The Generation Gap is one of the most significant challenges this industry has ever faced, because so many of the people making the program decisions just don't get what drives the youngest group of winners. They could not be more different than those of us who have been in the business for 15-plus years.
A recent roundtable discussion during the Incentive Research Foundation's golf invitational — a networking and fundraising event held in Jamaica last month — confirmed this for me: Many participants said understanding and engaging the younger generation was their top concern.
What does this youngest crop of winners want?
“They're looking to experience new things, to go to the places where the least amount of tourists are,” says David Morrison, president of Twentysomething Inc., a King of Prussia, Pa.-based consulting company. “They welcome diversity, want to meet the locals, and seek out adventure.”
Destinations such as Australia, Ibiza, and Croatia certainly realize this, and are marketing specifically to this demographic. Some hotel companies also get it and are developing brands around their twentysomething clientele, such as InterContinental's Hotel Indigo, with its Starbucks coffee lounges, or Starwood's aloft, with Bliss toiletries and MP3 docking stations. But we still have a way to go to connect the dots between the Gen Y'ers and the older multiyear winners.
How do you put someone who wants to go ziplining through the jungle with a seasoned exec who is expecting an afternoon of golf and a chance to hang out with the CEO? How do you promote the same campaign to one segment of older qualifiers with an aversion to computers and the younger set, who know no other way of communicating than electronically?
It's imperative to find some common ground, says Morrison, whether that means offering a prize to the oldest qualifier to try ziplining (and then everyone can laugh about it later) or some lighter options on the golf course to avoid scaring away less-experienced younger players. Or creating a boatload of activities to include the parasailing and horseback riding that the younger winners want.
As Morrison puts it, “Incentive trips offer an opportunity that companies don't have back at the office to find creative ways to bring these two very separate groups together.”
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