What Tour Operators Need to Know about Millennial Travelers

Tour operators and activity providers can no longer afford not to adjust their business to Millennial travelers. So, who are Millennials?

The Definition and Characteristics of Millennials

„The term Millennials generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Perhaps the most commonly used birth range for this group is 1982-2000. The Millennial Generation is also known as Generation Y, because it comes after Generation X — those people between the early 1960s and the 1980s.“ (LiveScience)

There are a number of different ways to characterize Millennials. On the negative side, they’ve been described as lazy, narcissistic and prone to jump from job to job.

Millennials are highly connected, technologically advanced and globally conscious. And far more open to trying out new products and concepts than their parents or grandparents ever were. They expect to be inspired, caring more about interesting than comfort. In fact, they have re-defined luxury as “Instagram-able” experiences.

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Statistics Regarding Millennial Travelers

Why should tour operators and travel agencies pay special attention to them when planning tour business strategy? Because Millennials will drive 50% of all business travel revenue by 2020. Looking to the future, more and more of your customers will fall under that category. Very soon it won’t be necessary to refer to them as Millennial travelers. They will become just – travelers. And your potential clients.

The same source states that Millennials form a majority of the total US population (27,4%). While older generation, Gen X (born 1962-1981) and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1961) are next (26,6% and 26,4%). Also, not-so-shockingly, 98% of Millennials own and use a smartphone and/or tablet on a daily basis. That means you in tour and travel business should be online, too. If you want to attract them to your tour business, you have to be technologically educated. And be present on social media.

First of all, you should tailor your offering. According to HVS, 70% of Millennials indicated they expect to be offered immersive experiences that are interactive and hands-on.

Expedia Recent Findings on Millennials

Expedia report has shown some interesting findings. Use this information to grab the attention of Millennial travelers and get them on your tours! They:

  1. are the first ‘digitally native’ generation who love to share. 56% like to post a photo or video of their holiday on a social network during the trip.
  2. like to live as a local when they travel. 60% of Millennial travelers (UK) feel that an authentic culture is the most important part of a travel experience.
  3. live in a world where social media inspiration is constant. 2 in 5 openly acknowledge that their holiday booking decisions are influenced day-to-day by hotel and travel photos in their newsfeeds.
  4. like to collect images online of travel ideas. 30% of Millennial travelers consider themselves to be ‘digital hoarders’. And collecting images is not just a functional habit for booking purposes, but a favorite pastime for this demographic.
  5. research, research, and research when booking. Chinese Millennials look at an average of 5.1 sources when booking. Expedia’s research shows Millennial travelers researched a lot more than non-Millennials.
  6. consult industry experts first during the booking process. 61% ask travel agents, travel providers, and expert opinion websites for suggestions during the research stage of booking hotels and travel. Then fellow consumers: (52%) such as review sites, blogs, and travel forums. Then close contacts: (50%) friends, family, or social network contacts.
  7. book hotel rooms with online travel agents for convenience. 23% of Millennials chose OTAs based on ease over price, user-friendliness, and security.
  8. find booking travel options for groups a stressful experience. 68% of Millennials would like to use a service that allows them to split the cost of a holiday with the other people they’re traveling with.
  9. prefer their customer service to be delivered via instant messaging. 50% of Millennials in the UK value instant messaging customer service more than face-to-face service.
  10. respond positively to personalized booking recommendations. 2 in 3 Millennials are interested in a service that provides surprise holiday recommendations based first on their personality, and second on their budget.

More Numbers – Millennial Travelers

They want custom travel experiences that reinforce their individuality. Two-thirds (66%) of Millennials value unique experiences while traveling. They demand personalized treatment from travel companies. And want customized options when traveling internationally and domestically.

Remember the words user-generated content. For a tour operator, this is any type of content (video, pictures, text) made by some of your guests. And that you can use for your tour company promotion. Can you perhaps repost some of the best photos? Millennials claim it influences their decisions more so than any advertisement (84%). While 71% share their opinion of a service because they think other consumers will value the input.

