In recent years, a slew of social media attention, marketing studies, and news reports have been dedicated to the generation gap — particularly the one between Millennials and Baby Boomers. Volumes have been written about how the habits, priorities, and lifestyles of this younger generation differ from their parents.
Because of the incredible focus on America's two largest generations, the generation in-between is often ignored. For the hospitality industry, focusing on Generation X offers a substantial opportunity to tap into significant buying power and generate new revenue streams.
According to Pew Research, Gen Xers currently make up a third of the US workforce. And at 66 million people, Gen Xers also spend nearly one-third more than Millennials do annually. This is a clear opportunity. We're hopeful the hospitality industry will take advantage.
Gen X Marks the Spot for Hospitality Market Potential
As a Gen Xer herself, Joslyn Balzarini, Senior Interior Designer and Principal at B+H Advance Strategy, is well aware of the importance of her generation. “We're running most companies right now...it’s funny that for the last 15 years, we've been focused on: what do the millennials want? What do the Millennials need in the workplace? How are they so different from the Boomers?" Balzarini's point is well taken. Gen X's success in the workplace means that they have significant buying power.
A Millward Brown survey of China, Germany, and the US found that 68% of Gen Xers are the chief shopper when it comes to big purchases such as travel and activities. 83% are working full or part time and currently spend the most money on travel compared to their younger and older counterparts. On average, they spend $627 during each day of travel.
Currently, Xers have the greatest amount of buying power and financial freedom of any generation. For the hospitality industry especially, paying attention to the travel-related needs, motivations, and trends of Gen Xers offers an opportunity for competitive advantage.
Two Key Insights About Gen X:
1) Hyperinfluencers have the power to make or break companies
Gen X is the most connected generation, per research by Nielsen. They use social media 40 minutes more each week than Millennials and also spend more time on every type of device — phone, computer, or tablet. They understand the impact that communication, online presence, and social media have on their experiences. Can you imagine booking a vacation, room, or activity without first looking at a website or reading reviews?
To thrive, hospitality brands should consider the rise of influencers and the move to social media in general for reviews, sharing experiences, and building brand engagement, along with the power of rapidly transforming media platforms and payment technologies that are molding lifestyles and shopping habits.
2) Catering to solo travelers is essential
The number of singles of all ages is growing rapidly around the world. With commitments that move beyond getting married (or remarried), buying a house, and raising a family, many travelers are seeing the solo lifestyle as the key to flexibility, freedom, adventure, and empowerment.
What travel experiences are they looking for?
For many Generation X travelers, new experiences top the list of vacation must-haves. That includes unique and exciting and unique services, cutting-edge tech, and curated excursions tailored to their values, interests, and inspirations.
While excessive opulence isn’t on the itinerary for every traveler, many expect a level of luxury and comfort to accompany each unique experience. Secret destinations and five-star resorts off the beaten track from popular and crowded tourist spots are the newest trend in luxury travel.
Extended-stay hotels, for example, have taken a cue from the flexibility of the sharing economy. They’ve become increasingly popular, beating out hotels with a 77% occupancy rate, compared to hotels at about 70%. These types of accommodations combine the comfort of a fully furnished home with all the services and amenities of a hotel, like an AirBnB with room service and dry cleaning.
Community Through Branding
As retail and hospitality brands continue to add new experiences to their spaces, they’re slowly becoming cultural curators, sponsors, and programmers. Repositioning the hotel space as a catalyst for change at the individual, local, and global level — from grassroot activism, to industry impact, environmental responsibility, and in-house wellness practices — is a holistic approach that creates a community within itself.
In addition, socially conscious consumers are expecting brands to do more than push products and rake in the profit. In a political and economic climate where more people can and do opt to “vote with their wallets,” brands can expect their customer base to react to their public vision, affiliations, and even where they (or their parent companies) donate.
Restorative Retreats, Self-Care, and Sustainability
The life of a busy Gen Xer requires some time away to recharge. As the generation most likely to be supporting not just themselves, but two other generations (their parents and children) simultaneously, low-key, low-tech getaways are exactly the right solution to destress.
An increased awareness of mental health and an expanding self-care industry has resulted in city installations created as refuges from the hustle and stresses of urban life. Sustainable, renewable, and earth-friendly accommodations are a purchasing point for many, even in bustling cities far from rainforest huts or desert lodges where you’d normally expect to find such features.
For example, the Hilton London Bankside features the world’s first vegan hotel room, where the pillows are filled with buckwheat and millet hulls, and the stools are upholstered in material made from pineapple leaf.
And when getting out of town is absolutely imperative, many more Gen Xers are retreating to nature. Travel + Leisure cites the 2019 KOA North American Camping Report in a recent blog, claiming that “camping has become increasingly popular among younger people, particularly Millennials and Gen X-ers.”
“We are one of the first generations that was a product of divorce. We're one of the first generations that doesn't necessarily care about being partnered or not,” Balzarini says. "This generation that's used being ignored, we're already here sitting alone at the end of your hotel bar drinking a $24 martini.”