Profiling the next generation of travelers

Research on the habits and trends among Millennials – those roughly aged 18-30 – continues relentlessly, as companies strive to understand how best to serve their needs.

Why is this important? Well,  this generation is now growing into its peak earning years – prime time for travel brands looking to capture not only their hard-earned cash but also their loyalty.

Amadeus is the latest to peer into the Millennial mind, compiling a series of interviews with younger travelers from around the world into a report entitled “Trending with NextGen Travelers”.

For their purposes, the qualities that defined a “next gen traveler” are heavy internet use, technological savvy, college students, heavy social media users and frequent travelers.

Using their own methods of qualitative analysis, the report has identified some key trends of how this engaged, connected and curious generation travels.

The trends are not earth-shattering revelations, but continued reminders to travel businesses that they need to understand cross-generational differences in behavior, to ensure that marketing activity, product development and customer service are in line with the expectations of each customer segment.

Informed and empowered, these are smart consumers

These are digital natives, people that have never traveled without ubiquitous access to the Internet or digital devices in tow.

This means that they are self-empowered to build their own personalized itineraries, and see themselves as their own experts.

They have the ability to sift through mounds of information and pull out the important-to-them bits. They also expect instant connectivity, and information to be available on the go via the Web and smartphone-optimized content.

A shift in self-identification, from tourist to explorer

One of the key insights the report identified was that these travelers “want only beginning and end points” and prefer to “create own unique path in between.”

This falls in line with the way that younger travelers see themselves. Rather than tourists or travelers, the next-generation has taken back the concept of being an explorer – the world is there to be discovered.

This is the opposite approach of the idea that there’s nothing new left in the world. The next generation of travelers are still seeking “something different,” a touch of authenticity in a world of similarity.

This means that travel brands must pursue opportunities for co-creation with these travelers. Bring them into the fold when creating trips, offer up chances to get local and do something that is absolutely not tourist-oriented.

Of course, this makes the proposition of satisfying these needs, as it’s very difficult to create a local experience each and every time that still seems authentic and real even though there are other non-local travelers participating.

This idea of being an explorer also opens up the desire of these travelers to have something that personal fulfills them, that provides meaning beyond checking an activity, sight, or destination off a list.

As the report reminds the reader, “Being able to pinpoint unique excursions and ‘hidden gems’ in global destinations will develop rapport, longevity and loyalty.”

The pursuit of uniqueness is something unseen before in an industry heretofore dominated by resorts and cookie-cutter corporate experiences.

As this generation ages into their peak earning years, companies will have to reconfigure their entire product offerings.

Hotels, such as the recent AFAR partnership, are already seeking ways to connect guests to legitimate local experiences that provide a direct, unique, and guest-driven perspective into the local life.

Social media has become more than just an activity but a lifestyle

Here’s a shocker: today’s Millennial traveler values connectivity to family and friends via social media while they travel.

This is becoming an essential part of the travel experience, and the smartphone is the hub of this activity.

In addition, social media is emphasizing the fact that humans are social creatures, and seek out social engagements that add to their lives.

This now extends to the travel experience as well.

Sanitized, separate enclaves are no longer en vogue; lively, social spaces that attract a mix of locals and travelers are now hip. Look at the lobbies of boutique hotels like the Ace Hotel, and consider Marriott‘s on-trend re-design of its hotels to include socially-focused Great Rooms.

Travel brands need to consider how their guests want to socialize, and with whom, and facilitate these interactions that make memorable, shareable experiences.

For travelers internationally, the burden of cost is high and therefore many next-gen travelers seek out downloadable information, apps available for offline use and any means of staying connected to both social media and readily-available information even without data or Internet access.

This access piece is a very important component of the satisfaction equation for next-gen travelers.

Travel brands that can deliver connectivity in unexpected, reliable and affordable ways will be valued – and engender far more loyalty than without the understanding of how connectivity plays into the equation.

Conclusions

The refrain continues: Millennial travelers prefer special experiences, are highly social animals, and value authenticity and connectivity as the best way to explore the world.

It’s important to note that this trend is trickling up – older generations are also seeking more truth and authenticity in their travel lives, and are shying away from the cookie-cutter resort experiences.

The rise in “travel like a local” startups, and bespoke travel agencies focused on experiential travel, have truly highlighted the sea change in travel. It’s all about the experience and not the commodity; the memory not the money.

Take these trends to the bank, because those who act will benefit immensely in the next decade of travel.

NB: Download the full report here.

NB2: Gen-Y travel technology image via Shutterstock.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick helps brands blog better at Ghost Works, a boutique blog management service. Nick was previously the Director of Content for tnooz, where he oversaw the editorial and commercial content as well as producing/hosting tnoozLIVE.

 

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