Travel can harness its cross-generational appeal to boost sales and increase revenue

Understanding your audience is key to business success. For some products, like children’s diapers, it’s clear who your audience will be, but for travel companies, your audience is likely to be diverse.

A tour operator may find a luxury African safari designed for honeymooning couples is often booked by recent retirees rewarding themselves for a lifetime’s work, or a family who have saved up for a memorable celebration of their child’s tenth birthday.

Establishing who your target customers are has never required more flexibility than in today’s market. From Boomers to Zoomers – and beyond! – how can you use generation cohorts to understand your audience, and adapt to the ever-evolving demands of customers?

What is a generation cohort?

Generation cohorts are, simply, a way of segmenting people. Built primarily around the year of their birth (which differs depending on which source you use), cohorts are also shaped by the “same social, economic, political, and cultural events [experienced] during early adulthood (17-23 years).” 

Cohorts include:

  • Baby Boomers – born 1946 to 1965. This includes recent retirees and those approaching retirement. They may have grown-up children and grandchildren, and experienced vast world changes during their lifetime – including the rise of in-home television and man first walking on the moon.
  • Gen X – born 1966 to 1980. A diverse group from punk rockers to shoulder-pad wearing, ‘greed is good’ business attitudes, Gen Xers have lived through – and led – boom and bust economic moments, whilst cheering memorable moments such as the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Gen Y (or Millenials) – born 1981 to 1994. The older Gen Ys will remember home landlines but this generation cohort is defined by technological revolution. They are the first generation with wide-reaching access to the internet, mobile phones and social media. >
  • Gen Z (or Zoomers) – 1995 to 2010. The ‘digital natives’ of society, Gen Z are also thought to be more risk-averse than Gen X and Y such as favouring low- or no-alcohol drinks and seeking a ‘slower’ pace of life.
  • Generation Alpha – 2010 on. The first generation to be born entirely in the 21st century.

Do generation cohorts impact travel buying behaviour?

Before Covid – and even before the advent of social media influencers – travel has long been a dynamic marketplace, with what is hot or not often determined by third party factors. Hotels have soared in popularity on the back of celebrity associations (for example, Jamaica’s Goldeneye and The Carlyle in New York)and cities have seen an influx of tourists after hosting global events (such as the impact of the Olympics on tourism in Rio de Janeiro).

But there have long been distinctions in what different generations seek from their travel. In the 1960s and 1970s, when package holidays were flavour of the month for British Baby Boomers and their offspring, young adults (today’s early Gen Xers) were donning backpacks and hitting the hippie trails of South Asia. By the late 1990s, package holidays to party destinations such as Ibiza had replaced the hippie trails for young adults. In the last decade, multi-generational holidays have become increasingly popular, combining the diverse preferences of three or four generations into one trip.

A study in the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly found that all generations express positive attitudes towards what they perceive is cool, but that the perception of what hotel brand is cool is where the generations differ. To all of us who have ever been a teenager, it’s no surprise that your parents’ generation differs to you in what they think is ‘cool’ (or even the use of the word ‘cool’!, or ‘dope’ or ‘sick’ or ‘fire’ or ‘savage’). But how can travel – whether a hotel, airline, tour company or destination – harness the positive vibes of being a perceived leader in their field to target the right customer at the right time?

How can travel respond to different generations and their demands?

Today’s consumers are diverse and savvy. They expect products and services to suit their values and lifestyles. And each trip may see an individual present a different wishlist – from experiencing a luxury safari in January to camping in an RV across the USA in June. This century’s phenomen of the ‘flashpacker’ sums this up – people seeking unique experiences previously found by backpackers, but with more luxury touches such as four- and five-star hotels, business class travel or gourmet meals mixed in.

Knowing your customer and satisfying their needs is key when creating your marketing strategy. Using generation cohorts alongside deeper understanding and flexibility in defining your audience is needed to tap into the diverse demands of each customer. A generation cohort gives a wider picture of a person than their age alone, particularly when people may straddle two cohorts, but it does not give a holistic picture of the person. To achieve this, you need to treat each visitor to your travel website as an individual, tailoring content to their unique set of desires.

Testing your marketing assumptions

As a marketer, you need to test assumptions about your audience to be able to cater for individuals; overriding systemic bias is needed to ensure each customer has their needs and desires catered for. Using AI, you can configure a starting hypothesis, based on which products you believe will be relevant for a specific audience or customer profile. The AI will test and develop this rule, assessing if it really is the right audience and refining it with multiple variations in real-time to maximise sales.

For example, promoting a hotel with a water park to families with young children is likely to deliver bookings, but the AI can run variations which may find that the water park resort is popular with child-free couples or groups of friends, particularly in shoulder season.

Being responsive in real-time drives engagement

Harnessing the power of technology, travel companies and other online retailers are able to speak in real-time to each website visitor. Artificial intelligence analyses users through thousands of different signals, creating a user profile for every individual, and – by using rules which you set within the system – your website can then display personalised content in real-time. This technology lets you take a targeted approach to reducing churn on your website and maximising revenue, and presents your website as an agile environment which speaks directly to your customers’ individual needs and circumstances.

Whether you’re looking to better understand your generation cohorts, or target specific groups with more accuracy, bd4travel’s data platform will enable your digital sales platform to understand each visitor and predict to a high-degree of accuracy the nature of their visit, before activating the messages and promotions you want them to see.

To find out how bd4travel can work for your travel business contact one of our reps, or discover how we address the pain points in website conversion in the bd4travel blog.

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