Millennials or those born between 1991 and 2001 are redefining what it means to be a young person in the 21st century. Let’s be clear though – it’s not the fact that humans are somehow changing biologically which is affecting the behaviour of young people today. Rather, it’s the change of environment around us that has influenced the behavioural traits of millennials.
Improvements across education, science and technology in the 21st century has resulted in advancement of society across the globe, most notably in the developed world. In some cases these advancements have had more dystopian than utopian effects, such as social media, which many argue has caused digital addictions on platforms with intellectual dearth, thus fostering the dumbing down of society, vis-a-vis, millennials.
There have however been positive outcomes from such advancements. With the growth of the internet has come the liberalisation of ideas and information. Millennials are much more well informed than generations before them which makes them question and challenge every facet of their life with a certain level of rigour not seen by the baby boomers.
One of these areas is travel. Before the start of 21st century young people tended to book package holidays to established tourist destinations. If you liked partying it may have been a 1 week all inclusive trip to Cancun, Mexico. If you liked culture and history it may have been a 1 week holiday in France. If you liked sun, sea and sand it may have been a package holiday to a Greek island.
In this pre-internet era, the holiday choices people had were ultimately determined by the major proponents of the travel industry – airlines, hotels and tour operators. In order to make travel appealing to the masses these industry players used the notion of hedonism to underpin the marketing of such holidays. The educational and cultural values derived from travel were usurped by those of a more hedonistic nature.
With the rise of the internet in the 2000’s a new era of holiday making came about. Millennials were now able to tailor make any kind of holidays they wished thanks to the free access of infinite amounts of information online.
With this came the realisation that there was more to an overseas holiday than just drinking, partying and seeing mainstream tourist attractions. Millennials began to talk about travelling rather vacationing or holiday-making. “Travelling” to millennials formed part of an entirely different vernacular to the traditional precepts of an overseas holiday.
Travelling to the discerning millennial now hinges around having an authentic experience abroad. This experience should not be one that is easy to replicate and therefore have every right to be described by the traveller as unique.
If it’s a trip focussed on culture and history then the museums, attractions and sites must not always be the ones found in the travel guide “Top 10”. If it’s a trip premised on partying, then the chosen location needs to feature on travel blogs more than it does on the mainstream travel guides. Think more Bocas Del Toro and less Cancun.
And finally, if it’s a trip that is planned around outdoor activities, it’s got to be a bit more off the beaten track. This is typically defined by the access route which should involve a minimum of two flights or at least one flight with a long drive after. Think more of a surf camp in Nicaragua than scuba diving in Sharm El Sheikh.
This quest for authenticity is completely reshaping the travel industry. One could argue that millennials have had a key part to play in the creative disruption we’ve witnessed within the travel industry in the last 10 years.
Airbnb would not have been able to shake up the hotel industry and claim a significant piece of the accommodation pie if it wasn’t for millennials. The same goes for newcomer Hostelworld. Low cost airlines like Easyjet would probably be posting smaller profits if it wasn’t for the insatiable demand for city-breaks that millennials have.
Due to the dire outlook of retirement benefits like pensions and annuities in the 21st century, millennials are showing an aversion to saving for their retirement and rather spending their hard earned cash on travel experiences.
They see these experiences transmuting into lifetime memories without the worry of those memories being eroded by inflation, population growth and mismanagement. If the existing power players in the travel industry are to continue to maintain to their market share they’ll need to pay heed to the millennial call of authenticity and uniqueness in the travel industry.