Timeshare is experiencing something of a renaissance moment. The U.S. industry had its fifth straight year of growth in 2014, when total sales volume increased to $7.9 billion, according to the 2015 edition of State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry, published annually by the ARDA International Foundation. Sales volume has increased an average 6 percent year over year since 2010, a testament to the industry’s ability to innovate and adapt to market demands with an array of new product offerings, as well as to the evergreen appeal of timeshare — because who doesn’t love a great vacation?
Last year’s Shared Vacation Ownership Owner’s Report, prepared by HSR Associates for the ARDA International Foundation (AIF), made waves when it said that “today’s timeshare owner is more diverse [and] younger than you’d imagine.” While the study focused on timeshare ownership as a whole, a breakout section reporting on new owners observed that adults under the age of 35 make up 30 percent of the new-owner base. They tend to be homeowners who are employed fulltime and married or in committed relationships, and most have children. In other words? This is a generation of younger owners who are poised to invest in their future.
By no means does the increased presence of these new owners outweigh the importance of established timeshare owners, that is, baby boomers, who enjoy the lifestyle to such an extent that they continue to invest in additional timeshare product. But while the boomer generation has long been the sweet spot on the sales floor, a whole other demographic increasingly accounts for most qualified new sales.
Gen X: On the sidelines no more
Getting stuck with the moniker “the slacker generation” hasn’t kept Gen Xers from making great strides in life. Although only 60 million strong, or 25 percent of the U.S. adult population, Gen X—born between 1966 and 1980—has more spending power than the boomers or the millennials, and its members account for 31 percent of the country’s total income dollars, according to Shullman Pulse. Given that they’re likelier than the other groups to have disposable income, it’s not surprising that Gen Xers also have the highest average daily spend in the luxury travel sector: They spend $627 a day on luxury travel, compared with millennials ($527 a day) and boomers ($522 a day), Virtuoso found in its first study of travelers by generation.
The oldest Gen Xers have already celebrated their 50th birthdays. Of all the generations, they are the most apt to plan to travel as a family, which means that vacations often follow the school calendar. An additional correlation: Gen Xers are “more likely than other generations to have taken a theme park vacation” in the past calendar year, MMGY Global reports in its 2015 Portrait of American Travelers study.
Beyond relaxation, which is a primary motivator for vacation for all generations, Gen Xers align with millennials on a number of other vacation motivators, MMGY Global’s study additionally found. Both generations are significantly more liable to be motivated by the chance to enhance relationships, experience new cuisines, pursue a hobby or wellness program or play a sport. And that’s not Gen X’s only youthful side; millennials and Gen Xers are also considerably more apt to be plugged into the Internet on smartphones and tablets as well as at the office, according to the 2014 Portrait of American Travelers.
Millennials: A generation on the move
As far as generations go, millennials have been the darlings of media and marketers since they came of age, but the oldest of them, who were born in the early 1980s, are nearing 35, and the youngest, born in the early 2000s, are nearing adulthood. Whether or not they remember a time before computers, digital acumen is a hallmark of the generation, and their faith in technology and allegiance to the Internet reflect as much: Millennial travelers are likelier than the other generations to consider online reviews when researching a destination or accommodations, according to TripAdvisor’s 2014 Insights report. For half of millennials, the “quality of the travel website” affects their purchasing decision, Portrait of American Travelers reports, compared with four out of 10 Gen Xers and boomers and even fewer matures. These digital natives are also most apt to book accommodations via mobile apps and to travel with their devices.
“They are time suppressed and overstimulated,” as Virtuoso succinctly sums it up, “with a general philosophy that a smartphone can solve any problem. Engaging them, educating them and showing patience is the key to converting them into good clients. Nothing cookie-cutter for this group.”
Perhaps aptly nicknamed the Me generation, millennials are drawn to customized tours and unique vacation experiences. Most millennials surveyed for Portrait of American Travelers said they don’t want to feel like tourists while on vacation (49 percent) and that they believe the destinations they choose to visit say a lot about who they are (47 percent). Millennials also lead the pack in being motivated to travel to experience various cultures (68 percent) and to explore (70 percent).
When making decisions about accommodations, they tend more than prior generations to be influenced by special offers and to consider proximity to transportation and sustainable travel, TripAdvisor reports. On the other hand, “millennials are slightly less likely to care about brand name, proximity to the beach or water and prior experience [with the brand].”
With this unique set of travel preferences, motivators and purchasing behaviors, millennials are already making an impact on the travel industry. Companies that win over these savvy young consumers are likely to have customers for many years to come.