By Kacey Bradley
Millennials killed the napkin industry. Millennials killed the diamond industry. We’ve heard things like this again and again. While traditional travel agencies may see declines of young people stepping through the door, research has found people aged 18 to 34 spend more money on travel than any other age group.
For them, life isn’t about the material things — it’s about the experiences. They don't want just any experience, but one that is authentic and shareable.
Gone are the days of package deals and all-inclusive resorts. Millennials want to get off the beaten path and have an adventure. They want to create fond memories they can look back on for years to come.
More Authentic Experiences
Millennials have different expectations for their travel plans than older generations. They demand memorable, authentic moments, something they can’t get anywhere else.
What millennials are booking isn’t a vacation — it’s an experience. They want to go where the locals go and do what they do, whether it be cultural, culinary or artistic. Not only do they want to learn about a new place, but they also want to discover something new about themselves. In fact, the top reasons motivating millennial travel are exploration and cultural immersion.
Inspired by the stories of complete immersion, young travelers are no longer heading to South America to party — they’re going to hike the Inca Trail and discover Machu Picchu. They don’t want a week of lazing about on the beach. They want treks through the jungle, swims in natural hot springs and dinners with local families.
A New Definition of Luxury
Young travelers still want to experience opulence and luxury while traveling. They want to sail around the world and touch foot in every country. However, the definition of luxury has changed to mean something quite new.
Luxury is no longer a five-star resort with endless food and alcohol. It’s not a pagoda on the beach filled with down pillows and palm fronds. Now, luxury is an authentic experience that can’t be replicated. Millennials want the opportunity to share one-of-a-kind stories and photos of their travels, inspiring both motivation and envy within their followers.
For hotels and travel companies, this means providing an experience rooted in something real and unique — the selling point of that destination. If millennials are heading to Egypt, they don’t want to spend the day poolside at the hotel. They want to book a camel excursion through the heart of the desert. They want to ride dune buggies and learn how to sand surf.
An authentic experience could be as simple as having a traditional meal with a local family and learning to cook recipes passed down for generations. They want to talk about daily life and common interests and have something to hold onto even when arriving home and going back to work.
The Sustainability Factor
Young people are aware of how their decisions impact global environmental issues. They know an influx of visitors can severely impact cultural and ecological sites. They understand how tourism and a high volume of spending can harm local populations.
Luxuries that lead to waste, pollution and harmful practices are no longer on most peoples’ bucket lists. Instead of looking for the cheapest or most extravagant travel options, millennials are focused on sustainable choices that won’t majorly affect the environment or local communities.
In fact, they seek companies that actively commit to ethical and eco-friendly travel procedures. One study found that 86 percent of young people consider it important for a company to offer sustainable travel options when booking a trip.
A Personalized Approach
Sometimes an authentic experience isn’t enough. Millennials also crave personalization, a trip that caters to a specific interest or hobby. For the photographer, it could mean a trip focused on the best photo-worthy castes in Germany. For the food lover, it could be a tour of pizza and pasta restaurants in Italy.
Each person has different interests, so the ideal experience can vary. Some millennials want a tent in the woods while others will want a boutique Airbnb. Some will book pampering stays at a trendy spa while others may prefer to walk around discovering tasty street food.
This need for personalization also means millennials surround themselves with like-minded people to create highly unique, memorable experiences. In turn, these memories can then be shared with family, friends and followers on social media. Some countries and brands have already tapped into influencer travel by promoting picturesque experiences on websites like Facebook and Instagram.
Millennials expect a lot from their travels, the most important of which is an authentic experience they can remember for a long time. They want to immerse themselves in life, and a sharable vacation adventure is the best way to do that.
About the author
Kacey Bradley is the blogger behind The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Along with writing for her blog, she has written for sites like U.S. News, SUCCESS, Guides for Brides, Hotel Online and more!