By Alan E. Young
In almost any industry, the success of a brand can be tied back to its ability to understand and pro-actively appeal to consumer buying behaviors. Anticipating that behavior often requires an in-depth dive into consumer preferences, and an on-going understanding of how those preferences and expectations vary across groups, scenarios, and other key differentiators.
Travel and hospitality industry leaders spend a great deal of time observing emerging trends and how they apply (or don’t) to certain groups. In many cases, this focus centers on generational groups, as hospitality professionals seek out a deeper understanding of generational preferences throughout the entire traveler journey. Millennials, baby boomers, Gen X; we love to talk about them all, analyzing their every move from pre to post-stay to derive conclusions that help shape the modern guest experience. I, myself, have written many articles on precisely those topics; however, it’s important to realize that there exists another critical piece to the puzzle.
The more we dig into generational travel, the more we realize another, equally important trend — multigenerational travel. In fact, the rise in multigenerational travel is, arguably, positioned to change the hotel and travel industry.
It’s a Family Affair
First, let’s consider the numbers. According to studies, 33-40% of the $270 billion in leisure travel is multigenerational. Virtuoso, an international travel agency network specializing in luxury and experiential travel, found that the top travel trend is multigenerational travel. In 2017, Travel Leaders Group, which represents 50,000 agents in North America, reported that 91% of its agents booked multigenerational family trips. In another survey, 83% of respondents agreed these holidays were an enjoyable experience, with over 75% suggesting they plan to do it again in the future.
Really, this widespread push for trips that span across family generations should come as no surprise. As we look at the recent rise in baby boomer travel, we understand that the boomer generation is retiring in large numbers and, as such, want to spend more time with their families. Subsequently, millennials have a noted penchant for experiential travel and, combined with the desires of their generational predecessors; more families are choosing to vacation together. Beyond that, Euromonitor International’s 2018 Global Consumer Trends report also indicated that the rise of multigenerational travel “is in part about finances and Boomer parents helping their cash-strapped kids.” In fact, grandparents, more so than parents (35% vs. 25%), are more willing to pay for multigenerational trips to “help family members enjoy a vacation they otherwise could not afford.
Generation Z is relatively new to the party in terms of generational considerations. People born between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s (therefore between the age of 3 and 23) make up this subset and have a surprising amount of influence. In fact, the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has reported that Gen Z influences $600 billion of family spending, playing a pivotal role in the decision to take family trips. That’s right, the kids, the grandparents — everyone is invited. A common theme across each generation seems to be the desire for authentic, unique travel experiences — ideally, experiences and accommodations that help to create lasting memories, and foster closer bonds for years to come.
Destinations of Choice
The top destinations for family trips appear to be Italy, Mexico, South Africa, Costa Rica, and Turks & Caicos. Further, in a recent survey conducted by GroupAccommodation.com, nearly seven in ten respondents said their multigenerational trips usually took place outside of the UK. Spain was the most popular foreign destination, accounting for 43% of all European travel. Closer to home, the South West of England was home to almost a third of all UK visits.
Of course, when considering 2-3 generational groups within one trip, you’re dealing with people of different ages, abilities, and interests. As such, these travelers are sure to select destinations that they perceive to have a ‘little something for everyone’ to enjoy while abroad.
What Does the Perfect Multigenerational Trip Look Like?
Let’s break it down a little bit further. Studies show that Gen Z travelers value unique, adventure experiences such as exploring and trying new things more than anything else. Baby boomers are also interested in ‘bucket-list’ travel, while also exhibiting a penchant for more traditional travel experiences (such as sightseeing or touring) and opportunities to relax and unwind. Millennials and Gen X, on the other hand, seem to seek out relaxation and local experiences, with 86% stating they would rather experience a new culture, compared to 44% who prefer to party or 28% who prefer to shop. Even further, 77% of multigenerational trips are associated with a life event (milestone birthday or anniversary, family reunion, etc.). As such, settings and accommodations that provide these groups with the ability to connect as a whole, but also enjoy experiences separately or in smaller groups, are sure to strike a chord.
Many hotels around the globe are rising to this occasion, finding creative ways to attract and engage with multigenerational groups. This can include specialized packages and incentives with perks and experiences catered to different groups within the family, unique amenities, and flexible accommodation styles. In a recent Skift report, AFAR Editor Jen Murphy highlighted the Nantucket Hotel in Nantucket, Massachusetts as an impressive multigenerational property because of its flexible layout and range of accommodations. The hotel offers one to four-bedroom suites, along with cottages that featuring kitchenettes, living and dining areas.
Acqualina Resort and Spa on The Beach in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, is another great example, as they created an app specifically to cater to multigenerational groups. The app is utilized to let guests know how the floor plans are laid out to accommodate all of their requests from bedding preferences to living areas for the family to enjoy. It also lets them know about unique, family-oriented activities like beach Olympics and search the app based on categories: family accommodation; on-property activities; hotel restaurants; excursions, and featured recommendations.
What Matters Most: Reputation and Connectivity
Travel and hospitality professionals are often especially invested in the technological preferences across generations, as millennial travels often rely on the modern conveniences associated with digital technology, while older generations may prefer to ‘unplug’ while on vacation. While these expectations do vary based on age and trip ‘type,’ general connectivity through basic digital conveniences such as Wi-Fi appears to be a common standard. In fact, recent statistics indicate that Wi-Fi is one of the most important parts of the guest experience with 65% of guests getting online within seven minutes of checking in and a third requesting the Wi-Fi password as soon as they arrive. This demand is often reflected across the entirety of the guest experience, with most travelers now expecting Wi-Fi access onboard the plane, as well.
Another common theme across generations? The consideration of social reputations. From airlines to excursions, tourist attractions, and (especially) hotels, all generations tend to value reviews when planning their trip. Fortunately, this is a consideration that should be applied across the board as a hotelier or travel professional’s top priority. In today’s hospitality climate, your online reputation can make or break your brand.
If one thing is undisputedly clear, it’s this: multigenerational travel isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it’s just gaining momentum with each passing year. The more important question is, have you positioned your offering to connect to this growing, diverse traveler base?