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Travel Industry Faces Generation Divide

The travel industry is staring at a generational divide. On one side are the deep-pocketed baby boomers, with more money and free time than ever. On the other are the burgeoning Generation X’ers, whose oldest members turned 40 this year and who increasingly are asserting their buying power.

The challenge facing hotels, golf courses, airlines, travel agents and tourism marketers is how to appeal to two groups of consumers whose tastes could not be more different.

Typical boomers look for a natural environment, luxurious decor and comfortable accommodations when they travel. Average Gen-X’ers want an urban environment, trendy decor and functional accommodations.

Recent research shows Gen-X’ers spend significant money on leisure travel, while some forty percent of baby boomers stay in hotels five nights or more when they travel. Gen-X’ers aren’t far behind at 31 percent. The number of Gen-X leisure travelers is growing by 7.4 percent annually, compared with 6.5 percent among boomers, according to published research. Gen-X’ers and young people internationally are traveling farther and at an earlier age than their parents did.

While boomers like ritual and ceremony, X’ers defy it. They want more free time and fewer structured activities during business trips. They have little patience for the rituals of golf, like cleaning clubs, playing a full 18 holes and exchanging stories in the clubhouse, according to the research project.

The industry isn’t sure how to appeal to both generations at once, there’s likely to be some trial and error, but the answer appears to be in finding common ground.

For example, boomers like the outdoors, and X’ers like intense sports. So the resort organizes hikes, but accommodates guests who would rather mountain-bike than walk.

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