Virtuoso recently unveiled findings from its two-plus-year study on the differences and commonalities between Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Virtuoso’s Innovation Teams were responsible for this psychographic exploration, which included multiple deep-dive sessions, both in-person and virtual, between three worldwide generational groupings of Virtuoso travel advisors, preferred travel providers and the organization’s own staff, where they determined how each generation approaches travel, work and life in general. The findings were first shared during Virtuoso’s 2022 Symposium, held last month in Lisbon, Portugal.
Here's what Virtuoso learned:
Baby Boomers, representing the post-World War II generation born between 1946 and 1964, were the first backpackers as well as the original workaholics. They traveled like no generation before, be it through student exchange programs, the Peace Corps or on military assignments, before rechanneling their energies into their careers. In the workplace, they value varying perspectives and are happy to mentor new talent. They strive to remain relevant and are reluctant to retire given their work ethic. On the flipside, the Boomers’ love of exploration continues to this day, and they have the time and money to travel, albeit at an easier pace and with an eye to health and mobility issues. They value the “leave only footprints” style of travel, almost as much as they do the professional guidance and firsthand experience of a trusted travel advisor. And they tend to prefer small, private groups for travel (think multigenerational trips), river cruising and the big trips that they’ve not been able to take for the past two years.
Generation X, often referred to as the forgotten generation largely due to its smaller size, refers to those born between 1965 and 1980. This group has a natural distrust of authority based on a rise in divorce during their childhood years, two recessions, political controversies, the Cold War and the AIDS epidemic; however, it has also led to extreme loyalty to those entities and individuals who do earn their trust (like their travel advisor). Their workplace practices are not so far off from their travel personas. X-ers tend to be self-motivated, adaptable problem-solvers who work independently. They are collaborators, excellent communicators and probably more direct than younger generations might like. They prioritize work-life balance, are more likely to lead with humanity and show vulnerability, and are adept at learning and adopting new technology, especially if it leads to greater efficiency. In terms of travel, Gen-Xers tend to travel less than other generations due to hectic schedules, but they outspend their counterparts when they do. Their children inform their travel decisions, often picking the destination and, more importantly, the experiences. They also want smart luxury and are willing to pay for service, but they favor authenticity above all else. And for Generation X, it’s the micro-moments and not just the milestones that stand out.
While much has been made of younger generations and how they were poised to change the world with their influence, Millennials have grown into adulthood and now comprise the largest percentage of the workforce. Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials came of age during a time of profound change, from 9/11 to the Great Recession, and were shaped by the world and culture they grew up in. Having been raised “online,” they are tech savvy, curious, open-minded and self-expressive. Millennials tend to be entrepreneurial-minded, seeking freedom and having fully embraced the “work from anywhere” philosophy created by the pandemic. This flexibility coupled with skill growth and career development lead to workplace loyalty. A common thread amongst Millennial employees is the desire to connect and engage in work that is meaningful and in alignment with who they are, and this desire for purpose is also a key driver for them as travelers. Viewed as a crucial part of their lives, travel enriches their existence and allows them to explore other cultures, and it takes priority for both their leisure time and discretionary income. They eschew the word “luxury,” while in search of immersive, unique experiences. Millennial travel may be inspired by social media, but sustainability is a guidepost for their travel decisions. Despite favoring electronic communication to voice, they do turn to professional travel advisors for their connections and expertise. And wherever they choose to venture, it needs to be a reflection of who they are as individuals and what they value.
Virtuoso’s generational research is an ongoing project.