Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Evolving ORLA (part 1): The changing demographic of the industry

Demographic information has always fascinated me. Analyzing data about the demographic makeup of an area and how that affects retail sales or elections or local politics is always an eye opener. I’ve maintained my interest in the subject over the years and used it as a tool. I’m glad that I did as the current demographic makeup of our industry tells us that changes are afoot and that ORLA needs to address them to remain relevant.

We’re experiencing a major changing of the guard in the ownership of the businesses that make up the hospitality industry. The dominant generation of our industry for the past 25 years has been the Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964. At that time they were the largest generation in the history of the nation and as they moved through their lives they affected everything in our society from laws to elections to fashion to business and leisure.

The era of the Baby Boomer is passing. Did you know 10,000 Boomers turn the age of 65 every day? That is one every 7 seconds. Why is that important? Well, 65 is the traditional retirement age. Owners and operators of restaurants and lodging properties who have been leaders in the industry and active in your association are reaching retirement age and leaving the industry. It will continue at this pace for the next ten years. Then we’ll see the majority of owners, operators and leaders in the industry are from the Gen X (born 1965-1980) and the Gen Y or “Millennial” (born 1981-2000) generations. (Read also USA Today's "Hotel CEOs getting younger".)

Why does this matter you might ask? Well, the Baby Boomers are joiners. They have traditionally supported those associations and organizations that they felt supported their business or beliefs. Signing them up for membership was not a tough sell. They believed in the concept and were supportive and active as members. However, the generations that follow them are a bit more discriminating when it comes to joining associations. They have to believe that investing their time and money will benefit them personally or professionally before they will join any organization. So, associations, including ORLA, have to be sure they are providing programs and services these generations value and are willing to support.

This environment represents a real turning point for all associations. The membership that they’ve represented for the past thirty plus years is changing rapidly as the numbers above indicate. If ORLA is to remain viable as a membership option, and as the representative of the hospitality industry, the leadership and staff are going to have to review all activities and programs to ensure they are valued by the emerging owners and operators in the hospitality industry. Those individuals are the future of ORLA and our industry. Your association needs their support and participation to continue to be an effective industry representative. | Steve McCoid, president & CEO

(In Part 2 we look at how we need to adapt, change and accommodate to meet the needs of the new generation. )

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