Marketing Vail travel to boomers, ‘millennials’ can be tricky | VailDaily.com
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Marketing Vail travel to boomers, ‘millennials’ can be tricky

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO, Colorado

VAIL ” The so called “millennial” generation was born to travel.

Never having known life without the Internet and cellphones, this generation ” roughly defined as people between 14 and 29 years old ” have a more global mindset. They see it as their right to roam about and see the world, and no other generation had as many experienced travelers at such a young age, says Lalia Rach, Dean of the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

Rach spoke last week at the Mountain Tourism Symposium at the Vail Cascade about the differences between millennials and the baby boomers, those of you born between 1946 and 1964.

While millennials are the future of mountain travel, baby boomers still have lots of money, power and a youthful, adventurous spirit. They don’t want to be forgotten and dismissed, Rach said.

The success of the travel industry will greatly depend understanding the differences between baby boomers and millennials, and figuring out how to appeal to both groups.

The typical ‘millennial’

Millennials want to have fun, and a fun lifestyle is paramount.

They live in a world of social networking websites, communicate by cell phones and text messages. They want things to be new, want things fresh, want things fast, and they want everything they use to be multifunctional, such as the iPhone.

Rach calls millennials the “half-caff” generation, referring to the sometimes complicated ways people order drinks at a coffee house. Millennials love customization and know exactly what they want.

This is a generation who, when they go to job interviews, have a list of questions for their potential employers, Rach said, making them answer the question, “why is this a good place to work?”

They’re redefining traditions and expectations to accommodate their lifestyle. In 2000, 6 out of 10 twenty-somethings were unmarried, and by 2008, that grew to 8 out of 10, Rach said.

Millennials often return home after graduating from college. They like the lifestyle, and they know living at home with their parents is easier. This is something you rarely saw baby boomers do, Rach said.

But millennials aren’t wasting time moving back out of their parents’ homes.

“They’re buying homes three years earlier than any other generation before them,” Rach said.

So, knowing all that, what do millennials want in a vacation, and how do you appeal to them?

Rach says millennials love having information in advance. Apparently, they’re very good planners. With the Internet at their fingertips, they want to research everything that’s available to do and how to do it. They want to be involved in every decision, and they want active vacations. They want sophistication wrapped around everyday things ” you know, eating that pizza with goat cheese and figs.

If you want to reach millennials, you have to do it in the virtual realm, the world of Myspace, Facebook, Youtube and Wikipedia. They want truth in advertising ” millennials have the best “BS” barometer, Rach said.

The typical “boomer”

A couple of interesting facts about baby boomers ” 80 percent don’t plan to retire, and 63 percent feel younger than their chronological age, Rach said.

Boomers have a relentless drive to remain youthful. They understand they are getting older, but they don’t want to be dismissed, Rach said. They want to stay relevant and young.

“Who knew about botox a decade ago? Who knew about buying yogurt that would keep you regular?” Rach said.

So, it’s important to find ways to keep boomers engaged ” to give them the adventure and youthful feeling they want, but to still be accommodating to the needs of an older person.

To illustrate as example of how a smart company reached out to baby boomers, Rach shows the audience a photo of a 1967 Harley Davidson, an eternal symbol of youth and adventure.

Harley Davidson, not wanting to lose those customers who bought Harleys years ago, put out a new product ” the Sportster trike, which is basically a big, bad motorcycle with three wheels. This thing won’t tip over.

It has a trunk, padded seats, air vents and ample room for two. It’s not exactly a hip-looking vehicle, but for an aging boomer, it’ll do fine. Sportster trike riders are still free, they’re still on open road, and they’re still on a Harley.

That’s the kind of innovation the travel industry needs to look for ” finding ways to make a ski experience easier for older customers, while making sure it still feels like a youthful, adventurous experience.

It will be important for the travel industry to work at universally appealing improvements to resorts and ski destinations ” things like better road signs, more rest stations, better parking.

These are things that might be geared toward helping older guests, but really help everyone. When these things are everywhere, and are used by everyone, boomers won’t feel singled out. They’ll feel taken care of.

“I liked the idea of universal improvements ” things that are really there to help everyone,” said David Banks, a hotel manager and audience member. “It’s all about knowing your customers.”

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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