Inside the mind of the new travel consumer
Those of us in the mountain resort business have been talking about Millennials for what seems like decades. A dozen years after they started appearing in the world (in 1981), we took notice — because they were our target market’s children.
The Millenial mindset and the new travel consumer
Those of us in the mountain resort business have been talking about Millennials for what seems like decades. A dozen years after they started appearing in the world (in 1981), we took notice — because they were our target market’s children. We worried that they were driving the vacation decisions of their parents who were our primary target audience. Then shortly after the turn of the century, Millennials started showing up in resorts as our employees, driving us crazy asking for flex time or leaves of absence to explore their interests outside of work, advance their education, and to go build schools in Africa.
Before we knew it, Millennials began to emerge as our resort guest. While they didn’t have a lot of money, they made it clear that they wanted us to offer our products or services differently: they wanted them cheaper and they wanted them online, on demand. And they wanted to book them while they were driving up the highway to the resort and not a minute sooner. And if we balked at their requests, they blasted us on Twitter. Nothing they were doing was promoting a positive impression of their notorious generation in our minds.
And then this happened: Millennials turned 35 and parlayed their master’s degrees into a $150k a year professional careers. They got married, had 2.5 kids, bought a nice home and started taking one or more vacations per year. All of a sudden, Millennials started looking a lot like our best customers. What makes them tick is now extremely interesting.
What we know about the desirable Millenial consumer
There are 1.8 billion Millennials worldwide, with 84 million living in North America. They are a demographically diverse, highly educated and career-driven generation. Politically, Millennials are progressive, opting for a healthy and environmentally-conscious lifestyle.
Millennials value flexibility in their lives, easily blending work, travel and social time. As a generation, they mistrust advertising, preferring to make purchasing decisions based peer recommendations. Millennials distrust large corporations, and will actively seek out brands that demonstrate social and environmental responsibility.
Empowered by mobile and social media, Millennials have a non-linear approach to media. They think nothing of consuming media on a myriad of devices, often simultaneously. Their TV and video consumption is highly personalized; they seek out on-demand and personalized services.
The Millenial mindset: It's contagious
With all of this said about Millennials, one thing that hasn't been discussed in detail is of the utmost interest to us: their mindset is contagious. When these Millennials started becoming influential, their thinking began influencing older generations. Today, both Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers are demonstrating Millennial thinking. We call this the Millennial Mindset, and it is influencing many of today’s consumer trends.
Let’s look at a collection of consumer trends that are inspired by or responding to the Millennial Mindset, and are especially applicable to the world of destination marketing. JWT’s “The Future 100 Trends and Changes to Watch in 2016” and Resonance’s 2016 US Luxury Travel Report elaborate on many of these insights and are great annual sources for travel trend watching. In addition, Turn Research has released new audience segmentation data for the Millennial demographic.
Consumer trends inspired by the Millenial mindset
Millennial Mindset consumers are compelled to document and share their stories to define and communicate their social status. When your product or service helps to elevate your customer’s social currency, you’ve tapped into a powerful marketing opportunity.
Mobile internet access is widely considered the most important hotel or resort amenity for Millennial Mindset travelers. This impacts not only how destinations are marketed, but how travellers consume and experience the destination.
Mistrust of marketing
87% of Millennial mindset consumers distrust traditional advertising, while 80% of travelers in this demographic say that reviews have a significant influence on their travel decisions. If you are not actively participating in review sites where your product is discussed, you are missing the most important channel for influencing Millennial Mindset consumers.
The sharing economy
Forty percent of U.S. Millennials use Airbnb or other sharing services. That said, 58% of Millennials say that a full-service hotel or resort is still their first choice. Millennial Mindset consumers will seek out accommodation that appeals to their sense of novelty — that could be Airbnb, but it could also be a full service hotel.
Millennials are not concerned with weight loss and looking good, but with being healthy, reducing stress and connecting spiritually. Resorts need to refocus their programming and product development on the active Millennial mindset traveler by integrating activities that go beyond the hotel gym.
Festival culture has spawned a seemingly contradictory trend: health and fitness are not mutually exclusive of hedonistic experiences such as drinking and clubbing. Don’t assume that health-conscious travelers are all about wholesome activity. Millennial Mindset consumers like to mix a little fun, and a solid dose of spirituality and hedonism, with their sweat.
Consumers now expect hotels and resorts to incorporate ecological or social responsibility into their day-to-day operations. Some creative concepts include Amsterdam’s Good Hotel, which re-integrates unemployed locals, and Vancouver’s Skwachàys Lodge and Residence, which provides subsidized apartments and high-end accommodation.
A defining feature of the Millennial Mindset traveler is a desire to experience rare, obscure and remote destinations. Tour providers are delivering, resulting in a growing number of tours to Antarctica, Galapagos and other remote locales.
The travel industry is adapting its offerings to a growing interest in ‘intangible heritage’, which sees them participating in popular culture, local traditions and storytelling. This creates opportunities for the travel industry to cultivate healthy and mutually beneficial relationships with local and indigenous cultures.
Millennial Mindset travelers are increasingly experiencing cuisine as a full-scale cultural travel experience, to be shared on social platforms. Food is no longer a side dish; it’s the main event. Destinations are dramatically improving their culinary offerings to entice affluent and savvy travelers.
From Lululemon’s in-store yoga studios to Nike’s Community Store program, global brands and independent retailers are opening bricks and mortar stores that function as both retailers and community hubs. Bricks and mortar retail locations have become branded experiential extensions of their online counterparts.
U.S. Millennials are more likely than other demographics to combine a business trip with leisure travel that aligns with their personal interests. Millennial Mindset travellers are not drawn by the usual conference amenities. Draw them in with curated itineraries that bring together luxury amenities, adventure travel and personal development.
Millions of millionaires
There are more than 35 million millionaires in the world today — an increase of 12% — and millionaires are getting younger. Millennial millionaires are not satisfied with run-of-the-mill all inclusive holiday experiences. Draw them in with highly curated, customized dining, sightseeing and novelty.
A brave, new world of informed, curated luxury travel
Millennials are here to stay. Even more so that other generational demographics — Generation X and Baby Boomers — are taking cultural cues from this large, affluent and influential market. We’re quickly learning that Millennials are culturally and economically setting the stage for a brave new world of curated luxury and adventure in the resort and travel industry. In response, the industry needs to deeply understand the Millennial Mindset to curate offerings and marketing campaigns that tap into their interests and desires.