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“For many millennials, life is like an app; there’s always a new version around the corner,” explained WYSE Travel Confederation’s David Chapman to those attending Wednesday’s session on “understanding the millennial traveller” at WTM in London.

To help highlight young people’s flexible approach to life and travel, David was joined by three panellists: Carl Michel, Executive Chairman at Generator Hostels, John Firth, UK and European Sales Manager at WAYN.com, and Anthony Stone, Global Campaign Manager at STA Travel.

David began by introducing some of the key findings from WYSE Travel Confederation’s new Millennial Traveller report, which was launched to coincide with the presentation.

One important finding of the research is that travelling to interact with locals is an experience that not only satisfies the aspiration millennials have for embarking on personally fulfilling experiences, but also feeds their desire to continue travelling.

Having presented some of the report’s main findings, David took the opportunity to ask the key industry players on the panel for their insight into how to develop effective ways to engage with young travellers.

Subsets

Speaking of the key things that travel suppliers can do to tap into this market, Anthony Stone said: “One of the biggest issues in travel is around the idea that one size fits all. The millennial demographic is quite broad so STA Travel’s approach is to break this group down into subsets. After all, what an 18 year old needs is going to be different from someone in their thirties.” He went on to explain that STA’s multi-channel approach can ensure they are able to deliver the right information to different segments, but that reviewing their social media strategy every quarter and adapting content accordingly was also important.

When it comes to how best to create a dialogue with youth consumers, John Firth said: “We are seeing that lifestyle is one of the biggest drivers, whether that’s to do with things they like doing or culture. That’s where we are seeing the most engagement.

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Explaining how businesses might best be able to build more personalised communications with each of their customers, Carl Michel said: “Given the costs involved, you need to identify the times that it’s appropriate or realistic to intervene on a one on one basis, which can be quite tiring. One of our general managers has TweetDeck permanently open to enable him to be part of the online conversation, so part of the challenge for companies may be to find people like him who like that personal approach to engaging with guests.”

John added: “Where social strategy sits is an interesting one. I’ve heard great stories of properties doing quick searches into guests’ social media channels and bringing an especially personal touch to their stay by discovering they like, say, cupcakes or Manchester United.”

Anthony backed up the panel’s consensus by highlighting the need for this method to be brought to the full marketing sweep so it isn’t just the social media team who are relied upon to deliver the company’s online strategy. He said: “We’ve gone from the marketing manager owning the brand and being a dictator, to customers owning the brand and marketing teams running around to service them, which I think is the way it should be.”

Missed opportunities

When it comes to the biggest missed opportunities, Carl explained that most of the millennial generation have a desire to share and so there was a business need at Generator to create the photo opportunities and events to enable them to have more shareable moments.

He added: “When it comes to designing our hostels we create lots of spaces to chill out and try to create the right environment for our millennial guests to meet other people.” These events include inviting in fashion companies, artists and musicians to bring local people into the property so that guests can, in turn, find out more about the city, get a sense of place and also inspire user-generated content.

“The opportunity for people to meet and share content can certainly happen on its own but it doesn’t always happen that way. It’s important for businesses to know that, in creating events, they can provide the catalyst for these kind of things to happen,” Carl concluded.

On the topic of content, Anthony stressed how important bloggers can be for the travel sector and how there is scope for more direct dialogue between companies and the blogging community. However, video is the portion that STA Travel has seen the largest growth in across all its digital channels in the last few months, with Anthony saying: “That’s what our customers are asking for so that’s what we’re delivering.”

With free WiFi having been highlighted in WYSE Travel Confederation’s millennial research as the third most important feature of a travel destination, the panel members agreed that this really is an essential offering for any business targeting young people. These businesses also need to be mindful of charging for WiFi as they could risk alienating a very large group of people. As Carl put it: “When we had an issue with the hot water in our Dublin hostel I asked the general manager how the guests were getting on. He told me that the WiFi was still working so all the guests still seemed ok!”

Spending

When it comes to spending, over half of the participants in the broader millennial survey spent more than EUR 1000 for their whole trip, which is 11% higher than for the average international trip, according to UNWTO. For Chinese millennials, this increased to an average of EUR 1,258. However, there is further good news for businesses as low-cost luxury as part of an overall affordable experience is something important to youth travellers, with hostel guests potentially spending GBP 25 on a bed but GBP 50 on a theatre ticket.

As for how behaviours might evolve in the future, one message from the session was that it’s important to start looking at the generation following millennials as today’s 15 and 16 year olds are just a few years away from being the target market.

Similarly, the panel were in agreement that one thing we can be certain of is this is a digital group of people and so this behaviour will carry forward in some way. As David concluded: “To a certain degree the behaviour of millennials is not just related to age, but rather a state of mind, so we can only wonder how the digital world will look in the next few decades.”

Millennial Traveller front coverDownload our Millennial Traveller report today

How often do you check your mobile phone? 43% of millennials told us that they check their mobile every 5 minutes. Are you equipped to effectively engage with millennials and fulfill their travel needs?

Read the Millennial Traveller report to tune up your knowledge about young travellers and to identify opportunities to connect with their current travel motivations and habits.

WYSE Travel Confederation members can request the report free of charge, while a free Executive Summary is available for non-members to download:

Executive-summary
To view our full range of research covering different aspects of the youth, student and educational travel market, click here.