"Millennials" may be the front-runner for the top buzzword of the last decade, and while it's important for travel agents to keep them in their client mix, the money is still in boomers.
Millennials, especially affluent ones, are a growing market for agents, but baby boomers make up nearly half of their client base, according to Virtuoso.
Virtuoso did some research on its agencies' existing clients and discussed the findings recently at Virtuoso Travel Week at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
"Here's the good news," said Terrie Hansen, senior vice president of marketing at Virtuoso. "Our Virtuoso agencies are doing really well with affluent millennials. Our research and our database shows that Virtuoso agents have a good mix of affluent millennials. They're out there, and you're finding them. But clearly they're not as big a segment as boomers and matures. But the important thing is to keep the different generations in the mix."
Virtuoso's research shows that millennials and Generation Xers are the fastest-growing portion of new clients. From 2012-2016, the number of millennial clients among Virtuoso agencies increased from 9-13%, while the number of Gen-Xers increased 20-24%. Baby Boomer clients held relatively steady at 46% in 2012 and 45% in 2016, with very minor fluctuations in between, while matures decreased from 26% to 18% of clients.
Research into the income distribution of clients by generation revealed that the percentage of millennials making $200,000 a year or more exceed every generation except matures.
And millennials are using agents "in record numbers," Hansen said.
"In fact, our research shows that millennials and Xers are an increasingly important segment of clients for Virtuoso," she said.
But while millennials are a valuable clients to have, as Hansen put it, "Boomers are still where the money's at."
They make up nearly half of Virtuoso clients, and they have held steady at that figure in recent years.
"Boomers still hold the majority of spend, total budget," said Hansen, who added that they also have the time needed to travel.
Ellen Bettridge, president and CEO of Uniworld, also addressed the topic of generations at Virtuoso Travel Week. Uniworld is launching millennial-focused river cruises, branded as U by Uniworld, after conducting research into the clients of fellow Travel Corporation brand Contiki. Contiki targets 18- to 35-year-olds, and 94% said they would be interested in going on a river cruise, according to Bettridge, but they want to cruise with people in their demographic.
Like Hansen, though, Bettridge said older generations are "critical to the success of Uniworld," and the brand remains focused on boomers and matures.
"I know where my bread is being buttered," she said.
David Kolner, Virtuoso's senior vice president of global member partnerships, also echoed that sentiment during Travel Week.
"For travel agencies today, especially in the luxury category, boomers are absolutely what those businesses should be focusing on. They are a huge opportunity. They represent, usually, at least half or almost half of total sales in an agency, so it's just a great market," he said. "And I know everybody's very excited about millennials, and somewhat about Xers, but the real money right now continues to be in boomers."