It’s not enough to just sit on a beach and drink cocktails, says Visit USA Association chair Sarah Lax

Chatting with a group of friends and their children recently, it struck me how the generations have evolved over the last three decades.

You can see this in their expectations related to major lifestyle choices such as home ownership, careers and, even more interestingly, what they want from holidays and travel.

What is clear is that holidays remain a very important part of everybody’s calendar, but even more important is the ‘e’ word – experience. It’s not enough to just sit on a beach and drink cocktails.

All generations want to witness first hand the communities in which they are staying. They want to immerse themselves in the local lifestyle, be the first to try something new and then share those experiences on social media. Above all, they want to discover something that is ‘theirs’ – that makes the trip feel like their own personal experience.

‘E’ is for experience

It’s the thrill of seeing and trying something new that drives the desire to discover the ‘e’ word. And what better place than the US to fulfil these needs?

Whether it’s hiring a red Mustang to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, joining locals to watch the Boston Red Sox, finding a backstreet bar in Georgetown, Washington DC, or the best place to watch the sunrise in Bryce Canyon, this is now an integral part of the holiday experience.

What’s even more exciting is that these experiences can cross generations. Take the latest Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge openings in Disney’s theme parks in California and Orlando this August.

The first Star Wars film came out in 1977 and is still as popular today as it was then. The demand for this experience has been phenomenal and what is great is that this is being shared across the generations.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s new ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal is another example of the multigenerational experiences in the US theme parks.

Add to this the cultural and societal issues of the day, and it’s easy to see why there is increasing demand for socially responsible tourism in the US.

Sharing ethos

It is a heartening sight to see holidaymakers who, while appreciating the experience of surfing in Santa Monica, then join local communities on a beach clean-up.

Not only does this teach current and next generations about social responsibility, but you also get to meet the locals and share their experience.

Social media exacerbates and encourages these trends since sharing is now such a huge part of so many people’s everyday lives.

And sharing encourages others to find their own personalised experience, whether it’s walking through ancient canyons, partying at Mardi Gras or immersing yourself in the silence in the desert.

As a destination, the US has enough experiences to fulfil all the desires your clients are looking for.

Word of mouth may have kept us all informed in the past, but one way or another people have always shared their holiday experiences.

It’s just that the ‘e’ word is now the focus rather than the by-product of any holiday adventure.

Comment from Travel Weekly, July 4 edition, destination features from our US-themed issue:

Highlights of Charleston, South Carolina

Wine, wildlife and wilderness in Washington State

History, heritage and music in Atlanta, Georgia

US sporting experiences in Anaheim

Exploring Chicago’s neighbourhoods