With Millennials/Generation Y expected to soon surpass Boomers in overall travel spending, hotels, booking sites and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are retooling their product, branding, business models and communication methods. However, many established players in the travel and hospitality industries are simply applying cosmetic changes to outdated methodologies. This is due to an under-appreciation of the magnitude of changes looming in the future, and a lack of true understanding about the root factors underpinning the motivations of Millennial travelers.
Presently, a large percentage of hotels and DMOs believe that technology and social media are the answer to engage Millennials. That’s true, but it’s only half of the answer. According to keynote speaker Jason Dorsey (The Gen Y Guy), Millennials are not necessarily technologically savvy; they’re technologically dependent. That dependence is merely a conduit through which to dream, research, share and experience travel. It is not the travel experience itself.
The biggest travel trends today, especially for Millennials, revolve around personalization and connectivity. The successful travel provider in the future will incorporate technology to deliver the ultimate travel aspiration for Millennials: Highly personalized experiences shared within larger connected networks of like-minded travelers—both real and virtual.
In other words, Millennials want more, and they’ve redefined “more.” They want the freedom to do what they want, when and how they want to, and they want to share those experiences with friends, family and colleagues when and how they want to.
Chris Klauda, a VP at travel and hospitality market research company D. K. Shifflet & Associates, discussed this in the The New York Times last year. Describing the Millennial desire to connect online in hotel lobbies versus guest rooms, he said, “We coined the phrase ‘isolated togetherness.’“
Michael Tiedy, senior VP of brand design/innovation at Starwood Hotels, puts it even more succinctly: “Millennials like to be alone, together.”
We call it the rise of independent social travel.