Millennials already make up 40% of leisure travelers who book travel online. They’ve grown up in the digital age so tech is part of their DNA. They don’t think twice about booking a flight online, posting online for a last minute hotel or restaurant recommendation, or even spending the night in a stranger’s home in a city a thousand miles away from home.
In an almost desperate attempt to win them over, the travel industry is throwing everything they’ve got at them – building niche brands, introducing mobile-driven amenities and just trying to be hip enough to matter.
What the industry needs to understand is that this is not a demographic phenomenon of the peer-influenced, over-sharing Millennial. It’s a change in our culture that won’t just follow this generation. It will establish the foundation for the next generation of tech-enabled travel experience that drives more options, more freedom of choice and ultimately more revenue opportunity for the industry.
For the travel industry to be successful long term, it needs to understand the Millennial first. Identifying and wooing them is easy, if you appreciate that Millennials have specific travel tendencies and motivations, such as:
- They trust their friends’ recommendations over a travel agent. Millennials are also strongly influenced by online sources such as review sites, blogs and social media. 76% say that friends’ recommendations are top influencers for travel and 80% percent feel travel reviews have a strong influence on their decisions, and 18% consider travel agent advice.
- They want to fully immerse themselves into new cultures, and feast on local cuisine. Millennials desire authentic, meaningful experiences—preferably ones they can post to social media. They’re the social media “showboating” generation, making sure friends see their adventures as they happen. This preference has helped power the sharing economy, making more than a cottage industry of community sharing travel innovations like Airbnb (accommodations), Uber (transport) and Feastly (food).
- They use mobile devices and digital platforms for their entire digital journey. Millennials use Smartphones when booking and researching travel, and tablets as a travel devise are sure to rise. 49% of Millennials use smartphones when planning trips and 35% book journeys on them. From research to booking and email confirmations to mobile ticketing – it’s all digital. The Internet of Things continues to transform travel incorporating Internet-enabled functions beyond wi-fi to cardless check-in, tablet in-room services, wearables, and more.
- They spend more each day on trips than other age groups. Millennials like to be pampered and travel is one big-ticket item that they make work into their budget. Forty percent will spend more on travel in 2016 than in 2015. Only 30% of Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers will increase their travel budgets, despite the fact that they’ll spend more than Millennials overall.
- They care about amenities and will pay an additional to get the experience they want. Millennials crave different perks than their parents, saying that amenities are important when booking a hotel. Fifty-five percent of Millennials say they won’t book a room from a supplier that doesn’t have Wi-Fi. They’re used to the “pay for more” approach to travel, so they expect to dish it out for more leg room on their flight or the extras at their hotel. Of course they want to save where they can, but value wins over budget.
- They are the always-connected generation, however, they want to choose when they want engage. Check in remotely, order poolside with an app – or not. Being connected gives choice and freedom to engage when you want face to face or use technology to do the talking. It’s all about exercising your options for Millennial travelers.
- They are engaging with the exploding number of travel-related apps designed to improve the travel journey. Millennials use brand and industry apps for everything from check in and managing itineraries, to finding the best hot spots with apps like Bravolo, BringFido, and TripIt. And that means also engaging with friends and followers throughout their travel. Millennials post updates, photos and videos when they travel. Most popular social apps used when traveling are Facebook (94%), Instagram (71%), and Twitter (14 %).
- They are most likely to respond to Native Ads and Branded Content. Audiences of all ages have become increasingly wary of traditional display ads over the years. There is an increasingly low tolerance for disruptive display ads, though most realize that ads are a necessary evil for receiving content free of charge. But native ads and branded content may appeal to Millennials more than other types of ads, according to research. 80% of Millennials look at travel articles and photos online, while two-thirds are viewing video.
- They are attracted to destination and experience content online to satisfy their wanderlust and adventure seeking nature.Millennials focus on destinations and their activities when looking at online content. 74% view destination content, 68% travel activities, 60% accommodations, 51% deals, 48% cruises, 37% flights and finally 24% car rentals.
- They tend to extend and blend business trips into personal vacations more than other groups – we call it “bleisure.” Millennials can afford to add extra time to their business trips, and an Expedia study found that Millennials are 62% more likely than older employees to extend a business trip into a holiday. Others may turn their business trip into a “bleisure” holiday by making the most of any downtime, using it for leisure activities or simply seeking local culture.
- Give Millennials the mobile experience they expect throughout the visitor journey
- Three things matter – (1) experience, (2) experience, and — oh yeah, (3) experience
- Make it unique, make it local – help them feel that they belong
- Engage them on their terms by giving them choices on how to communicate and take action
- Offer the right mix of amenities that match stay experience expectations
- Be sensitive to Millennial preferences — friend recommendations, reviews, native ads and social media are how to communicate over display ads, featuring photos and videos.
- Use analytics tools that enable you to identify and target Millenials online during their digital journey, and engage them with the right type of digital content
- Make it easy for Millennials to turn business into pleasure – or bleasure
This list is a collection of the best findings, analytics and survey results from top travel trackers and influencers including BCG, CNtraveler.com, Expedia, eMarketer, Forbes, MDG Advertising, Nurun, TripAdvisor, U.S. News & World Report, and Yahoo Advertising.