Every generation makes a unique mark on the world. Millennials are no different. From upbringing to career to politics, their perspectives and preferences differ from those who came before. How and why they travel isn’t the same, either.
Who are the Millennials?
Millennials–also called Generation Y–were born between 1982 and 1996, or 2002, or 2004, depending on the source. With 75 million, they’re now the largest living adult American generation, outnumbering Baby Boomers (down to 72 million in 2019). Volume alone makes them powerful. (For a quick comparison of generational characteristics, click here.)
Millennials have been described as selfish, lazy, and job-hoppers. A study of nine million high school seniors and college freshmen showed that Millennials are, indeed, more focused on money and image, and less on concern for others and developing meaningful life goals than Boomers or Generation X. On the upside, they’re more open-minded and accepting of gender, race, and sexual orientation differences. They’re independent, optimistic and “global-minded.”
The “Millennial Effect” on Travel
What’s changing as Millennials explore the world? Quite a lot! Here are five ways the travel industry is adapting to these young adults–and taking the rest of us along!
Instagram tourism: Yes, it’s what it sounds like. Millennials are influenced by Instagram and want to see the places where those photos are taken. (Note: 55% of Instagrammers are 18-29) Some destinations have “Instagram Tour Guides” who will take you to the best/most popular sites for your own online travel posts. Get this: 48% of Instagram users rely on this 8-year-old social media platform for travel inspiration! And 40% of people under age 33 consider “Instagrammability” when deciding on a destination. And…as you might predict…some places are becoming over-traveled.
Personalized travel: Everyone wants a trip that matches their interests, but Millennials take it over the top. They are willing–36% of them–to pay more for travel that is tailored to their specific tastes. This means dealing with companies or brands that remember their preferences and adapt itineraries automatically; in fact, 57% expect this up front. This includes everything from plane seats to hotels to destination to attractions to lifestyle. Each journey is special…and specialized.
Experiences, not things: Just like they don’t want their mother’s jewelry or grandmother’s china, Millennials don’t want souvenir collections or bric-a-brac from their travels. They want to put their money into the actual experience–more than what they spend on housing or a 401K. In fact, over 70% of them intend to visit every continent–while about 40% of the rest of us toss the idea around. They seek “authenticity” over simply a vacation, and they want to visit off-the-beaten-track destinations. (Here’s a good article on how Millennials want to experience travel.)
Smartphones and technology: Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you already know that people constantly stare at their phones these days. Millennials use them as a primary source for information. In the U.S., 48% are comfortable researching and booking their entire trip using their smartphones. (In Japan, it’s 59% and in Brazil, 67%.) Note: In general, 70% of all travelers enjoy using devices during a trip: finding attractions, getting GPS directions, and making reservations have made everyone’s travel easier. And Artificial Intelligence? Millennials say, “Bring it on!”
Solo, without stigma: Ready for this? A 2018 report by the Adventure Travel Trade Association found that some of its members reported over 80% of Millennials are going solo. While solo travel has been a growing trend, younger people don’t worry about what others think or how to handle the challenges of going alone. They’re confident and ready to do what interests them. They also like to travel at their own pace, unhindered by others. Let’s hope they can impact–and eliminate–the dreaded single supplement fees!
All in all, Millennials are out seeing the world and having a great time. While I won’t be determining my destination by where the best Instagram photo-ops are, I think there’s a lot to learn from this generation! (Maybe I can finally get rid of the old china, too…)
More posts to help you get going:
Volunteer Tourism: Is It for You?
Are You a Responsible Tourist?
Ethical Travel: Vote With Your Wings!
Is Solo Travel for YOU? Take My Quiz!