Selling to different generations of clients requires travel agents to develop different skill sets and, perhaps most importantly, learn the different generations’ needs and perspectives.
At a panel discussion at the recent Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, four travel advisors—whose clients fall into different generations—discussed those clients’ travel habits and their challenges in serving these clients.
Here are some key takeaways about the Millennial (Gen Y), Gen X, Baby Boomer, and Mature generations. (Although there’s some flexibility in the definitions, Millennials are defined as 18- to 33-year-olds; Gen X’ers, 34 to 47; Baby Boomers, 48 to 66, and Matures, 67 and older.)
“Millennials are into last-minute travel. They favor weekend trips but they’re also into going to the opposite side of the world. They want to see the world and not just lie on a beach. They’re looking for bragging rights and want to see things their friends haven’t seen. Millennials want to go to Cuba before it comes a destinations. France and Italy have been very popular for travel this summer.
“They’re savvy travelers and they look online but at the end of the day, I’m the one that’s been there. They listen to us [travel advisors].
"They’re also very concerned with wellness—with what they eat right down to their issues with GMOs [genetically modified foods], with fitness options where they travel, with hotel and resorts’ sustainability efforts. We need to know all about these things in advising them on travel. They are very specific with their requests.
"They’re the high maintenance generation – for example, ‘I’m gluten free, allergic to feather.’ Travel advisors can remember all their quirks that an online booking agent can’t.” – Kelly Grumbach, Quintessentially Travel, New York, N.Y.
“Gen X’ers are into wellness travel and also family travel. That’s what drives them. Gen X’ers wants to be more active. They’re more into wellness. Also important is experiential travel—often ‘culture lite.’ They’re looking for more immersive and cultural experiences. Art is very important to them. Community is very important to them.
"Millennials work hard and play harder. They want experiences like everyone else but in a bigger way. They are not about dining at the Michelin star restaurant, but about soaking up the local scene. They’re into the mass experiences but want the red carpet rolled out for them. Millennials are willing to pay for the red rope.
“For both Gen X’ers and Millennials, transparency is key. Gen X’ers use the internet for validation [of their travel desires and plans], Millennials use the internet as an information navigator." —Jack Ezon, Ovation Vacations, New York, N.Y.
“Baby boomers are driving the multi-generational travel trend. At this stage of their lives they want to travel with their families—the entire family.
"When booking a trip, they need to find a destination they offers activities to please all member in the family. Peru and Mexico have been top destinations for summer travel." – Patricia Carranza, Turismo Exmar, Mexico City.
“The older generation is not looking for sedentary travel.They also understand the value of a travel advisor.
“The biggest change I see in the Mature market is that the older generation is looking for adventure travel. I work with one couple in their mid-80s. They travel twice a year and it’s always something unusual. Safari, a cruise through the Red Sea. They want to have active travel for as long as they can.
“This generation is also active on the internet. They use Trip Advisor frequently but they value our travel advisors’ advice more. The biggest challenge serving these clients is that they have too much time on their hands so its hard for them to decide on travel." – Tony Huffman, Huffman Travel, Chicago and Dayton, Oh.