Experience-Seeking Millennials Are Turning the Travel Tide

Monya Mandich, VP, Marketing, Expedia Group Media Solutions
February 23, 2016
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Ready or not, here they come.

Beginning next year, millennials, the millions of 17 to 34-year-olds who comprise history’s largest ever consumer generation, are poised to spend $200 million annually, and upwards of $10 trillion in their lifetime.

This anticipated future millennial spending presents a tremendous opportunity for the travel industry in particular. According to new research, the millennial generation is expected to spend more on travel services incrementally in the next year than any other age group, and will be the driving force behind the U.S. travel industry’s continued recovery. Thus, travel brands are well positioned to capture millions of new bookings each year, and grow market share, but only when marketing efforts to reach the millennial audience are effectively executed.

Industry-wide, the key to winning in the millennial marketplace is to get a comprehensive understanding of this massive consumer generation’s relationship with travel. Where, why, and how often are they traveling, and what exactly are they spending their travel budget on?

We can start by defining the millennial consumer, and their general attitudes about travel.  Recent findings in MMGY’s 25th annual study, Portrait of American Travelers®, discovered that millennials are more focused on acquiring experiences than material goods. When it comes to travel, 69% of millennials surveyed said they are more likely to try new things while on vacation. What’s more, travel is increasingly important to most millennials. Specifically, the study found that 57% of millennials said that taking a vacation is the event they most look forward to each year.

This provides travel brands a great opportunity to capitalize on millennials’ adventure-seeking mentality by creating relevant, targeted messaging and creative campaigns that highlight unique offerings and ability to deliver experiences.

For example, our team worked with Bermuda tourism to help shift the perception of the island and target a younger demographic. We created an engaging interactive video, where people could choose which path they wanted to take, either “Chill”, “Fun”, or “Thrill”, with Bermuda as their destination. The end result is a personalized bookable itinerary based on the consumers preferences to build their own unique experience which they can share with their friends or save as a future travel planning tool. 

Bermuda Tourism Expedia Group Media Solutions

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In addition to understanding how millennials think about travel, we, as travel industry marketers, also need an accurate and comprehensive picture of the  the millennial traveler. Although most marketers tend to think of millennial travel as being driven by single backpackers with a small budget and a carefree attitude, MMGY found that, in fact, the opposite is the case.

While 27% of millennial couples plan on taking more vacations in the next year, 43% of millennial families stated their desire to increase their vacation plans over the next 12 months. Moreover, millennial families plan to spend nearly twice as much as millennial couples on vacations in the next year, with the former budgeting $6,113 for the next 12 months, and the latter expecting to spend $3,534 in the same time period.

Millennial Traveler Spending Chart

For travel marketers, millennial couples and families offer a big opportunity to tap into two affluent sub segments of the generation, which don’t at all resemble the backpacking-on-a-budget millennial traveler they typically think of when initially considering how to reach this consumer group.

The research also suggests millennials are taking vacations close to home more often, in an effort to save up for a bigger trip down the line. One-third of millennials surveyed took at least one vacation within 50 miles of their home, with the idea to do so fueled by their desire to save money for a more substantial trip in the next year.

In terms of travel planning, nearly one quarter of millennials—who took 4.6 overnight trips last year, compared with 4.2 for all U.S. households with an annual income of over $50,000—said they planned to take more overnight trips for leisure purposes in the year ahead.

There’s no question that millennials are changing the travel landscape worldwide. As the millennial travel engine continues full speed ahead, it’s important for travel marketers to understand the behaviors and unique attributes of this travel segment and ensure they develop the right strategy to reach, engage and convert their desirable segment.  

You can learn more about millennial traveler trends in our study,Millennial Travel Consumer Trends

Picture of Monya Mandich, VP, Marketing, Expedia Group Media Solutions
Monya Mandich
VP, Marketing, Expedia Group Media Solutions
Monya Mandich is the VP, Marketing of Expedia Group Media Solutions and oversees all integrated marketing and communications activities for the brand. In her role, she is responsible for raising awareness of digital media opportunities for partners across the Expedia Group suite of leading global travel brands. With nearly two decades of experience, she evangelizes a thought leadership approach both externally and internally centered on data-driven insights, which has resulted in travel and marketing industry recognition and accolades. Monya previously managed strategic partnership development, executing strategies for top-tier partnerships, maximizing traffic and revenue for Expedia.com. She started her career in the travel space at VacationSpot.com, where she ran the B2B marketing and customer acquisition efforts for the vacation rental booking site. Monya is on the board of directors for Destinations International and the U.S. Travel, and also participates on the advisory committee for U.S. Travel's Project: Time Off, which aims to shift thinking around the health, business and economic value of personal time off, Monya was also recognized as one of HSMAI’s Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing. She is a graduate of Western Washington University and lives in the Seattle area with her family.
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