Hoteliers: How to Define Your Target Audiences

June 20, 2018 Mihaela Lica Butler

Although most hotels aim to appeal to guests of all ages, segmentation is essential because Millennials may not enjoy things favored by Generation X, which is more conservative, while Generation Z is hip and trendy. In the following, I will not dive into traditional persona-based marketing strategies. Instead, let’s see who the most important four age-based target groups are, and what are their characteristics.

Here are the four generations your hotel should be targeting

Baby boomers

Baby boomers are a demographic cohort of people born between the 1940s and 1964. While generally, they may travel less, due to a variety of factors including age and health issues, as well as financial considerations – as most are retirees, they still enjoy taking a vacation every now and then. According to research performed by AARP in 2017, most baby boomers prefer to travel domestically, but the numbers of those taking trips abroad cannot be ignored either. The ratio is 51% to 43%, with the rest undecided. Among the factors that prevented boomers from traveling in 2017, the same research paper cites cost (43%), health (47 %), and security concerns (28%).

Most baby boomers prefer to travel to quiet, peaceful destinations and they are the most unlikely to respond to travel trends. They look for bucket-list experiences instead. They don’t voyage solo, and they prefer the seasons with warm weather for their trips. To target this audience, create discounts for seniors and offer free transportation from and back to the airport, harbor, or train station to deliver a hassle-free arrival at your destination. You may also want to add perks they would appreciate, like cook-to-order custom meals at the hotel’s restaurant to address their particular dietary needs. In fact, keep this issue in mind, as it tends to re-occur for all targeted groups.

Generation X

Generation X is the next demographic cohort in the list. They are also called Gen X, and they are people born between the 1965 and 1976. Expedia’s recent paper “Generations on the Move. A deep dive into multi-generational travel trends and how their habits will impact the future of the industry” revealed that Gen X travelers desire relaxation, such as the beach or spa time, while incomes play an important role in their hotel and transportation spending decisions too. The following statement from the report applies to all generations of travelers:

“Lower income travelers prioritize spending time with loved ones the most, while middle income travelers place a priority on sightseeing or tourism. Higher income travelers just want to relax.”

The travel experience is big for Gen Xers, as it is for all age groups. They may not be as numerous as the Millennials, but they want the same things so you could create offers to target both. Most enjoy using social media, so they are pretty much in the loop with the trends. They also favor foodie experiences, and they are open to new. After all, they were the first innovators of the 21st Century: search engines, social media and most of the tech advances we enjoy today were developed by Gen X.


The largest segment of the traveling population, the Millennials are people born between 1977 and 1995. They are active and demanding, driving most hotel bookings and travel reviews. Most of them are highly skilled social media users and keen adopters of new technologies. They shape travel and hotel trends alike. They are the population cohort impossible to ignore by hospitality businesses. You can basically define a great deal of your business strategy based on this massive target audience.  As the infographic by Internet Marketing Inc. shows, more than 85% of them check more than one site before booking to get the best travel deals, more than 45% book on smartphones and other mobile devices, they demand fast Internet and free WiFi, and they share on social media their travel experiences. In fact, the statistics are mind-blowing: 97% will post travel status updates while traveling. So, it’s imperative to meet their demands in real time.

Generation Z, the new buzz-word in hospitality

The children of the Millennials, now known as Gen-Z, Generation Z, iGeneration, iGen, Delta Generation, and Deltas, are the most surprising – and clearly the fastest-growing – target group. They are the young travelers born after 1995. Hoteliers don’t usually design campaigns for this segment, because they believe young people are less likely to book, less likely to spend, and often not as committed as the Millennials. This is prejudice. Generation Z is shaping future travel trends, and surprisingly enough they are the ones who care most about green hotels, sustainability, they crave adventure, but they are also easily influenced by social media trends (which they are most likely to fuel anyhow).

In a press report from early 2017, Virtuoso says “Gen Zs are well-traveled from an early age and globally minded, and thus interested in offbeat destinations with exhilarating adventures like diving the Great Barrier Reef and kayaking among icebergs in Greenland. The desire for personalized travel experiences, deeper cultural immersion, and Instagram-worthy design continues to drive the popularity of boutique hotels. Gen Z has been hyperconnected to the internet since birth and, like its predecessors, places great emphasis on visual storytelling. Sharing one-of-a-kind travel moments with friends on social media is today's postcard.”

In other words, Gen Zers are the most likely Instagram influencers of today, and they are your future brand ambassadors tomorrow. It’s ignorant to disregard this modest segment today. Instead, develop special off-season better-than-half-price deals for them. You will fill up rooms that are otherwise empty, and they will reward the experiences you provide with valuable word-of-mouth and influential social media shares that translate into effortless, gained PR – or gained marketing if you will.

Generation ZFrom: Expedia Media Solution


Remember: whatever her or his age, the modern traveler would instead enjoy the experience than something material. In the study by Expedia mentioned earlier, it is also revealed that 57% of Americans are currently saving money specifically for travel. The population of USA counted 323.1 million in 2016 – so, 57% is a significant number to apply to global trends. So, when it comes to how to target your desired audiences, things are straightforward: deliver your message where these people are active, prepare your websites to give forthright answers, and hire guest relations managers for a plus of individual care for each guest. Cookie-cutter solutions will fail.

Emerging trendFrom: Expedia Media Solution


Take care of the guest beyond the old-school mint on the pillow. A seasonal fresh fruit platter is a beautiful welcome token. Fresh flowers in every room are also a great touch. Complimentary bathroom toiletries are just common sense, so add bathrobes and slippers to the mix – for instance when guests book extended stays.

If they mention they come with small children, have the room ready for the little ones, eventually with a surprise care package containing a toy, coloring book, pencils, dried fruit (to encourage healthy snacking), and other healthy snacks. Printing your logo on these tokens can have a long-term brand awareness building effect.

The child will most likely carry the surprise toy back home as a memento of the stay. At Christmas, you can fill up a stocking with a small snow globe and some sweets to bring smiles of joy on little faces. Adults may appreciate such surprises too.

Put as much effort in making every guest feel special as you put in creating blissful experiences for newlyweds.

Prepare all kinds of seasonal marketing campaigns to entice your guests. As I stated in the past, “each passing month has its highlights, some attracting more business than others. Valentine’s Day, for example, is a gold mine for companies all over the world. Summers are ideal for beach properties, winters beckon with skiing resorts, autumns bring harvest festivals like Oktoberfest, and the list of examples goes on forever, as each destination is different.”

But more importantly, get in touch with the NOW.

think with Google emphasized the importance of micro-moments that seem to influence booking decisions more and more in a highly connected, mobile environment. Travel and hospitality micro-moments are a real thing, according to think with Google. Their data may be based on search patterns, but users still use search engines to find what they need. And with Google the world’s largest metasearch engine, it’s clear who has the most relevant, trustworthy information.

Another central aspect to consider is the mobile-first index. So, stay away from old-school practices and design your hotel website for mobile devices, both smartphones, and tablets. Google already crawls websites worldwide to see if they are mobile-ready and the ones that comply will receive better rankings. These are official Google statements. Hotels can no longer consider mobile-first a trend because it’s a reality with the potential to hurt ROI. Mobile hotel sites should not be solely focused on aesthetics, but they should make the booking experience secure, fast, and seamless. Ideally, you should have both mobile sites and apps, and here’s why:

It is in your best interest to have a business app ready in case Google decides to prioritize apps against mobile-first sites.


Millennial Travel Trends - Part 2


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