According to Topdeck Travel, a popular provider of group travel for 18-30 somethings. 31,000 people from 134 different countries. 88% of them traveled overseas between one and three times a year. 94% were between 18-30. 30% traveled solo.

Reflecting the peer-influence at that young stage of life, in choosing where they travel next. 76% said that friends’ recommendations were the main factor.

The survey revealed that they are no longer seeking a party-animal atmosphere when traveling. Instead, they want to immerse themselves into new cultures and feast on local cuisine. Common determining factors for motivating people aged 18 to 24 to travel were experiencing a new culture (86%) and eating local foods (69%).

Most popular apps used when traveling are Facebook (94%), Instagram (71%), Trip Advisor, WhatsApp. And at 14%, Twitter.

Millennials’ most popular bucket-list destination: Europe at 33%, with the US and Australia/New Zealand tied at 13%. When asked about places they wanted to visit in Asia, they ranked Thailand tops at 83%. With Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia not far behind. Superpower China was far down on the list (43%), and just a bit ahead of emerging Myanmar (41%).

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Traveling is Important

Millennials value experiences over possessions. They are delaying marriage and buying a house, but want to invest in travel.

Authenticity v Social Standing

Millennial travelers no longer want to feel like tourists. They are travelers looking for authentic and local experiences. But their network needs to recognize their experiences. Otherwise, it loses its value. 

Inspiration from Everywhere

Millennials receive travel inspiration from friends, brands and other sources. And they trust fellow consumers over industry sources more than non-Millennials.

Personal Data = Personalization

Millennials are prepared to share their information in order to receive the custom-made service they demand. And that goes for as well for suggestions, travel tips, and personalized advice.

Risk Averse

Millennials want to limit risk as much as possible and make sure a trusted source can verify their plans.

Technology Should Make It Easy

Millennials want to use new technology, such as virtual reality. To enhance their travel experience. And they have a product expectation for things like split payment.

This generation is much more likely to find content on social networks than on email or using a traditional search engine. They expect you to tailor your content to them and their needs.

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How can You Use This Information in Your Tour Business?

Travel companies must start by aligning themselves with the values of millennial buyers. The most important steps are as following.

  1. Be present on these social platforms. Tour operators and activity providers cannot afford to avoid social media. This is where you’ll find your Millennial travelers.
  2. Personalize your communication. Millennials expect a two-way, mutual relationship with companies and they want to feel special.
  3. Connectivity. All travel companies should have a nice website with online booking option
  4. Use social media differently. Turn online coupons and advertisement to Instagram photos.
  5. Reward your loyal fans on social media. You can thank them publicly, or proclaim them ‘fan of the week’ or send a gift with your logo to them.
  6. Make sure you have good photos of your exciting tours. And that you indeed offer the experience they can share with others. Read more about the tips on how to have good photos of your tour – Best Free Photo Editing Apps for Breathtaking Tour Photos
  7. Be original. If you are not able to take good photos of your tour or activity yourself, you could perhaps follow this example. One tour operator, Cantimplora Travel, offer intrepid tours around Mexico. And they include a private photographer to professionally document those memories. So, they tell their clients there’s no need for them to take their camera with them. They can enjoy every second of their tour and be sure there’ll be amazing photos for sharing on social media later. Here you can read what one blogger, a satisfied client, had to say about that experience.
  8. Use e-mail to keep in regular contact. And to share news from your tours.
  9. Use the technological advances. This is perfect for stressing out the need for online booking and Book Now button option.

Extra Help?

Speaking of Social Media, perhaps our article on that topic can be of help to you. If you want more detailed tips, read this: Tour Providers’ Social Media Goals – Connecting With Travelers.

Check out our last article, Tour and Travel Industry Trends for 2017, for more information on creating great new tours and activities for the future.

Reach out to us if you’d appreciate some help! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us or share it right here.

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