The Future of Travel – Defined by the Next Generation

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It’s impossible to say for sure what travel will look like in 10 years. But organizers of the inaugural Young Travel Professionals FutureTravelLab conference, held in New York this past January, took a unique approach to getting answers: They actually asked the people likely to be driving those changes—Millennials in the industry.

About 80 of them attended, according to Skift.com, with the ultimate goal of forging connections between older travel professionals and the next generation of both colleagues and travelers.

So what did these young pros and entrepreneurs have to say?

First, let’s look at their responses to this question: “Imagine the travel industry 10 years from now. What are the major differences in the way people travel?” Then, we’ll look at the potential implications.

“A world where you sort hotels by those your friends use most instead of just price, distance and rating.”

“The hotel will become less of an isolated space to dine/rest and more of a forum for culture and the locality—contributing the fabric of the community it exists within.”

“Less human interaction and more and more automation of processes.”

Those first two quotes are about transforming the components of travel into more than interchangeable parts—creating meaningful experiences that provide cultural and social benefits. But the third vision, despite its focus on automation and efficiency, still would require the right human interaction at the right time.

What does this mean to your brand? There are some key takeaways to help you succeed as this future nears, according to the Skift.com story about the conference:

  • You need to use social media to develop relationships, not merely sell. This generation sees through inauthentic marketing, attendees pointed out.
  • Luxury is changing. That five-star hotel that feels like entering a bubble? It’s probably not interactive or culturally fulfilling enough for Millennial travelers, who want social experiences.
  • Consider the post-marketing world. More travelers will expect one-on-one relationships, not generalized marketing campaigns. The more you can target and personalize their experiences, the better.

Travel is one industry that will never go completely online—but that doesn’t mean you don’t need technology. The brands that succeed will effectively combine technology and the human touch to create unforgettable experiences that meet each individual’s definition of “luxury.”

How to Market to Different Generations

Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials… you might need to focus most of your marketing efforts on one generation at any given time, but you probably can’t afford to completely neglect any of these key demographics.

So how do you find the right generational marketing mix for your company and brand? How do you cultivate legacy customers, building for the long term while succeeding in the short term? And how do you create balance among your messaging and strategies?

It’s not easy. Millennials, for example, are the most likely of any generation to have purchased a luxury product or service within the last 12 months, according to the Shullman Research Center. But they don’t have nearly as much buying power as other adult generations, which means they might be profitable for you in the future, but probably won’t provide much revenue immediately.

On the other hand, there are more people in their 20s in the U.S. today than in their 30s, 40s or 50s. Soon, those twenty-somethings will have the purchasing power to help your company thrive—if you’ve laid the foundation for a strong relationship, that is.

Building a Foundation for Today and Tomorrow

The best marketing mix will attract and cultivate future legacy customers—those who will be with you for years—while also keeping more established clientele, those who are able to afford you today, engaged with your brand.

To accomplish this, you’re going to have to use different vehicles, meeting the generations where they are. And the key, as always, is being clear about who you want to reach with the various channels, and what you want them to do, Millennials researcher Jason Dorsey told Sourcing Journal last year. Here’s his advice on preferences among different generations:

  1. Millennials
    Email still matters for many of them, and if they’re willing to provide a mobile number, text is best. Snail mail isn’t as effective. Facebook and Pinterest can be effective vehicles for Millennial moms.
  2. Gen X
    Social media is also big for Gen Xers, along with email and texts. Like Millennials, snail mail isn’t a great option.
  3. Baby Boomers
    This older generation is quickly increasing social media usage, but more traditional vehicles often are more comfortable and effective at reaching them.

To find your mix, Dorsey and others encourage small tests to find out what works best for your brand and the generations you want to cultivate. “It’s not about how many people you reach,” he told Sourcing Journal, “but how many people you get to engage and buy.”

Final Word

With the right mix, channel and message, you’ll start building the kind of relationships that ensure the “engage and buy” process continues well into the future—for all generations. Start planning for tomorrow – contact Brown Marketing to get started.

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