Millennials were once thought of as budget-conscious travellers, but this generation is rapidly shedding its gap-year persona. Will the travel industry grow up with them?
Caught somewhere between the perception of cheap hostels and an overly indulgent liking for smashed avocado on toast, Millennials are the globally minded and diverse generation that is making its mark on the travel industry as it comes of age.
Millennials are Australia’s largest generation and, fortuitously for the travel industry, they continue to value experiences over possessions – so much so that they’re delaying major financial outlays to explore what the world has to offer.
A study about travel and finance conducted in Australia by Westpac in 2016 found that the country’s 4.9 million Millennials spent $11.3 billion on overseas travel, 34% of a salary on experiences and took 3.3 million trips in the previous 12 months.
This is vastly different from their parents – the Baby Boomers – the generation who invested their earnings, ego and emotion into the “great Australian dream.” Getting a job, working hard and buying a house were the clear steps that declared to themselves and to the world that they had “made it.”
Millennials, however, are not so easily romanced by a white picket fence, and their journey to “making it” is not so linear. They are a discerning generation that ironically idealises both freedom and connection – having the ability to work and travel wherever they can, to go to another country and connect and create content, to be totally mobile and remote – while sharing it with the world.
Roy Morgan research from 2018 affirms that Millennials lead Gen X and Gen Z, Baby and Pre-Boomers for holiday travel intention. A study by The Urban List into Millennial travel in 2017 found that 62% in this generation are planning a holiday for within the next six months, yet only 1 in 3 have a specific destination in mind.
While they might not all be sure where they are going, they do know what they are looking for when they are shopping for the next destination. At the heart of what they are seeking is what’s new and the chance to make sure their social network hears it from them first.
Gone are the days where the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" approach is taken literally as the desire to not only post the perfect travel shot on social media, but to be the first to discover it, pushes people ever further off the beaten track and into the Instagram feed of friends and strangers.
It’s not just the experience (or social post) that is considered – the path to discovering the destination is critical. In fact, 92% of respondents to The Urban List´s 2017 Travel Research responded that they “want to discover a brand, rather than hearing about it when overtly advertised.”
And by all accounts, destinations are brands that are prime for discovery and rediscovery.
So how does the industry connect with Millennials when they are seeking to discover the next destination?
Travel and hospitality brands are increasingly catering to Millennial demands by providing unique and visual experiences to engage and help curate the coveted social media post – which is often the outcome of one trip but also the start of the journey for someone else.
Case in point is the renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s colorful, large-scale public artwork in the Las Vegas desert. Seven Magic Mountains say that, according to the artist, "the location is physically and symbolically midway between the natural and the artificial," the natural being the mountains, desert and dry lake bed backdrop, and the artificial being "the highway and the constant flow of traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas."
Possibly the most crucial element, however, is that it is highly photogenic. The Reno Gazette-Journal estimates that more than 2 million people have taken selfies or shots at Seven Magic Mountains to share on Instagram. It’s featured in Vogue as the backdrop for a photo shoot, and if you start digging on Google, chances are you’ll find that Beyoncé, Jay-Z and their daughter Blue Ivy have even been here.
And what better word-of-mouth can you get than that of Beyoncé? Even better because it’s not #sponsored – and she has, like her fellow Millennials, seemingly discovered it for herself.
This could start a new train of thought on the power of influence, but we’ll save for that another day.
For now, we’ll leave it with you that as Millennials grow into adulthood, the industry will be pressed to provide unique and ever-changing drawcards within a destination to satiate the lifestyle interests of this experience-hungry traveller.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency member of Travel Consul