Key Points
  • By 2020, millennials will account for close to 50 percent of all business travel spending

  • To attract this segment, the travel industry is exploring disruptive new strategies and services

  • Social media, shared economy strategies and smart technologies are providing personalized and inspirational travel experiences to millennial travelers

With their strong desire for a unique identity and memorable, shareable experiences, millennials and travel are a natural fit. Indices for business and leisure travel indicate that millennials are twice more likely to travel than any other age group. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2020 millennials will account for close to 50 percent of all business travel spending.

However, millennials enjoy fewer vacation days and smaller paychecks than earlier generations. This makes them more demanding as customers as they want to get more bang for their buck. Hence, the travel industry is beginning to respond with disruptive new strategies and services to lure this tech-fuelled, instant gratification-seeking target audience.

Social Media is the New Travel Agent

Craving authentic experiences more than social standing, millennials want to experience a location as the locals do, rather than viewing it as an outsider. Consequently, they relate to and trust customer-based review platforms and peer-sharing on social media, especially Instagram, that offer accounts of lived experiences, personal recommendations and impactful images.

Savvy travel companies and hotels are therefore transforming themselves into lifestyle brands, selling the inspirational travel experience rather than rooms and hotel facilities. Social influencer marketing is also proving effective. For instance, one European airline used 10 of the most high-profile YouTubers in its campaign to connect the brand with a massive audience of over 40 million people.

Convenience and Customization

Millennials demand instant, actionable information, easy, mobile-friendly processes and concierge-style service at the touch of a button. From booking to flexible payment options to tour operators who can cater to specific interests, companies that deliver an easy, more personalized service attract loyal customers.

Among other things, this involves heavy investments in technology and travel brands are complying. Case in point: A global hotel chain’s app allows guests to order the number of pillows they need, set their preferred room temperature, and pick out their favorite food before they even check in. Another leading hotel chain incorporates keyless entry and encourages social interactions through live music and communal pool tables.

One hotel chain’s series of live music events, exclusively for regular guests, were live-streamed on Periscope, connecting to the widest possible audience of millennials. Even luggage brands are going high-tech with carry-on bags that come equipped with an interior compression system and a battery that charges gadgets on-the-go.

The Sharing Economy

Variety and cost-effectiveness drive millennials’ preference for sharing – room-sharing through portals such as Airbnb, ride-sharing and co-working spaces are dominant trends. As the sharing economy has grown to become an integral part of millennials’ lives, the lines between leisure and business travel are blurring.

Millennial business travelers are happy to stay in a vacation rental and choose a ride-sharing platform over a classic cab even on business trips. This has compelled travel management companies to integrate platforms such as Airbnb and Uber into their operations. Major hotel chains are incorporating shared economy nuances, offering co-working spaces and free bike rentals.

In short, as the generation driving disruption and growth, the choices of millennials are likely to shape the travel industry’s services and products for the next decade or more.

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