Forced into a role of helper rather than decision-maker, the Silents feel the need to experience things directly and efficiently, secure that the best things in life have not passed them by.

For them, traveling in the “new normal” is likely to mean visiting family, fulfilling dreams and pursuing “safe” adventures. Post-COVID-19, their bucket list may no longer include Machu Pichu – but could be replaced by the Aspen Festival, open-air operas in Santa Fe and enjoying less-populated areas like Wyoming that offer social distancing and togetherness.

To capitalize on the need for “family togetherness,” hotels are advised to present themselves as one’s home away from home. So are destinations. Airlines are well advised to appeal to their sense of journeying with a family purpose, and for personal fulfillment, not necessarily for business.

The Silent Generation also values “stamps of approval,” such as a good history, awards and brand recognition – take note, Forbes Travel Guide and Tripadvisor!

Baby boomers

Baby boomers, born 1943 to 1960, crave new experiences, transformation and periods of self-discovery. Above all, they want to be treated specially and as distinctive individuals – free shuttle pickup at the airport, transportation to points of interest, central location, free breakfast and happy hour.

To attract baby boomers, every hotel floor should be a VIP floor in the new normal. Painfully aware that this youth-loving generation is now considered vulnerable for social distancing purposes, boomers really need the boost of travel – presented to them as individually tailored, curated experiences.

Gen X

Gen X, born 1961 to 1981, is America’s practical generation. They grew up amidst difficult situations like latchkey lives, divorce, accelerating crime and deteriorating schools. They are a generation of survivors. Their necessities include exceptional Wi-Fi, a location that may not be central but gives them easy access and insider information to what is offered around town. They are focused on health and well-being, a trend that hotels and destinations already started capitalizing on pre-COVID.

To attract Gen X, travel providers should re-up the effort. Redo menus to reflect healthy eating options. Offer vegan, Paleo, South Beach, Bulletproof Executive and local specialties.

And think carefully about your first online touch points with them in the booking path. A compelling, attractive website is critical to catching their attention. If you can’t design an easy-to-navigate site, you can’t appeal to Gen X. “Pay for three nights, get a fourth one free” will appeal to the practical nature of GenXers in the new normal.

Millennials

Millennials, born between 1982 to 2000, see COVID-19 as a “boomers’ disease,” something that doesn’t affect millennials any more than the flu. They are the foot soldiers in returning to normal life. Generally speaking, they are less likely to mind the risk of going to concerts and going on vacations, especially if they’re paying less than they’re used to paying. It’s their chance of a lifetime to see the world.

So, an EDM festival that attracts a younger crowd will have an easier time selling tickets and attracting people to your hotel than a jazz festival which attracts an older crowd. Hotels or destinations that promote those types of events need to recognize they’re likely to draw more quickly from a younger clientele – not so quickly, from the older groups.

Gen Z

Gen Z, born 2001 to 2019, was a “worried” generation even before the coronavirus emerged. They have never known a world without terrorism, Amber Alerts and Columbine. They also have protective parents and grandparents who take an active role in Gen Z’s decision-making.

To appeal to them, marketing strategies, reservations and hotel experiences should be hassle-free, efficient – and above all – reassuring.

Tell Gen Z upfront what you are delivering, and then deliver it. This is a generation of consumers that needs to build trust.

At the same time, today’s teens, which comprise this generation, are more consumer-savvy and resistant to blatant sales messages than any other consumer segment – so think nuance, not hammer. Don’t be the drug ad that mentions so many side effects that you’d rather have the disease.

Summary

Generational characteristics do not provide the sum and substance of a complete marketing strategy – but they do provide important guideposts and insights, which travel marketers ignore at their peril.

Thinking through the lens of each generation when planning marketing approaches is likely to yield practical insights into how budget dollars are allocated – as well as indicators of the way in which those spends could impact traveler behavior.

By knowing each distinct generation’s unique generational characteristics, taking measures to ensure ultimate safety and training staff to be more service-oriented, travel companies can, in the words of the Godfather, make each generation of travelers an offer they can’t refuse. It all starts with understanding who they are and where they come from.

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