Planning for Generation Alpha
Generations are like buses; there’s always another one coming along. Now it’s the turn of Generation Alpha, defined as those born from 2010 through 2024.
Social researcher, demographer, and author Mark McCrindle of McCrindle Research coined the term Generation Alpha (from the Greek alphabet) while writing his best-selling book, “The ABC of XYZ: Understanding the Global Generations.” (McCrindle has since written a new book with Ashley Fell and Sam Buckerfield called “Generation Alpha.”)
“Gen Alphas are the first generation to be fully born in the 21st century,” McCrindle says of the generation he believes will be the biggest ever. “They will exceed 2 billion when the cohort is complete.”
Generation Alpha will be the customers and employees of the future; therefore, the attractions industry now has an opportunity to connect with them. “If we don’t connect with Generation Alpha, we will edge toward irrelevance,” McCrindle warns.
A picture of Generation Alpha is emerging. Alphas are the most technologically immersed generation yet. They were born in the age of Instagram, iPads, apps, 5G, streaming, Siri, “Fortnite,” and electric cars.
“From their youngest years, Alphas have had a smartphone or device put into their hands. It’s been a tool for education, entertainment, and social connection,” says McCrindle. Alphas spend three-quarters of their discretionary time on screens.
In a few clicks, Alphas have the world at their fingertips. “Everything is accessible, and immediacy is an expectation,” says McCrindle. They consume content rapidly. His research shows Alphas watch three-minute sporting highlights, view programs and listen to podcasts at 1.5x playback speeds, and use multiple screens.
Alphas will be the most educated and most materially endowed generation, according to McCrindle. They will also be the longest-living generation, with “incredible leverage, influence, and impact.”
“Diversity is one of their defining characteristics,” says McCrindle. That diversity extends to racial, ethnic, and gender identity. Old labels and strategies might no longer fit. Therefore, attractions owners and operators may want to ask themselves now, do pricing structures and products cater to blended families and single-parent and multigenerational households, for example?
Alphas are more likely to spend some or all of their childhood living without both biological parents. COVID-19 has disrupted their lives, and many have missed out on social events such as birthdays and school graduations. This is where attractions can be of service. “Help them find opportunities to celebrate,” says McCrindle.
Alphas may “spend money on the journey of life (the experiences, the travel, the interactions) rather than accumulating things,” he says. They care more about causes and fairness than their predecessors.
“Their overriding attitude is one of enthusiasm and optimism, which is timeless with children. Alphas are excited about their futures,” says McCrindle. This “empowered generation” will demand more from brands and destinations, and businesses, like attractions, must adapt. “We should design things with them, communicate through them, and engage them in the process,” says McCrindle. “If we can connect with Generation Alpha, the future will be bright.”
Early examples of this philosophy include how many zoos and aquariums have asked the public to choose a name for a baby animal. In September, Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, encouraged fans to vote online to select a new track color for the “Phantom’s Revenge” roller coaster: petrifying purple or terrifying teal.
Interacting with Gen Alpha
As a clearer picture of Generation Alpha begins to emerge, attractions leaders share their perspectives on connecting with the next generation and how to start laying the groundwork for the future.
Managing Director, Linnanmäki Amusement Park
Social media and electronic games gobble up a large portion of Generation Alpha’s time. We believe it is important to provide a break from the virtual world. At Linnanmäki, you can enjoy the wind in your hair, the laughter of other guests, and the delicious smell of treats.
We have been delighted to see Generation Alpha enjoying Linnanmäki as much as preceding generations. Our newest roller coaster, “Taiga,” has become a huge favorite of all our guests, including many children. They, too, love rides that are fast and wild. “Taiga” makes riders feel like they are flying, which is one of the superpowers that Generation Alpha would like to have (according to a report by global communications agency Hotwire: “Understanding Generation Alpha: The Most Diverse Generation Yet”).
Safety continues to be crucial for the success of all amusement parks. Generation Alpha will also challenge us on ethical responsibility and sustainability issues. We run rides on wind power and offer the option of trading game prizes for nonmaterial alternatives (such as treat coupons or donating prizes to children’s welfare organizations).
We believe Generation Alpha will be even more tolerant. We have already made all our work titles gender-neutral. The new generation will know how to demand exceptional service when they are having fun and entering an employment relationship.
