Generation Y and Baby Boomers. A world apart?

By Jon Young

12 March, 2015.

Generation Y (roughly defined as 20-34 years old) are acknowledged as being comfortable with technology and social media.  As outlined in our blog last month, this has implications for services (such as free Wi-Fi provision), marketing and the way experiences are presented. Social media has created a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) culture amongst this generation, where photos and check-ins raise high expectations.  For attractions and holiday destinations, if it’s not worth a check-in, it’s not worth visiting.  In contrast, Baby Boomers (around 55 and over) tend to be less tech-savvy and less likely to use social media for anything more than keeping tabs on their children or grandchildren.  Our new report, Holiday Trends 2015, highlights other differences.  Gen Y is significantly more likely to want to visit new and different destinations, and is twice as likely to have been on a wellness holiday.

A key question is whether these differences are driven by life stage or something more fundamental.   If life stage is the driver, then Gen Y is simply following a well-trodden path, albeit in a slightly different environment to Baby Boomers.  Indeed, Gen Y’s desire for new and different experiences is characteristic of many young people seeking to establish themselves in the world.  Baby Boomers, in contrast, are more likely to be settled, with a greater sense of their place in society.

There is no shortage of evidence to link the differences to factors other than life stage.  The typical member of Gen Y will have spent his or her working life in a period of economic instability and recession.   In contrast, Baby Boomers live in relative financial security and have benefitted from rising house prices and generous pensions. The top fifth of pensioner couples enjoy an average income of £76,000 – a figure the younger cohort can only dream of.  This challenging financial environment has led to Gen Y prioritising experiences over possessions.  It is one of the reasons London’s temporary exhibition scene is booming, and why many attractions are so keen to provide ‘tick-box’ experiences.

New and different’ characterises Gen Y in Holiday Trends 2015 – they are significantly more likely than any other age cohort to be considering a holiday to Asia, Africa, Australasia, South America and Eastern Europe.  They are also the generation most likely to go on a cruise in the next two years.  They are less likely to be considering a holiday in the UK, and if they are, citing cost as the main reason.  In contrast, Baby Boomers are the most likely to stick closer to home –  Western Europe, The Mediterranean, or the UK.

Gen Y’s desire to take wellness holidays aligns with recent ONS figures which show that for the first time, they are the age group most likely to be teetotal.  They have been brought up in a health-focussed environment with sex-education and warnings about smoking and drug-taking. Most are aware of the damaging effects of fast food, fizzy drinks and processed food.  Smoke-free pubs or workplaces, alcohol-free lunches and responsibly sourced food are part of everyday life.  Compare this with free rolling Baby Boomers: ‘If you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t there’.

Members of Gen Y are many times more likely than Baby Boomers to have been to university.  An article in The Economist last year cited increased university attendance as one of the biggest drivers of rising museum visits worldwide.  London’s temporary exhibitions are dominated by Gen Y, and their link to wellness is well-established.

This does all suggest that the need for different and wellness is a defining charactistic of Gen Y.  Therefore, as much as possible should be cloaked in wellness and self-improvement. For some providers there may be a need to improve the range of healthy and responsibly sourced food, or make provision for bicycles.   But the good news is that for many, it may simply be a case of repackaging an existing offer.  Wellness includes anything that improves health and wellbeing, not just spas and body treatments (see our blog on Wellness Tourism for more on this).

Importantly, wellness shouldn’t put off Baby Boomers.   Although health is less central to their motivations, it will become increasingly significant as they get older.  Also, Generation Y are their children, grandchildren, colleagues and employees so the progressive attitude will inevitably rub off.  So the generation gap is wide, but bridging it may not be that difficult.

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