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Gray is the new green, part 6: Thinking medium term

While drawing more Millennials seems to all the rage these days, we should not forget they are still in their 20s and 30s — ages not immediately indicative of free-flowing cash reserves. Yes, it’s a good long-term strategy that will pay off in the next few decades, but what about the interim?

In the short term, critical matters affecting all age groups are what take precedent. How about the medium term, the next three to nine years? As of now, Boomers and Gen Xers hold most of the buying power, even though the Millennials are a more populous and outspoken demographic. Moreover, the paucity of Millennial money becomes even sparser when you think of their expenses — namely paying off education debt, starting a family, buying a first home and living large on one’s home turf.

These are fiscal scenarios more akin to younger persons, regardless of generation. And to think of the reverse, what monetary situations are typical for older persons? Senior management positions, surplus cash in the bank accounts, retirement pensions, medical bills and more time for travel. Yes, Boomers are not without their problems, but the good far exceeds the bad.

In this sense, an unmoving Millennial focus may dampen real opportunities. I too am guilty of addressing Millennial issues a tad too often because they are indeed the future of the travel market. But they’re only one part of a much bigger picture. You need balance — young and old, business and leisure, foreign and domestic. While the Boomer market may start to die (figuratively and, sadly, literally) in about 15-20 years, it will be hugely lucrative in the medium term — and it’s a space that many hotels aren’t interested in giving their full attention.

How can you entice those Boomer guests to your doorstep? This isn’t exactly breaking new ground, so I’ll pose just one question: are Boomers and Millennials all that different?

What were Baby Boomers doing when they were in their 20s and early 30s? They were young upstarts, dreamers or hippies, struggling to earn a decent living while also rebelling against the authorities of their parents, the supposed Greatest Generation. Now the Boomers are the authority figures and the ones with the money. If history really does repeat itself, then aren’t Millennials (and Gen Xers, for that matter) bound to continue this young-versus-old cycle when they mature?

Millennials are often described as wanting a hotel that is technology-savvy, compassionate and environmentally friendly. This generation is painted as one that wants to make a difference by striving for independence and visionary leadership. Uh, hello? These are more or less the exact same descriptors you’d use for the Baby Boomers in the mid-1960s and early 1970s.

As a Boomer, I find it insulting to solely describe the Millennials as eco-conscious or tech-prone because it presupposes that we possess none of those qualities. So, what are we then, a generation of devil worshippers? Of course Boomers care about the environment, and of course they want to stay at a hotel that is concerned about our well-being. It would be better to think of these characteristics as a spectrum — Millennials may be more inclined towards technology than Boomers, but it’s important to both demographics. And to think that Boomers are such technological Neanderthals that they have failed to espouse smartphones, tablet computing, Netflix, Facebook and the like is blatantly idiotic. Boomers want complimentary in-room Wi-Fi too, but also better bedside reading lights, an exceptional room service menu, larger TVs with free cable channels like HBO, illuminated makeup mirrors in the bathroom, comfy bathrobes, friendly staff, flawless housekeeping and so on. I think you get the picture.

Using this spectrum model of thinking, any plans you devise for the medium term to appeal to an older crowd will also work for younger consumers. If it’s all a matter of maturity, then developing strategies to attract the current generation at the height of power — in this case, the Baby Boomers — will continue to pay dividends as the next demographic segues into that position.

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