Brands take note: travel holds the key for me-llennials

The ‘selfie’ generation. The ‘me’ generation. The millennial generation. Those born between 1980 and 2000 are not short of nicknames, not all of them entirely complimentary. They have changed the rules, and they present a sizeable challenge for brands, not least because 84% of millennials don’t like traditional advertising  – or even trust it (McCarthy Group, 2015).

But there is an answer, and it lies in travel. Brands who tap into this audience’s desire to explore new places can find a way to engage in a meaningful way…


“The first truly global generation”

As the author of Growing Up Digital, Donald Tapscott has said, millennial’s “continual connection to others worldwide has produced the first truly global generation.” Their habitual use of digital, and of social media, fuels an appetite to experience new countries and cultures.

Indeed, according to a May 2015 survey by youth marketing and millennial research company, YPulse, 72% of the 1,000 millennials polled said that they were interested in travelling and had made an average of 2.7 trips the previous year.

Travel is a clear priority for millennials

The report stated that more than 50% of employed millennials said that they are saving for ‘something special’, with the majority of both low earners and high earners saving for travel as their major purchase. Millennials with mid-level incomes were the biggest sub-group with travel as a spending priority, with 43% of stating they are saving for a trip or holiday.

There is a clear and pressing demand. In February 2016, Topdeck Travel, which provides group travel for 18-30 somethings, surveyed 31,000 people from 134 different countries. The findings revealed that:

  • 88% of them travelled overseas between one and three times a year;
  • 30% travelled solo;
  • the majority travelled in Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand

But they seek a personalised offering

This audience also expects – and responds to – personalisation. Digital has driven this desire, facilitating personalised marketing, from emails to interaction on social media platforms. A mass marketing campaign, a generic piece of Direct Mail, a badly targeted email – even a broadstroke TV ad – will struggle to move the needle.

Digital has also enabled – and fuelled the need for – customisation of products.  As the 2015 report from Deloitte (‘Made to Order: The rise of mass personalisation’) noted, businesses can now accurately measure what individual consumers want, and link their processes and resources to provide it.

From Coca Cola to Nutella, the appetite for personalisation is strong

Just look at the success of campaigns such as the personalisation of Coca Cola bottles, Marmite jars and Nutella jars: in November and December 2014 alone, over a quarter of a million personalised Nutella jars were sold.

Deloitte’s report also reveals that more than one in four 16-24 years olds are happy for businesses to use their personal information to offer them more personalised products or services. The travel industry is no different.

Choice is paramount

According to research (‘Tomorrow’s Traveller’, 2015) from serviced apartment company, SACO, companies also need to provide choice. “[Millennials] are a generation whose lives have been shaped by menus of options, personalised experience and competition for their attention,” says the report. “Brands or organisations who limit their offer will quickly find themselves usurped by someone else more able or willing to adapt.”

Travel can inspire the ‘me’ generation…

Travel  – through branded promotions and competitions – can deliver what this curious, savvy generation seeks, feeding their interest and engendering loyalty. But don’t forget the rules – they still crave something different, memorable, real.

Millennials seek “meaningful experiences and authenticity”

It certainly doesn’t mean offering a few days closeted in anodyne hotels or being marched around tourist traps. Oh no. This generation is driven by meaningful experiences and authenticity. They want to immerse themselves in new cultures and meet new people.

A 2014 survey from Eventbrite, which brings people together through live experiences, found that:

  • 78% of Gen Y respondents would rather spend money on an experience than a thing
  • 77% say their best memories come from experiences.

It is an appetite that is prompting change in the travel industry.

travel promotion

“Inspiration, personalisation and local experiences” hit the spot

Rupa Ganatra, Co-Founder of the Millennial 20/20 summit, which will take place in London in April 2016, wrote recently that, “It has never been more important to deliver deeper experiences to travellers by focus on inspiration, personalisation and local experiences.”

AirBnB has spawned a new generation of hotels

This desire for a taste of local culture and for sociability has been fuelled by the growth of AirBnB, which has helped to define the so-called ‘sharing economy’. Hotels are following suit.

Ganatra cites Marriott’s Residence Inns as an example. The hotel group now hosts weekly theme nights called the ‘Mix’ to help millennial guests connect with local culture. This includes anything from live local music in the lobbies to local food trucks.

The Hyatt is focusing on neighbourhood culture

The Hilton Hotel’s Canopy brand has also embraced this desire for authenticity, providing millennials with local wine and beer tastings; while the new Hyatt chain – launched in Chicago and Miami last year – puts the emphasis on neighbourhood culture, including open floor-plan bars with locally inspired food and cocktails.

Cliched tourism is so yesterday

The M by Montcalm hotel in London’s cool Shoreditch is another good example.  A blog post on the hotel’s web site in December 2015 stated that, “A millennial traveller heading to stay in Paris will not be interested in seeing the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower or any other tourist attraction. This generation of traveller is usually set against seeing any cliched versions of cities or countries that they visit.

“Instead, the millennial will be more interested in absorbing the proper local culture and will expect the hotel in which they stay to be able to tell them which side streets to go down to find an obscure restaurant with five tables and food they can’t pronounce.”

…because bog standard won’t make the Instagram cut

The post also pointed out that a corporate – if luxurious – hotel will no longer excite. “A boring hotel room or a standard bar isn’t worth taking a picture to post on Instagram, instead a millennial will be looking for the cool factor in a hotel.

This will be something that is worth whipping out their smartphone for to take a picture or log on a post or tweet.”


Socialising and networking are the norm

And this generation’s instinct to be sociable doesn’t just apply online. As the M blog states, “Millennials are social creatures who like to be in public spaces most of the time, as such hotels are beginning to design their bars and lobbies to be an inviting working space, that also has a social element.”

Splendid isolation in a luxury hotel room is no longer what appeals.

Travel holds the key – but think outside the box

Think Superdry’s competition to ‘win a trip to Jamaica’. The experience included adrenaline fuelled experiences such as swimming with sharks. It was a promotion carefully tailored to appeal to the clothing brand’s younger audience – adventurous, edgy, one-off.

Spontaneity, adventure, experience

Think, also, about IcelandAir’s recent ‘Surprise Stopover’ campaign, which offered passengers the chance to win free stopovers to explore Iceland. It captures the spirit of adventure, of spontaneity – of experience –  and communicated the airline’s desire to tell “real stories.”
Travel provides a platform for brands to really capture the imagination of this ‘global generation’. But remember – a week in a luxury hotel won’t cut it.

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