Travel & Leisure Magazine publishes an annual survey where their readers are invited to vote on ‘America’s Favorite Cities’. Recently the ‘winners’ of a sub category ‘America’s Best Cities for Hipsters’ was revealed. The survey participants were asked to rank 35 metropolitan cities on culturally relevant features like live music, coffee bars and independent boutique businesses. They also included the best micro-brews and the best places to view and connect with ‘offbeat’ and ‘tech-savvy’ locals. Remember when those ‘offbeat folks’ were tagged hepcats? A bit later in our history we got the hippies, thus the evolution to the term hipster. So who are today’s hipsters? Are they the Gen X & Y youth culture customers that is the hot topic of discussion among innkeepers as of late. Let’s take a look.
Every generation has a ‘youth culture’. In other words, hepcat or hippie we were all young once! But cultures evolve to what eventually becomes mainstream culture. For the Gen X & Y technology and the internet are at the center of their culture, they are intensely intertwined with their life. Technology unifies the culture of this generation and makes their life efficient.
Today’s youth culture is also seen as consumers. The focus here is to look at the Gen X/Y Hipster consumer’s wants and needs. We want to identify the how, what and why. This is tough because remember youth culture is continually evolving. The ‘how’ is pretty easy to identify, the internet, social media. The why and what is the moving target. Let’s go back to the Travel & Leisure survey, look at a few of the results which may give us a window into this generation’s consuming mind.
#1 – For those innkeepers located in and around Seattle you are once again at the top of the ‘where’ hipsters like to visit and live. Congratulations! You Seattleites have the edge on the smart and tech-savvy folks as well as high octane coffee. Example: The Walrus and the Carpenter, an oyster bar owned and operated by three Gen Yers offering ‘high quality food in a space that is stripped of pretense and feels like home.’ A hipster magnet!
#2 – If Seattle is smart, Portland, OR is quirky with great beer, creative street food mixed in with bicycle enthusiasts. Example: Hopworks Bike Bar features stationery bikes that generate electricity for the pub and it is kid friendly. Tinker Toys is the proud sponsor for their pub’s play area. Quirky? Yes but in a real positive interpretation. It can be what makes Portland unique and fun to explore. So to all you quirky (and smart) Portland innkeepers, congrats on your #2 status.
#5 – The other Portland in Maine is a top winner in the food and beverage category which includes coffee and micro-brews. Example: Coffee by Design, a business started by two local Gen Xers with a focus on two of their passions, coffee and community. From a humble street front coffee house to five local shops and a flagship coffee shop in LL Bean, they have created a reason and multiple places for the hip to sip.
#6 – Providence ranks high in its mix of nerds and artists. Performance art and cafes are a great draw for RI hipsters to connect. Example: The Providence Geeks hub AS220. This is a center for concerts, lectures and classes. The Geeks goal is to ‘help RI digital innovators connect and collaborate’. To all the innkeepers in this small but mighty state, your nerd status is dully noted and appreciated. Nerds can be hipsters too!
A very interesting thread that runs throughout this survey is that this generational pull is toward places that have thriving and innovative entrepreneurial businesses. William Deresiewicz in his article ‘Generation Sell’ says; “Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration – music, food, good works, what have you – is expressed in those terms. The characteristic art form of our age may be the business plan”.
This says to me that the Gen X/Y Hipster is drawn to the new and innovative micro-brew, restaurant, coffee shop/barista and art gallery business because they may be or aspire to be entrepreneurs themselves. I find this very interesting. We know that it is imperative for the future of the small lodging business to market to this generation of youth consumer. We also see them as the innkeepers of the future. The B&B Team notices the interest in innkeeping increasing in this generation and it is very exciting to us.
To all the hepcats and hippies of the past who once claimed the realm of the hip, it’s not over yet! We may appear a bit mainstream to the Gen X/Y Hipsters but we recognize their innovation, their enthusiasm and their desire to view the future as a positive force. I see the entrepreneurial spirit in the Gen X/Y folks that attend our Better Way to Learn Seminars and the PAII Conferences and its real groovy.