“The new generation will know how to demand exceptional service when they are having fun and entering an employment relationship.”
Executive Vice President and Head of Global Live, Interactive, and Location Based Entertainment
As a creator of next-generation content and experiences for global audiences and the mother of two young children who fall squarely within this age group, I’m excited by how Generation Alpha will inspire change in the attractions industry.
Generation Alpha has the highest level of technological and digital literacy of any generation. They are growing up in an era where devices and streaming dominate daily life. Although they are the youngest generation, they have tremendous influence on the social media landscape. These emerging consumers are more culturally diverse. They are making a social impact, and they are champions of sustainability.
Environmentally sustainable design, healthy food and beverage options, and attractions with a greater purpose will resonate with Generation Alpha. To engage this audience, we have to create attractions and experiences that are empowering and personalized with strong social and digital opportunities.
We’re already delivering experiences that are social, global, and mobile. We are integrating cutting-edge technologies into our attractions to enhance storytelling. We did this at Lionsgate Entertainment World in China with “The Twilight Saga: Midnight Ride,” which combines virtual reality technology with individual user-controlled motion simulation bases, force feedback actuators, physical haptics, scent technology, and wind effects. A number of our attractions allow guests agency and the ability to choose their paths or impact their outcomes.
We will continue to seek opportunities to push entertainment boundaries and blur the lines between virtual and reality and games and location-based entertainment.
“We are integrating cutting-edge technologies into our attractions to enhance storytelling.”
Chief Operating Officer, Village Roadshow Theme Parks
Generation Alpha is still searching for thrilling, real-world experiences such as our rides, shows, attractions, and character interactions. They are happy to experience these with their family and friends.
Where they may differ from other generations is that they are looking for instantaneous information. We need to deliver this by their preferred communication methods–social media, websites, and apps.
There are also opportunities for us to use their reliance on technology and social media to tailor our marketing and brand campaigns and deliver targeted offerings. This is something we are investigating with social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.
“Where they may differ from other generations is that they are looking for instantaneous information.”
Mark “Fish” Fisher
Chief Development Officer, Merlin Entertainments
We already work with Generation Alpha. We know five main areas are crucial to future-proofing our business when it comes to engaging with them:
1. Shared experiences and quality time with friends and family are still highly valued, maybe even more so following COVID-19.
2. They can’t stand inconvenience. This is an “always on” generation, used to connecting and consuming anytime, anywhere. They are anxious without tech or routes to tech, so whatever the experience, make sure that tech or Wi-Fi access is there.
3. Not everything has to have a plug on the end of it. You can see that from the massive increase in Lego sales. Generation Alpha still want immersive experiences, but the storytelling has to be genuine, rich, and across every touchpoint—even before they arrive.
4. They still need to feel valued and loved; they want that emotional connection, and that’s not always with technology.
5. As a company delivering experiences and an employer, you need to be authentic—if you say it, do it. They want to know your impact on the world as well as their own.
“Shared experiences and quality time with friends and family are still highly valued, maybe even more so following COVID-19.”
Senior Partner Leisure Development Partners (LDP)
This is a highly connected generation used to instant gratification. Operators might want to consider virtual queuing as a long-term investment, although we would not recommend that there is no wait time at all. Guests have a better ride experience if they can build up anticipation and adrenaline beforehand.
“Operators might want to consider virtual queuing as a long-term investment.”
5 Trends to Help Plan Ahead
Mark McCrindle, founder and principal of McCrindle Research, identifies five trends for attractions to consider in their planning and positioning:
- Out-of-Season Visits The past year has shown that people can work and learn anywhere at any time. McCrindle expects to see people taking holidays and trips outside of traditional dates.
- Reprioritizing Family Time Following COVID-19 “We have windows of opportunity as children are growing to create memories together,” says McCrindle. Attractions can facilitate this.
- Real-World Experiences “Parents are desperately looking for off-screen activities for their children. They will welcome real-world experiences,” says McCrindle.
- Developing Life and Work Skills Parents want children to develop skills beyond the classroom. Travel can broaden minds, and attractions can offer edutainment and work experience.
- Global Connections Alphas are global in outlook and mobile in where they will work, travel, and live. Attractions can provide those opportunities.
- Funworld Contributing Editor Juliana Gilling covers the attractions industry in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Contact her at [email protected].