Motive: Understanding the millennial mind-set of travellers
by Peter Jordan (@genctraveller) Understanding the millennial mind-set is crucial for communicating with this influential generation of travellers and, as one myself, this week I’ll be visiting a new country — a new continent — as I travel to South Africa to speak at the IGLTA Annual Global Convention at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, 14–16 April 2016. Here I’ll be holding a workshop on how to make the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGBT) travel industry matter to millennials.
Latest travel trends
When scrolling through the pages of the travel industry news or reading up on anything related to the latest travel trends, you don’t have to scroll too far before you encounter the term “millennials”. Everyone is talking about global youth anywhere between the ages of 16-35 (depending on whose definition you’re using) and among all that coverage you may find some interesting insights — and also a lot of hype!
In any case, it has now become essential to keep up with what millennials are doing and, more importantly, how they behave when they travel. After all, within 10 years, according to Deloitte, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. They’ll be travelling on business, or as a family group with their own kids, and making the big-ticket purchase decisions in travel.
Outbound travel to rapidly emerging markets
When it comes to outbound travel from the rapidly emerging markets of Asia, Latin America and, of course, Africa, it is younger travellers — not older — who are travelling more frequently and preferring to splash out and reward themselves while travelling. To those who follow the travel industry, none of this is news.
However, a closer look at how millennials approach their travel decisions reveals a much more-complex picture, since this is a generation unlike any other seen before. Destination management organisations (DMOs) in particular may have a tough time of standing out in a crowded marketplace, especially for a generation of visitors which seems more demanding and highly independent when it comes to their travel choices.
Although it is true that young people have always been perceived by older generations as being ‘rebellious’ or ‘self-centred’, this particular generation is behaving differently when in the classroom, the workplace, at home and, most importantly, for us in the travel industry.
Tackling the big questions means understanding the millennial mind-set
The young people belonging to the millennial generation have grown up during turbulent times; times which have sparked deep fear and soaring optimism but have also had a strong influence upon shaping their values and attitudes as consumers. Understanding the millennial mind-set in different parts of the world (because not all millennials think in the same way) is therefore essential if we want to understand why they consume the products they do, and also why they are changing the rules of the game in so many different sectors of the global economy.
Today, the global travel industry is trying to answer some big questions such as “how do you effectively serve customers who want to ask you questions 24/7 from anywhere in the world?” or “how do you compete for young customers who have it all, and who expect boutique service on a budget”’
Questions such as these questions have appeared because it is millennial travellers who are making these demands and who are disrupting the traditional ways of doing things. As a millennial myself and as someone who has followed global trends and policy for many years, this has given me a powerful insight into the ways that my generation is changing the global tourism industry, as well as the smart (and not-so-smart) ways in which the governments and business are reacting to these changes.
Sexuality and travel
My work in helping destinations and travel brands adapt to this mind-set has taken me to many countries, and in each place I learn something new about how millennials think and act locally, and how this translates into experiences for millennials who are visiting.
The issue of sexuality is increasingly becoming a non-issue for millennials around the world, so what does that mean for the future of the LGBT travel industry? How may businesses in this multimillion dollar industry keep their products and marketing approach fresh and relevant for LGBT millennial travellers?
According to a study released in March 2015, 7% of millennials are happy to identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This figure has risen from the 3.5% that appeared in a comparable study in 2011. Furthermore, a 2013 study conducted by Pew Global revealed that millennials around the globe (even in more conservative countries such as South Korea or Mexico) agree that “homosexuality should be accepted by society”.
If LGBT millennials are increasingly happy to identify themselves with their peers (who in-turn see their sexuality as more of a non-issue today), what does that mean for travel companies and destinations who develop and market gay-relevant vacations? In a nutshell, innovation and personalisation is the key.
This might involve innovation in marketing practices (such as tapping into the work of professional gay bloggers and vloggers), as well as innovation in product development such as finding innovative fun ways for LGBT travellers to meet each other through specialised tours and activities (not just sitting on the beach or hanging around at bars).
Just as with the wider group of millennial consumers, I believe that it is essential for the LGBT travel industry to take lessons learned from youth consumer psychology, and the way millennials travel in general, if they want to tap into the interests of this diverse but niche market of travellers.
Becoming more mainstream
Fortunately, all types of gay culture are becoming more mainstream (and vice versa) and the increasing visibility of ‘tribes’ within the LGBT community certainly provides powerful opportunities for the personalisation of travel products and marketing that millennials crave.
Travel is the best form of education there is, so this week I look forward to meeting tourism professionals from southern Africa so that we can learn from each other about this unique generation.
Peter Jordan (@genctraveller) is founder of Gen C Traveller, a consultancy specialised in helping destinations and multinational corporations understand and react to the emerging trends in global tourism that are led by millennials. His career experience includes the United Nations World Tourism Organisation in Madrid and the World Youth & Student Travel Confederation in Amsterdam. In addition to his work on emerging markets, he has authored a wide range of travel trends reports, including the UN’s first ever report on LGBT travel. Originally from the UK, Peter is currently based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.
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