by Eleanor Steafel, The Telegraph, October 6, 2017
They will never own their own home, their salaries don’t reflect the rising cost of living, and their degrees were vastly expensive and arguably a complete waste of time.
Thankfully, millennials have found a way to deal with being the first generation to be poorer than their parents: going on holiday. Lots and lots of holidays, to be precise - and I’m not talking about the odd city break and couple of long weekends camping in Cornwall.
While Generation Y, or the ‘snowflakes’ as they are sometimes called, might be synonymous with borrowing from the Bank of Mum and Dad when it comes to the big things, they handle their own disposable cash more lightly. After all, why bother saving when you know you’re unlikely to make it onto the property ladder? Why put money towards a pension when you can blow it all on a foreign trip and take your mind off how how unfair life is?
According to a survey by Eventbrite, 70 per cent of millennials prefer to buy experiences over material goods, while three quarters feel that travel is ‘part of who they are’, according to a recent poll by AirBnB. Simply, they would rather throw their meagre earnings at the kinds of travelling experiences their parents were reserving for a ‘grey gap year’, than plan for a very uncertain future.
Little wonder, then, that travel companies have identified this age group as their next target, and are vying to win their custom.
It’s a scramble reminiscent of the one to enter the package holiday market, some 50 years ago, and the timing couldn’t be more poignant. This week, saw the collapse of Monarch airlines, which launched in 1967 specifically to cater to the booming number of Brits travelling to resorts. It had identified a new breed of customer and for decades, happily ferried us to-and-from our all-inclusive holidays in the Med. But by the time it ceased trading on Monday morning, barely 10 per cent of its business was made up from the sale of package holidays - the low-cost airlines of the Noughties and internet access having made it easier just to book our own trips online (although this looks somewhat shaky, in the wake of the Ryanair scandal, last month, which saw hundreds of thousands of flights cancelled due to a rota mess-up).
So what does the millennial travel market actually look like?
Alongside numerous packages designed to entice generation selfie (including trips specifically for those wishing to “up their Instagram game”), this week has seen a river cruise for millennials launched in Paris, while in December, one of the biggest airlines in the world will unveil a new fleet of planes purely with this age group in mind.
Joon - the new baby sister of Air France - has been designed to “meet the expectations of a new generation of travellers” and was named to “illustrate a positive state of mind.” Starting from December 1, you will be able to book one of 119 weekly flights, from as little as £35, to a range of millennial-approved destinations, such as Berlin and Porto, in Portugal.
The state-of-the-art Airbus A350s promise to meet a digital native’s every need. In economy, there are USB ports to charge your devices at your seat, an in-flight high speed streaming service (a couple of clicks and you can enjoy a Game of Thrones marathon on your iPhone, free of charge), and endless complimentary organic teas, coffee and smoothies.
Meanwhile, in business class, customers will be given virtual reality headsets, while tucking into a selection of tapas and craft beer. They’ve even revitalised the traditional flight attendant uniforms, so you’ll be buckled in by gorgeous young things wearing a “chic sportswear look” - think slimline trousers, Le Coq Sportif trainers, polo shirts and sleeveless quilted jackets (with the polyester made from recycled plastic bottles a la Stella Mccartney, naturally).
“Joon is … a fashion brand, a rooftop bar, an entertainment channel, a personal assistant … and Joon does flying too!” reads the press release.
It’s a sign of the times when airlines funnel money into making sure their air stewards’ uniforms appeal to 20-somethings. And that a new airline is being launched at all, in such troubled times, speaks to just how much power the millennial travel market wields.
This is a generation that has next to no brand-loyalty, but very specific ideas about what a holiday should be. Namely: an experience so mind-blowing it justifies an entire month’s pay, reaffirms their life choices, and gives them an opportunity to make their friends wildly jealous on social media.
One company, called Contiki, offers an 11-day tour of Canada designed specifically to fulfill this last goal. If E M Forster had come of age in the selfie generation, he would have written a novel about this trip. “Do you find yourself getting up at the crack of dawn to get the perfect light for your shot?” the advertising asks. “The Insta opportunities are endless!” Customers are invited to “ride with your new best mates” on Contiki’s ultra-modern coaches, complete with powerpoints at every seat to charge your electronics. Meanwhile, the message is clear: “At Contiki, we have a way of life. It’s called #NoRegrets.”
Says Donna Jeavons, sales and marketing director at Contiki: “We have found that the three most important factors for millennials when planning a holiday are the food, being able to take Insta-worthy shots to make all their friends jealous, and staying in a variety of different quirky locations.
“Canada has been trending for the past couple of years. The tourism board there have put a lot of money into millennials and driving them to go out there.”
It’s not the only company choosing to capitalise on the hordes of millennials prepared to spend on travel, rather than save. U by Uniworld has unveiled a series of river cruises this week, designed specifically with millennials in mind. The ships are all-black and come complete with trendy deck-top lounges and cabins for groups of friends to share. With music from popular DJs and mixology classes on board, as well as excursions to local nightspots - these boats are a world away from your traditional ocean liner.
“We recognised an overall trend in the age of cruisers coming down,” says Chris Townson, Managing Director of U by Uniworld, explaining that this reinvention of the traditional cruise ship is more akin to “a chic floating hotel”, with plenty of onboard experiences carefully tailored to this audience.
Travel companies are also finding that increasing numbers of millennials are travelling alone, and prefer to go on holidays where they can meet people. “Maybe their friends have all paired off, or they can’t get the same time off work as them,” explains Donna Jeavons at Contiki.
With Generation Y spending more and more on travel every year, surely it can’t be long before airlines, cruise ships and hotels everywhere are decked out in millennial pink, with virtual reality headsets, avocado on toast brunches and staff who look like extras in a pop video.
Better book that package holiday while you still can.