7 years ago

Why travel marketers need to understand those coming after Gen-Y

A common topic bounced around the industry focuses on what will be the most important marketing channels in travel.

In fact, one of the subtext topics of a conference session this week at ITB in Berlin is: “What will be the most impactful communication channels for travel distribution in 2011 for suppliers, intermediaries and travel companies?”

The session is also due to discuss reaching the most important segments.

The question says:

“If you are thinking about focusing to reach the three most important target audiences for travel in Europe. What is the most important one to focus in 2011? And in 2015?”

  • Boomers
  • 20-30 single, couples, no kids
  • Families

This got me thinking – what about the next generation which is coming up behind the current group (Gen-Y)?


Actually having a two of those in the family it appears they act very differently to each other and to the generations that have preceded them.

Coincidently, two recent studies on this group caught my eye. One that has received a lot of air and net time is the latest CDC study on sex and the American individual.

This highlighted that today’s teens are not as interested in sex as earlier. The number of teens who have not tried sex has fallen. In my local newspaper, the Seattle Times, there was a great quote:

“‘It’s not even on my radar,’ said 17-year-old Abbey King of Hinsdale, Illinois, a competitive swimmer who starts her day at 5 am and falls into bed at 10:30 pm after swimming, school, weight lifting, running, more swimming, homework and a volunteer gig working with service dogs for the disabled.”

The other study is from eMarketer and Ipsos, Media Usage and Shopping Habits of Teens.

Delving into teen behavior is important to see how they will act when they hit the marketplace as adults.

The clear – and obvious – message is that this generation is tech-savvy and very social.

The definition of social is far broader than existed in other generations. Their lust for technology seems to accelerate every year.

As one parent of a four year old told me, he was shocked to hear his child come home from nursery school, head to her computer and announce: “I am sorry, Daddy, no time for videos I have home work to do on my computer.”

The social internet is similarly indispensable.

More than four in five teens will use social networks this year, eMarketer estimates, compared to 64% of all internet users.

Nearly three-quarters of teens will use Facebook monthly this year, and Ipsos Public Affairs found in 2010 that over 50% visited the site daily.

I believe this number is under-reporting the impact. I asked a number of teenagers to try a little experiment to count the number of times they interacted with their mobile phone.

The numbers were staggering, but understandable. The teens I asked seemed to check their messages and interact with their phones more than 50 times a DAY!

When I did the same thing myself I found that I, too, was checking my tree mobile devices even more when I am travelling.

Their behavior online is different than their predecessors. The tend to eschew email and prefer the messaging systems in Facebook and, of course, texting.

They all seem to suffer ADD which will likely drive more iCommerce (Instant Commerce and Flash sales) type activity. Web browsing is not something that grabs their attention.

Wikipedia is their trusted source, despite all the exhortations while in school that Wikipedia is not to be regarded as a quotable source, and it remains one of the first places when teens search for hard information – but not nearly as trusted as from their friends and social network.

But perhaps one trend that is critical to the future is the need for validation – perhaps the one trend that will transcend through early adulthood into maturity.

This generation will seek validation more than any other. This will be important in purchase and in researching options especially in travel.

The message for travel marketers is clear. Engagement with your community better be real and it better be deep. That means content cannot be allowed to get stale. Information must be reliable and your apps better be really fast.

Or else you face the ultimate ignominy – you will be ignored.

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Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

About the Writer :: Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

Timothy O'Neil-Dunne is the managing partner for venture firm VaultPAD Ventures– an accelerator devoted exclusively to Aviation Travel and Tourism.

VaultPAD also is the parent company for consulting firm, T2Impact. Timothy has been with tnooz since the beginning, writing in particular aviation, technology, startups and innovation.

One of the first companies to emerge from the accelerator is Air Black Box. a cloud-based software company providing airline connectivity solutions and in production with airlines in Asia Pacific.

Timothy was a founding management team member of the Expedia team, where he headed the international and ground transportation portfolios. He also spent time with Worldspan as the international head of technology, where he managed technology services from infrastructure to product.

He is also a permanent advisor to the World Economic Forum and writes as Professor Sabena. He sits on a number of advisory and executive boards



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  1. abercrombie kids

    Their paying out mannerisms will finally mature; however in the interim we need to court them even if they do not have the paying out power of their parents and grandparents.

  2. Best of Tnooz This Week - Game-changing data, Beyond Gen-Y, Factoid bonanza | Tnooz

    […] Why travel marketers need to understand those coming after Gen-Y […]

  3. Sue Reddel

    Interesting thoughts, always a good idea to stay ahead of the curve. Embracing new media is a smart strategy as well as a way to keep your audience engaged and informed. I’m not surprised that teens still trust Wiki even at their age they trust open source material.

  4. Joseph Sobin, CTC,CTIE

    As any travel/hospitality marketing professional will profess, we need to be marketing to all our potential clients from “the cradle to the grave”. While the more mature clients may pay our bills, the younger ones will soon be keeping our office doors open.

    However, let us be clear. We need to revise our messaging to attract this new market. First we may have to communicate to them on their level i.e. flash-sales, word of mouth marketing and so forth. Our tried and true distribution channels may not work or their impact will be marginalized.

    Their spending habits will eventually mature; however in the interim we need to court them even if they do not have the spending power of their parents and grandparents. An outfit from Abercrombie & Fitch may run $200 USD, which would barely cover dinner for 2 in the Seychelles.

    My one concern I find when I teach our next generation of travelers is the social component. While this generation is socially wired i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Microblogs and so forth, I find their physical socializing to be stunted. It may be too much school work, extracurricular activities, competitiveness, the reasons escape me. This is why I assign group projects and presentations to allow this next generation to be social beyond a 3” screen and also learn the power of group dynamics.

    When I guest lecture at University I am surprised at the lack of group participation is such time-honored traditions as Spring Break and summer holidays. While this generation is truly plugged in, it will be a challenge for them to unplug and consider leisure or adventure travel.

    • Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

      Joseph, I would like to think more positively. Being a parent of 2 Millenials one is just the way you described the other the opposite. There is no consistency here in the anecdotal side. I firmly believe that the numbers are starting to show some real trend towards this group travelling. In the mature markets perhaps not as much. But in the emerging markets particularly BRIC and GCC – we will see a surge as they adopt and embrace travel as a social norm.

      I love the comment about keeping the doors open – SO TRUE!


  5. Joe Buhler

    The most positive development will be that the marketing decision makers who will be in charge when the post Gen-Y folks will be making buying decisions, will themselves be more likely digital natives than the age group now at the helm, many of whom seem to be puzzled and confused about how to address the rapidly changing consumer behavior in every industry, not least travel. One manifestation of this confusion, are maybe lack of marketing imagination is the continued reliance on broad demographics which have not been reliable segmentation tool for quite some time. The days when some group like 18 to 49 year old males could successfully be targeted with some TV commercial are gone. What today is still called ADD is fast becoming the norm with all its implications for how to effectively reach that fragmented audience.

  6. cheap auckland hostel

    Travel agents have a special programme that contributes structured product knowledge training for travel agents, counter clerks or reservation staff, home-based workers and the middle management of independents and multiples


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