Experiential Travel Isn’t Just for Millennials

The rise of independent designers and retailers within the Artisanal/Avant-Garde niche satisfies an obsession for all things meaningful and handmade.

Although they were the first envoys of the experience economy, adventure is the next thing on the horizon increasingly driven by Gen X.

Millennials have garnered a reputation for sparking the experience economy—typified as an experience first group of digital natives that would rather spend on a transformational travel experience than a material product. But dig deeper and we might find that this stereotype is a glorified persona. 

Not only do Millennials love experience, they also love sharing—contributing to the success of platforms such as Uber, UpWork, Airbnb and of course Instagram. Social media is instrumental in the way millennials make decisions, one of the biggest motivations for booking a trip being to fulfil “travel goals” that are shaped by their network of peers. Scrolling through feed after feed of your friends’ sun and sand filled travel images is motivation enough to plan an escape but perhaps an even more convincing reason is FOMO (fear of missing out). FOMO is exactly what it says on the tin, the feeling of missing out triggered by seeing posts on social media, a phenomenon that seems to affect Millennials the most. Travel brands and marketers have quickly spotted the Millennial experiential craving spurred by FOMO, targeting the generation by creating and sharing focused experiences that look too good to miss out on.

But what about the previous generation? In a seamlessly connected era that is spearheaded by younger generations there is a tendency to overlook the pertinence of older generations. Just because they aren’t digital natives doesn’t mean that Gen Xers have been left behind, rather they are characterised by different behaviours. Whilst Instagram may be the go-to for their Millennial children, Gen X are more likely to frequent Facebook. Similarly, an experiential and adventure holiday for a Millennial might be a month long South East Asian stint, but for a Gen Xer might be a small group Kayaking trip in Sweden. Far from shunning experience and adventure, Gen Xers just have a different definition of it.

Gen Xers are after something different—adventure.

Whilst their parents might have been happy holidaying at the same resort year after year, Gen Xers are after something different—adventure. Whilst they have traditionally been sold travel in the form of tours and packaged holidays, many are after more personalised and authentic experiences that entrench them in a local culture, and activities that allow them to take home long lasting memories. Gen X in the UK fall into the largest age group that travel independently, whilst relying on local agents to select and curate holidays that are more personalised and active than the traditional group tours that would likely have been their parents’ first choice.

If Gen X are trying to make a statement of being different from their parents, marketeers have been slower to capture their desire to be be active and desire for adventure. The stayed image of bus tours has been off-putting for Millennials, never mind Gen Xers. But Airbnb may have tapped into a new way of marketing tours to their growing audience. The platform which was first adopted by digitally native Millennials are targeting older and also more wealthy generations by marketing their new experiential offerings as adventures. The brand has recently launched Airbnb Adventures. Previously Airbnb introduced experiences, hosted by locals they were activities and sessions that lasted for a few hours. Airbnb Adventures on the other hand offers multi-day itineraries, placing the brand in direct contention with adventure focused tour operators such as Intrepid Travel and G Adventures. 

Travel which offers a route to self discovery through experience and adventure isn’t only a must for Millennials, but also increasingly vital for older generations like Gen X. Authentic and diverse experiences as well as places, personalisation, and the facility to cultivate wellness and health are all imperative aspects of the evolving and increasingly diverse traveler. It’s almost become the minimum for travel to offer an aspect of life enrichment, which is defined differently by different traveler segments. Although Millennials have been those most targeted audience for experiential travel, Gen X are becoming the most likely and relatively untapped audience for adventure travel.

To meet Gen Xers’ thriving desire for active holidays and adventure travel, marketeers and brands need to tap into how this group defines experience and adventure. Whether it be a more personalised level of service, the ability to travel in small close-knit groups, or the desire to combine luxury with adventure, travel brands shouldn’t only invest in the Millennial generation but also focus on the changing desires and behaviours of Gen X.



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