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.
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
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
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.
Snapshot: Boomers were born from 1943 to 1960. They are
better at saving than spending. This “Me Generation” created the concept of a
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.
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
Key defining travel interest: What fits their needs at the
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.