Know your demographic to connect with travelers post-Covid

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There are immense challenges facing the travel industry in marketing to the post-Covid traveler. How will providers connect directly with travelers’ needs to feel safe, secure and comfortable in the new era? 

Understanding the travel inclinations and preferences of five generations of American consumers can provide guidance to travel advisors, marketers and suppliers.

Ann Fishman
Ann Fishman

As understood by the academic community that studies them, a generation of consumers is shaped by the historic events that happened during its formative years, producing unique characteristics that can offer keys to connecting with them effectively.

Based on my research, here’s how they’re likely to think about comfort, personal safety and rewarding travel experiences as travel resumes.

SILENT GENERATION

Snapshot: Silents were born from 1925 to 1942 and are at or near retirement. They have the money to travel, and they worry that life is passing them by.

Key defining travel interest: Safe adventures.

Marketing tips: Silents grew up following the rules. They expect travel providers to acknowledge this and reinforce adherence to publicly sanctioned norms. This generation of traveler wants to understand every guideline for safe and healthy travel in the new era; the more, the better. They grew up with the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and rewarded hospitality companies that had strict adherence to standards, even before Covid-19. 

How to reach them effectively: Across the board, travel brands -- airlines, cruise ships and hotels -- should highlight their history and awards for quality, including cleanliness rating if applicable.  

BABY BOOMERS

Snapshot: Boomers were born from 1943 to 1960. They are better at saving than spending. This “Me Generation” created the concept of a bucket list.

Key defining travel interest: Family trips, spiritual/self-discovery activities and learning experiences.

Marketing tips: Boomers are rule breakers, but they now see themselves as vulnerable because of age. If you want to keep them happy, make guestrooms and public areas spotless with acceptable cleaners and offer safety masks each day if that is a requirement for the local area. 

Help them dine better. This is the generation that practically invented eating out; it’s important to them. To make them feel secure, rearrange dining areas to promote social distancing by only taking 50% occupancy and position tables 6 feet apart. Consider more outdoor dining and cocktail hours. Boomers want to know cleaning staff is wearing fresh shoe covers, gloves and masks for each room and that they wash their hands when entering and leaving. For the best response, offer them masks each day if that is a regional requirement.

GENERATION X

Snapshot: Gen X was born from 1961 to 1981. Xers were children of divorce, latchkey kids, and were locked out of the job market because of the large numbers of baby boomers. This generation is cynical and practical. 

Key defining travel interest: What fits their needs at the moment.

Marketing tips: Xers will Google every aspect of your company, down to your refund and cancellation policies, before committing to a purchase. Make sure your website experience is engaging, information is transparent and plentiful and always -- always  --  follow up on questions and requests for information.

How to make them comfortable: When it comes to cleanliness, Xers have been wiping down seats with disinfectants for years. This is an important generation because they influence every other generation that travels, so it’s well worth the effort to get to know them better. Xers will want reasonable, close-to-the-date insurance or refund/cancellation policies in case there is a second wave of the virus. Xers don’t trust travel-rating services, preferring to rely on trusted travel blogs and third-party safety verification. For airlines, price and flight schedule still mainly influence their decisions.

MILLENNIALS

Snapshot: Millennials were born from 1982 to 2000. They will be the foot soldiers who bring America back to work, back to play and back to travel. This is a digital generation, so every interaction with millennials is key because every experience, good and bad, will hit the internet in real time.

Key defining travel interest: World travel, glamping, hanging out with friends, cruises and beaches.

Marketing tips: Outdoor activities and word-of-mouth marketing are the keys. Millennials see this period as the chance of a lifetime to see the world. If they want to travel, they will travel. And they will share each and every experience, good and bad, with their online communities.

How to reach them effectively: Talk to them online and hit hard on social media. While many are taking Covid-19 seriously, there is a large contingent of them willing to take advantage of steep discounts right now. Millennials are also fashionistas, and a basket of cool masks at the front desk could be seen as selfie-worthy to those on the road.

GEN Z

Snapshot: Gen Z was born from 2001 to 2019. They were a worried generation before the pandemic because terrorism, amber alerts and school shootings brought danger closer to home for them. They also have parents and grandparents who help them make decisions. This generation is more ambitious and competitive than the millennial generation, meaning they are always looking for the most unique, most curated experience possible.

Key defining travel interest: Specialty adventures, such as coding classes, soccer, Frisbee, snorkeling and downtime for video gaming.

Marketing tips: Do their parents and grandparents approve? This is a young group, and very few of them are making travel decisions for themselves at this point. But that doesn’t mean they are not influencers. Keep the kids happy and occupied, and you will have happier parents and grandparents traveling with them! Find ways to appeal to their interests to keep the conversation going around them; build a profile of these travelers now to benefit your business later.

How to reach them effectively: Every aspect of travel for this group has to be hassle-free, and it had better have a great internet connection. Don’t overload this generation of worriers with too much information. Consider a more nuanced approach, and don’t go overboard on messaging.

These are broad guidelines, of course, but should help travel providers begin thinking clearly about which generation of travelers they are trying to reach and how to reach them better in a post-Covid-19 world.
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Ann Fishman, founder of Generational Targeted Marketing and a former adjunct professor at New York University, has been the recipient of four U.S. Senate Research Fellowships, informed the development of federal legislation and provided guidance to some of the country’s best-known companies, large and small.

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