Affluenza 2018: How We All Caught the "Millennial" Bug

Group of young men and women traveling
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Five years ago, we wrote that Millennials were traveling differently. We noted that they wanted itineraries that are less tour heavy, that they want to be more active on their trips and to do things like bike through the city they are visiting.

Ruthanne Terrero

This was just a glimmer of how travel was about to change.

The hoopla of cashing in on the huge Gen Y demographic had virtually every consumer brand drooling over potential profits. Marketing plans and business plans began to change, with the cry that existing strategies weren’t “Millennial enough.”

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They researched Gen Y to pieces, looking at how these folks purchase, how they live, what they read, what they don’t read, how they don’t e-mail, how they Snapchat. They found they like podcasts because they want to hear things, not read them; they want to live for the moment and not wait until they retire to go to an iconic five-star hotel in Europe. They like to collaborate and share and they know people across the globe through their social networks. Many of them grew up traveling and so that’s a de facto birth right, and everything must be picture-perfect so it looks great on Instagram.

We couldn’t shoehorn the Millennials enough and with all that data, new products were created. We ended up with more interesting hotel brands with spacious lobbies, open seating, sometimes free wine, sometimes free local music. Rooftop bars and hot “see and be seen” swimming pools became de rigueur for new-build hotels.

More things happened. Travel suppliers and travel advisors can now easily facilitate bike tours, cooking classes, walking tours and Segway tours —  even group running tours are not hard to come by. Better yet, advisors and suppliers are learning new ways of serving up old, or perhaps better put, “favorite,” destinations in new ways so that travelers get to see the inner workings of a destination, not just the top landmarks.

The funny thing that happened over these past five years is that we all became Millennials. We heard all the talk about sharing local experiences with great guides, drinking craft beer and excellent local wines and we said, “Hey, we like that, too!”

We’ve started to enjoy the new lifestyle hotels that have sprung up. They don’t even necessarily have to be five-star (we still like that), but if hotels are new and clean with a pleasing design and bring in the local community, most of us think that’s pretty swell, even if we’re Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. One caveat is, however, that there must be excellent customer service; no one is willing to sacrifice that no matter how cool a hotel’s vibe is.

Which brings us back to how the affluent traveler hasn’t changed. They still want bragging rights when they get home. If anything, they want to share how they saw London or Paris in a grittier manner, going into its inner neighborhoods and eating very local food, checking out street art, sampling its markets. They’ll also want to brag about their guide, who has to be an insider and provide a sense of safety in these offbeat places.

I can’t wait to see how suppliers continue to evolve their products in 2018. One thing we’ll know, however, is that it’s the consumer who is driving the changes as they become more in tune with what they want to get out of their vacations and how they want to feel when they return. 

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