The Millennial Travel Market … Insight Beyond The Numbers

The travel trade associations are issuing reports compiled over the past couple of years with the results in from a number of surveys they sponsored.

The releases are loaded with numbers and stats… but the observations made are surface level and fit into a predictable stereotype of Millennials…

(1) The Millennials do all the planning, booking and travel sharing using their Smart Phones and Apps

(2) They seek out different cultures… novel experiences… varied habitats

(3) More value is placed on educational than recreational experiences

(4) They share their travel with family friends on social media

(5) They spend more and have deeper pockets

(6) They mix solo travel with group travel… few make any notation of family travel

It amazes me just how many brand teams, ad agencies and digital tech camps dwell in a stereotype of Millennials.

And further how they fail to understand the dynamics of segments within what they label as Millennials.

In their headsets, the Millennials are new in the jobs market, they are all addicted to their iPhones and they spend all their time texting and interacting on social media. In most cases, the snapshot is nearly always single and furthermore mostly white with little diversity.

I have to laugh… what diversity many brands attempt to project is the inclusion of a bi-racial couple.

There are tremendous opportunities in the travel, tourism and lodging industry, but if the industry is not careful, it is going to fail in capitalizing on those opportunities!

Here are some insights richer than what is posting by the trade…

#1 — There Are Multiple Groups Under the Millennial Banner

What the lodging industry did with sub-brands with each brand having its own identity and personality was smart.

Marriott was a market leader launching brands like Aloft to Springhill Suites to Element to Moxy to Courtyard… each brand crafted around a unique audience.

Yes… the Millennials in 2022 are all somewhere in the age group spanning age 28 — age 43.

And yes… a share is single.

And yes… a share is tech-employed

But there are more Millennials today coupled than single. Many have not just one baby, but 2 or 3 kids with some of the kids now entering school.

There are Millennials who are white… but there is higher share who are Hispanic-Latino… and Black/African-American… and Asia-Indian.

The job market right now is gasping to find hourly labor because the Millennials filling those roles not only aged, but got better jobs.

There are more Millennials working service and conventional blue-collar jobs than working conventional white-collar jobs!

The very first client in which I applied PRIZM lifestyle segment modeling was in the travel and entertainment business. Back then there were 40 different groups in the PRIZM model. Today there are 68 groups.

The viable Millennial segments span the spectrum from “Millennial Homemakers” to “Millennial iClimbers” to “Backpacks & Pickups” to “First Entry Startups” to “Muti-Culti Mosaic.”

These groups span the spectrum from singles to families… from trade to high tech… from those pulling in $150K+ to those securing $50K+.

AND … all of these groups represent unique travel opportunity groups!

#2 — The Character of the Experience

The conventional vacation travel experience seems to dominate much of how travel is showcased in marketing materials.

Taking that 5 to 7-day escape.

Some illustrate the mode of travel to be the car… others the plane… a few even showcase the cruise line.

But that has changed radically… even more now post-Pandemic.

More Millennial travel is NOT a 5 to 7-day escape but an overnight or two day trip. These escapes could be over a weekend, but also could be during the week.

Some of these jaunts are driven by an event… others to reconnect with a significant other… sometimes to experience more family time… some to add variety to a live-work-play environment attached to their address of residency… and some an escape just alone to get away from all the others.

While some Millennials travel with work… the mobility of the office has driven a new form of business travel where there are no meetings or client interactions, but instead a different environment to script the next PowerPoint report.

In some cases, the trip for the Millennials can be driven by the character of the destination… but less by the climate and/or scenery and more by the overall culture of the residents living in it.

#3 — The Emotional & Internal Deliverables

VRBO has a campaign running right now crafted around the emotional deliverable of the experience.

The ads convey nothing about how VRBO operates, how to access it, how pricing works… in fact price is never mentioned.

The ads don’t even showcase destinations. In fact, when watching the ads, you have no idea of just what might be the genre of the destination… a beach, a downtown, a mountain escape… or whether the people are in the U.S. or abroad.

Instead the VRBO ads focus around the interaction of individuals and the emotional context of the experience.

In the past, reconnecting with family was a driver of many vacations… today, reconnecting takes on a whole new meaning since many families work from home and some have elected to continue to school the kids at home as we move beyond the Pandemic.

Family bonding is more than just parents and kids… and in some cases, the parent might be a Baby Boomer and the “kid” is 34 years of age.

For Millennials working the 9-to-5 jobs that also net incomes of $75K+, the past driver of “escape” and “time out” comes back to the center of the stage.

Furthermore, for Millennials that make up the target group nicknamed, “First Entry Startups,” that search for novel and different cultures might be well superseded by the desire to get to know the history and culture of America that is now their new home.

#4 — Co-authorship of the Travel Experience

While many house & home brands have embraced the Millennials desire to co-author the environment around them, few travel brands have even walked into this arena of opportunity.

The co-authorship opportunity runs the gamut from the décor and style of the vacation dwelling space to the agenda and activities engaged in to the food and drink consumed.

Travel agents / counselors / advisors — whatever label they elect to use — are coming back to life with Millennials… not as directors but more as co-authors. They work with Millennials in partnership to craft the travel experiences whether it be a weekend and a two-hour drive from the home or a week+ get-away a two-hour flight from home.

There is a new micro-hotel that has opened up in Nashville called Ironwood Grove that is a comprised of a set of Tiny Houses which can actually be clustered together as well as customized in terms of privacy, view and links to outdoor extended space by guests.

They say birds of a feather flock together…. Ironwood Grove sits smack in East Nashville dominated by It happens to sit in a neighborhood dominated by Millennial Homemakers.

Hotels and resorts like Marriott have created options of selection in the past, but there are very limited options that have actually let the traveler design and author the design of the space.

An Opportunity Sits…

Millennials … and all the groups underneath the generational label … deserve much more than a stereotype label. And no matter which sub-segment the spotlight is on… they all represent opportunity for an industry that seems sidetracked on believing cost and digital bookings drive the marketplace today.

If you are in the travel category direct or indirectly, opportunity is knocking.

Call us at EXPERIENCE and let’s journey.

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