Gray is the new green part 11: Cross-generational travel

Awhile back, I wrote about cross-generational word of mouth, and about how ideas related to hospitality percolate up and down through the generations – daughters talking to mothers, granddads chatting with grandsons, uncles conversing with nieces, and so on. The central observation was that we, as hoteliers and marketers, tend to compartmentalize our target demographics, oftentimes failing to see them as an interconnected web of nuclear families, extended families, workplace colleagues, neighbors and social circles of like-minded peers.

Thinking cross-generationally about word of mouth will help you design better promotional materials so that your message carries beyond the select few who hear it firsthand or who have had the pleasure of physically staying at your hotel. In this busy advertising world we find ourselves in, your messages need that staying power to outlast the constant distractions that plague our eyes and ears. But there’s another aspect to cross-generational appeal, and that is the travel itself.

While we tend to generalize the business traveler as the independent road warrior or as a member of a large group of similarly aged corporate cogs, we also do the same for leisure. We think in terms of couples, parents with young kids, spa-pampering packages solely aimed at women, or a group of guys looking for a golf getaway. As such, we tend to neglect the rising flow of fully-grown, multi-generational families traveling together or reuniting at a predetermined locale.

And the reason for this trend’s increase rests predominantly with the boomers. As they get older, they are accruing greater stores of free cash (especially once they become empty nesters) while the onset of retirement means more free time for travel. While journeying across the globe as mature or elderly couples consistently ranks high on every boomer’s bucket list, we are also seeing members of this generation who want to splurge on their families by using a part of their disposable nest-eggs to bring the whole family together, young, old and all in-between.

Think a winter destination vacation at a Mexican resort with the grandparents flying in from Long Island, son, wife and young kids from Chicago, and daughter, husband and teenage kids from Seattle. This is but one arbitrary case of a multi-generational rendezvous on neutral ground. More commonly, such meet-ups are annual ventures over the holiday season, either down in the tropics or a preselected territory of mutual interest, or at the patriarch’s/matriarch’s seasonal abode (with nearby hotel accommodations often acting as bedroom overflow). 

While there’s not much you can do to control multi-generational travel to someone’s personal domicile for a traditional turkey, roast ham and mashed potato dinner, you can control the cross-generational appeal and marketing message you disseminate to get families to consider your hotel in this manner. Essentially, you need to express that your property is compatible with a multitude of demographics and that you are able to deliver an exceptional experience for each divergent mindset.