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Gray is the new green, part 8: Keeping up with the Joneses

Let’s look ahead at some generational trends. Most apparent, Baby Boomers are starting to retire en masse, and Millennials are coming of age. While a lot of our focus is on how to instill a sense of brand loyalty amongst the new tech-savvy demographics, there is still a lot of money pooled in the current reigning champions. But it’s not as if we can just snap our fingers and all the Boomers will enter retirement with loads of ample cash ready to spend on hotels and resorts all over the world. The transition is gradual.

While we are experiencing the beginnings of this changeover as the first glut of post-war births (1945-1950) reaches the prime retirement age of 65, we must keep in mind that the technical definition of the Baby Boomer generation encapsulates the years from 1945 to 1965. The latter half of this (1954-1965) is often categorized separately as Generation Jones, and for the most part they aren’t anywhere near retirement. In fact, as of now, they are at the zeniths of their careers — owners, presidents, VPs, CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, senior managers and so on.

Aside from the emergence of Millennials as a trending and spending consumer force, right now, it’s the Joneses who have the power, with 2015 shaping up to be the landmark year when the torch is officially passed to them by the Boomers. Moreover, the last of Generation Jones won’t pass age 65 until 2030. All told, this will have several far-reaching effects on the economy and how we best market hotel rooms.

First, just because they aren’t entering retirement doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it. It’s something every career-minded person should give some serious thought. As it concerns travel, the Jones group has more ample cash then the Boomers but often less time on their hands, so their vacations are both meticulously itinerated and often extravagant.

With each trip or travel discussion with friends, members of Generation Jones are forming a mental checklist of places they want to visit and brands they want to associate with (or continue to associate with, given that many executives in this age range are already a part of one or more corporate loyalty programs). At this point, assess your marketing activities and promotional packages to see how you are establishing a retirement-friendly brand connection with this demographic prior to their consumption showdown when they hit 65.

You must also take into account the fact that the average age of mortality is increasing, with profound implications for the status quo. That is, a rise in what is generally deemed the customary retirement age from 65 to 70, 75 or 80 would be a sensible development to avoid having a nest egg run out before the person does. Moreover, retirees can be quite burdensome on certain social systems, and with decreasing birth rates, we will need more sexagenarians and septuagenarians to stay in the workforce in order to sustain elements of the economy and balance the greater mortality age.

This means the tentative succession date of 2030 might not equate to a complete passing of the Generation Jones torch. They might be hanging around in the labor pool until 2040. This is coupled with a changing attitude towards retirement. Many view it as the kiss of death — a working heart is a healthy heart, so to speak. With this in mind, it isn’t hard to picture an impending mental shift whereby people don’t start thinking about exiting the office until well into their 70s, if at all.

Any way you put it, this demographic progression will necessitate a sweeping transformation of how we market our properties to those ages 55 or older in addition to what amenities we highlight during the sales process. Future decisions along these lines won’t be strictly about retirement but also a new breed of emeritus wage earners who seek a hybrid travel experience somewhere in the middle between how a C-level executive and a pensioner chooses their respective hotels.

And this is only taking North America into consideration. Many countries such as Germany, France, Japan, Poland and Russia are projected to soon (if not already) eclipse the United States and Canada in terms of population share over 65. In this worldwide economy, you should definitely give some thought as to how you will target the green in these gray nations.

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