Time to Hand Over the Youth Mantle: Millennials Grow Up

By Carolyn Childs Principal, Mytravelresearch.com | May 29, 2016

Globally the influence of Millennials on travel and on marketing has been profound. In the US, Millennials are as large a generation cohort as Baby Boomers(1). In China, they are a smaller generation numerically thanks to the one child policy. But as the first generation to benefit from China's astonishing economic growth, 80's children (as they are known) are a wealthy and high-consuming group.

The word Millennial has almost become synonymous with youth. But that is about to change. Millennials (Gen Y) were; broadly speaking born between 1980 and 1995. So the upper end of this cohort is now entering its mid-30s.This Generation (people sharing the same birth years and thus formative influences) is about to collide with lifestage (the needs that relate to age).

So as an industry we need to plan for this tectonic shift in three broad areas: 1) what will happen to their travel behavior as they become parents?; 2) what business travel will look like as Millennials occupy the 'peak of influence' and finally 3) the human capital development implications when Millennials are the majority of managers and leaders within our industry.

Millennials as Family Travelers

As Millennials become parents, their needs and values often converge with those of other generations. Where they once sought 'cool' brands, their brand choices often move to the mainstream as parents(2). They also become more value conscious adopting a 'trading up, trading down' philosophy. They will save on the elements they value less while continuing to focus spending on the experiential elements. Food in particular continues to be a driver for Millennials when they travel – and as parents they are also very conscious of nutritional choices for their families.

Millennials were slow to leave the parental home compared to earlier generations. When they did so, it was often with the help of their parents. As a result, they remain close emotionally and financially to them. As parents this has driven the phenomenon of the multi-generational family trip. The cruise industry has been adept at developing products that meet the needs of this trip – with multi-bedroom suites and larger cabins. It is not just about hard product. In focus groups, we often hear that an absence of pricing and booking services that recognize more complex family structures is a key barrier to purchase. It is important to show that you welcome multi-generational groups as they offer a more superior ROI than smaller family groups.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.