Know Thy Customer: Meet the High-Lifers


Illustration: Marcelo Cáceres

APEX Insight: While it’s undeniably best to know thy customer as intimately as possible, buyer personas are a good place to start. In this multipart feature, meet the budget setters, family-first flyers, high lifers, business travelers and big spenders.

Having emerged more recently as a travel segment, “high-lifers” tend to skew younger in age and have proven difficult to characterize because of their diversity of motivations, trip types and cultural backgrounds. Described variously as experience seekers, indulgent explorers, the #YOLO voyageurs, bleisure travelers, or simply millennial travelers, what this group lacks in homogeneity it makes up for in spending power.

Indulgent explorers account for 22% of traffic at DFW, but contribute to 50% of total spending.

Key to understanding high-lifers is the fact that they travel with a reward mindset. “I may not be rich, but I deserve to be pampered. I like to reward myself whether by eating at an upscale restaurant, shopping for clothing or getting a massage or manicure,” a respondent on DFW’s passenger segment report shares. While “indulgent explorers” only account for 22 percent of traffic at DFW, they outspend all other passenger segments. Brands popular among respondents include Nike, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ray-Ban.

Eating well ranks among this group’s top priorities, with 61 percent making the time to eat at a high-end restaurant at DFW. For airport operators, that could mean making sure there are celebrity-chef-branded restaurants and healthy options available. It also means high-lifers may be less likely to eat in flight.

Globally, over 2018, travelers plan on taking more short getaways (three nights or less).

This group’s openness to “blended travel” – whether by tacking a few vacation days onto a business trip or stopping over somewhere on a VFR journey – likely contributes to an overall trend that has seen the average length of trips get shorter, but also more frequent.

“If it’s a short flight or a domestic flight, people tend to arrive at the airport later, and the dwell time will be shorter for those segments,” Pragma’s Roseler says. So, while high-lifers are willing to spend at the airport, as they grow more versed in air travel and open to quick getaways, their dollars may be harder to capture.

“Know Thy Customer” was originally published in the 8.3 June/July issue of APEX Experience magazine.