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Millennials: the new travellers


From their favourite travel destinations and preferred holiday activities, to the people they travel with and how they choose to spend their money, Millennial differences can be observed along the whole travel value chain.

Millennial travellers display significantly different travel expectations and behaviours compared to other generations. However, considering their large numbers and the multitude of nationalities they include, it would be naïve to think there is only one type of Millennial traveller. This group has varied demands that are fuelling the transformation of the travel industry. Due to their spending power, as well as their influence on surrounding generations, Millennials clearly deserve the full attention of retail and travel industry stakeholders. So, what are the key facts, preferences and needs of this generation?

Who are Millennials?

Millennials, also referred to as Generation Y, are the demographic group following Generation X. Typically, demographers consider Millennials to have been born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. In 2018, this generation is aged between 18 and 34 years old.

According to WYSE and UNWTO forecasts, there will be 370 million youth travellers by 2020, spending over USD 400 billion. Around three-fifths of the world’s Millennials are from Asia, with a third of these coming from India and China, while US Millennials are the country’s largest demographic group.

Travelling: a seismic generational shift?

Young people have different life priorities compared to their parents. While previous generations focused on acquiring their own house and car, many Millennials are rejecting these traditional achievements, placing a much higher importance on intangible, life-enriching moments, such as travel. 

And while older generations still consider travelling to be a luxury, Millennials see it more as a necessity, becoming an integral part of their lives. According to the American Society of Travel Agents, in 2016, Millennials took 44% more holiday time and trips than the average Baby Boomer. They are now the fastest growing demographic for the international travel market, representing around 20%, reports the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation.

Travelling is no longer seen as an indulgence, but a great opportunity to develop life and work skills. For the Millennial, experience is the new social currency.

For Millennials, the quest for new experiences is a fundamental desire which can be observed across all moments of life, not only when travelling but also when shopping or eating. The fast-paced, digitised world serves this need well, by creating opportunities for high-tech interactive experiences, or simply as a way to capture moments, through the omnipresent  smartphone.

Millennials are looking for new travel destinations and extraordinary activities that give their holiday a unique feel. They still visit the top sights of a city, but get to know destinations by mingling with the locals in bars and restaurants, to ensure an authentic experience.

For this generation, sharing snaps of experiences on social media preserves precious memories as well as nourishing their carefully curated online identity. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and WeChat are also becoming key influencers on how and where to travel. Rather than relying on traditional sources of information, social media is shaping Millennials’ decision-making process, often led by one question: “how “Instagrammable” will my holiday be?”.

Show me the money

Millennials have not yet reached their peak earning period, meaning their budget is not as ample as older generations. But it does not mean they are more frugal. Instead, they are strategic in the way they book their flights, accommodations or activities, to get the most value for money.

With the commoditisation of travel, it has never been cheaper or easier to go abroad,  thanks to the rise of digital services from Online Travel Agencies (OTA), tour operators, hotel chains and accommodation booking giants. To satisfy their need for convenience, quality and value, Millennials have developed strong online tracking skills. According to Expedia, “convenience” ranks as the highest driver for booking through an OTA, at 23%, while being “cheaper” follows at 16%. Most notably, “security reasons” still drive 9% of OTA bookings.

Crusoe syndrome

Current geopolitical unrest means Millennials are highly sensitised to security threats. This impacts their travel destinations and habits: according to Carlson Wagonlit Travel, 29% of Millennial travellers have cancelled a trip for security reasons, compared with only 12% of Baby Boomers.

To comfort worried travellers, brands are offering tech-enabled reassurance. In response to the increasing number of terrorist attacks, Facebook has launched the “Crisis Response” function to get information on nearby terrorist attacks with the possibility to activate a “safety check” answer to reassure family and friends when abroad. Meanwhile, GeoSure is a personalised security app indicating the security level for a location based on information from Interpol and the UN, as well as local users.

With these worries, it’s no wonder that only 7% of Millennials travel alone. Half of them enjoy travelling with their family, while 42% go away with their partner or 37% with their friends, according to Expedia.


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