I’m fascinated by the weekly deluge of studies and columns about the preferences and behaviors of the Millennials. While it is good to keep a pulse on future generations, I think that there is a lot of undue attention being thrust on this very small corner of the larger consumer picture. My caution is not one to ignore the Millennials but to realize that while there is a lot of noise in this area, much of the data stands contrary to the amount of attention.
According to USTravel.org, people over 35 make up over 70% of leisure travel and almost 80% of business travelers. From just a data-centric customer profiling strategy, these numbers are persuasive in themselves.
In addition, the Resonance “2015 Portrait of the Millennial Traveler” shows that Millennials may take more frequent trips throughout the year but stay closer to home and spend less. Consistently, Millennials spend far less than their Xer or Boomer counterparts.
Half of Millennials spend less than $500 a trip, and only 21% will spend between $1,000 and $3,000.
Comparatively, only 30% of total travelers will spend less than $500, but 33% will spend between $1,000 and $3,000. Seven percent of total travelers will exceed $3,000.
Older leisure travelers take longer trips and extended stays, which also accounts for the higher spends.
Now, this attention could be from the fact that this is a new, albeit unpredictable, consumer set. Millennials are more technology-driven than past generations and more connected to each other and the world around them. This presents numerous challenges for a travel industry that is learning to adapt to these digitally driven changes.
The consensus of Millennial analysis is that it is largely undefined. Millennials do not even act like each other, much less as a defined market (which is similar to Xers and Boomers). Their tastes are different and focus on experiences rather than luxury. As one analyst states it, “Millennials’taste in luxury will be different and redefined than their predecessors.” But isn’t that just a product of generational experiences and preferences? Hasn’t each generation defined luxury and style according to their own terms?
In addition, aren’t values and goals shaped by periods of life? One of my favorite commercials from the Superbowl shows this progression: a young man initially states that he will never get married. Then, married, states that he will never have kids. Then, having one kid, declares that he will never have another, only to find out his wife is expecting. He will never move to the suburbs, drive a minivan, and so on. The final scene shows the man looking at his sleeping children and wife on the couch and states, “I’m never letting go.” It touches us because many have made those proclamations, only to have their value systems turned upside down with age and periods of life.
The analysis of the Boomers, Xers, Yers and Millennials all tend to follow this pattern. Initially, they are rebellious and reject their parents’ value systems, creating their own. Ultimately, they become adults and settle into a more predictable lifestyle. Analysis of each key demographic group tends to read like a fortune cookie or a horoscope — generally applicable, but hardly predictable.
Our values are fluid, they grow with us. There is not any reason to think that the Millennials will continually be the way they are now 5, 10 or even 20 years in the future. Ultimately, each generation initially throws off convention but finally embraces the responsibilities of growing older. Coincidently, trending data has shown that older and more affluent Millennials are drifting back to Facebook, while younger Millennials seek out “faster” platforms.
So, it seems as though there will never be a nice, neat demographic box, even according to Amadeus’ report on Future Traveler Tribes. That is, if there ever was.