It’s true: Millennials are more demanding than prior generations. This group of 80 million+ knows what they want, what they expect, and what they deserve when it comes to all aspects of their lives—and travel is no exception. As a Millennial with a passion for wandering the world, I can attest to many changing trends and behaviors. Of these, there are three key ways that “Millennialization” is affecting the way we all travel.
Travel is becoming an increasingly social event. Millennials are most likely to travel in a group, with 58% indicating they’d prefer to travel with friends, about 20% higher than any other generation, according to Iconoculture. Many companies and apps such as Gogobot, Groupize, and Flights with Friends have already jumped on this trend by allowing friends to plan, explore and share their trips in one easy-to-navigate destination. State travel campaigns, like Texas Tourism, have also opened doors for travelers to arrange, document, and share their vacation experiences through applications. Or take Triporama, whose “collaborative curating” model has earned it a top spot in the Millennial world of travel by allowing users to collaborate on itineraries and experiences, share travel research and even schedule trips and excursions together. Not only are people exploring in groups, they are also sharing and grading their (good and bad) experiences online. Millennials rely on an average of 10.2 sources before booking travel, says HVS, which shows the exponential impact that this new “digital word of mouth” can and will have on the travel industry.
Spontaneity is another key factor changing the face of travel. Millennials spend less time planning their vacations than any other cohort, with an average 75-day booking window compared to a 93-day window of other age groups, finds Leisure Group Travel. This is largely due to their digital savvy, as many young travelers fly by the seat of their pants and rely on their phones for instant travel information. Whether they’re in search of a city map, a last-minute hotel booking or a hole-in-the-wall bar frequented by locals, Millennials are traveling according to real-time needs rather than by a planned itinerary.
Many companies are also capitalizing on the spontaneous nature of young travelers by offering mystery trips for those craving the excitement of travel without the burden of planning. CheapCaribbean.com offers a “Budget Beach Finder” app that allows travelers to enter their budget and instantly receive tailored vacation package suggestions. Even Heineken is cashing in on this growing trend with their “Destination Roulette,” which intercepts airport travelers and invites them to cancel their current travel plans, imagine the possibilities and press a button to instantly reveal a random destination. Oh, and did I mention they will pay for your trip, too? Seems like spontaneity really can pay off! Mobile apps such as Sosh and HotelTonight are also bringing this notion of spontaneity to life by allowing Millennials to serendipitously discover cool attractions and even book a hotel room at moment’s notice.
Millennial travelers are keeping it real by placing a higher importance on authentic experiences. Ask any young person what types of places they seek out while traveling, and more than likely you’ll hear something along the lines of “unique” or “anything that isn’t touristy and mainstream.” This group is steering clear of the tourist traps and gravitating toward unique hot spots frequented by locals.
Take Airbnb for example, whose business is centered on travelers looking to get more out of their accommodations than what a big box hotel can offer. Airbnb provides users with not only unique lodging but also a network of travelers and usually some tips and recommendations from their local host. Apps such as CityDoping, Spotted by Locals and Google Field Trip are also assisting travelers in search of a more local, authentic experience. Strayboots is another app takes local experiences to the next level with an interactive walking scavenger hunt that encourages travelers to discover new places, solve clues and even meet locals. These companies and tools are helping to close the gap between tourists and locals, forever changing the way we explore the world.
As marketers, we need to be aware of the evolving travel landscape and adjust accordingly. We are talking to self-sufficient, savvy travelers who know exactly what they want and aren’t afraid to share their opinion. We must jump on board with the Millennial behaviors and give travelers the right tools to aid any excursion, whether it’s facilitating group travel, incentivizing a last-minute vacation, inspiring a serendipitous adventure or blurring the lines between tourists and locals. When it comes to travel, Millennials are our tour guides, and this is just the beginning of an epic journey.