Generational Marketing: Marketing your tourism business to baby boomers, gen X, or gen Y

shutterstock_627409484No person fits neatly in a box, but for marketers and business owners, classifying customers and target audiences into identifiable groups is essential for selling products and services. Grouping people involves taking many characteristics into account. Whether you classify a person based on hobbies, occupation, marital status, gender, or age, finding commonalities among people allows you to personalize your message to your customer.

One common classification employed by marketers is age group, or, specifically, generation group. So what classifies a generation? Although the age range varies slightly within certain parts of the world, the term “baby boomers” usually refers to people born between 1946 and 1964. “Generation X” ranges from birth dates in the early to mid-1960s to the late 1970s or early ’80s. “Generation Y,” or “millennials,” as they are commonly called, include those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s.

In recent years, we’ve seen a major shift in generational dominance that affects how we market our products and services. The baby boomer generation is now leaving many leadership roles and exploring free-time options. Generation Xers are entering these leadership roles, while generation Y are rising through the ranks and bringing diverse technologies with them. With this shift comes a theory that each generation has its own values, beliefs, interests, and expectations. Generational marketing is built around these theories, which try to break down just what, where, and how to market to these buyers.

When it comes to baby boomers, do not be fooled by their age. They don’t feel old, and many go to great lengths to prioritize their health by frequenting health clubs and staying on top of their dietary needs. For the most part, this generation has accumulated enough wealth throughout the lifetime of their career that they don’t hesitate to spend it. They also enjoy visiting a physical store location when shopping. Boomers are definitely not a generation to be overlooked when it comes to travel, as, according to Statistics Canada, they account for nearly half of all income earned in Canada. According to the 2014 North American Cruise Market Profile prepared by Cruise Lines International Association, over half of all cruise guests are ages 50+. In addition, an Allied Market Research Report estimates that the baby boomer generation is projected to account for the majority of all luxury travel spending in the future.

Between the boomers and the millennials you’ll find a relatively smaller group known as generation X. Heavily involved in the workforce, generation X doesn’t vacation as frequently as boomers or millennials; they are however, known to have a higher spending cap when they do. This was the first generation to see the age of technology evolve into the online information highway it is today. Generation X was a big part of the online shopping movement, with places like eBay popping up online. Although it took some time to trust in the security of internet shopping, this generation now makes a large number of their purchases online. Such purchases include travel packages and online travel bookings. When it comes to their decision-making process, they appreciate physical tourism brochures as well as online reviews.

According to the World Economic Forum, in the next five to ten years, millennials are anticipated to become the core consumer base for the tourism industry, with their business travel accounting for half of all travel spending worldwide by 2020. This generation is not driven to spend their money on fancy brands or cars, but rather on experiences and intangibles that can enrich their life. It is no surprise that adventure tourism and nature-based tourism are very appealing to them. They seek out everyday experiences that involve local people and culture, and are often well informed through reviews posted online and other sources of information. A travel marketing services firm, MMGY Global, found that six out of ten millennials would rather spend their money on experiences than material things, which is a significant factor to consider in marketing to this generational group. They will also be more likely to give a review or post online socially about their experience, so the more interactive your business can be online, the better.

These generational shifts also affect how we market to our intended audience. Is your target market more open to inbound or outbound marketing, or a mix of both? With outbound marketing, communication is one-way; the business tells the potential buyer what it offers through print, TV, radio, and other means of advertising. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, involves two-way communication; businesses can interact with potential buyers through social media, search engines, referrals, etc.

Over the last several decades, we have seen an unprecedented transition to inbound marketing. As a result, advertising efforts are shifting from print-based to multi-media and digital approaches. Consumers have access to an abundance of information without ever having to leave the comfort of their own homes. But paper and other forms of outbound marketing maintain a powerful presence. Some groups prefer tangible outbound marketing tools, which are often effective in conjunction with inbound marketing strategies. Both may be useful to target specific tourism audiences.

With generational marketing considerations in mind, you may choose one marketing technique over the other, or a combination of both inbound and outbound marketing. The effectiveness of each method relies on where your intended target audience will look for your product or service. Thinking like your customer comes in handy here, and to think like your customer you must know to which generational group they belong.


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