While experts may disagree as to the precise dates that define the Millennial generation – those born from the early-1980s to the early-2000s – few demographers doubt that Millennials will have a significant impact on society. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 76 million Millennials today in the United States.
Similarly, few luxury travel advisors disagree that an agency benefits from having Millennial advisors on staff to work with Millennial clients, especially as those born in the 1980s and 1990s begin to move up in their careers and accumulate more personal wealth.
A recent Questex Hospitality + Travel survey of the nation’s top ultra-travel advisors revealed that attracting Millennial agents can be just as challenging as attracting Millennial clients. While one company admitted it’s not even trying to hire Millennials, others reported offering paid internships, promoting travel as a perk, leveraging commissions and reaching out to colleges to promote advisor careers.
Michael Holtz, owner and CEO of SmartFlyer in New York, commented at the recent ULTRA Luxury Exchange that his agency employs a number of people in their 20s including college interns. “They love the environment and what we’ve created for them,” he said, adding that these employees have been successful in selling to their friends and their friends’ parents, and some are bringing in more new clients than colleagues twice their age.
At Jetset World Travel Inc. in Chicago, six of the seven advisors are Millennials, according to Julia Douglas, president. “There’s naturally an affinity for working with people who speak your same language and understand your unique needs,” she said. “Since many Millennials do not yet have a travel advisor, there is a great opportunity to establish a lifelong relationship with them.”
Camelback Odyssey Travel in Phoenix also employs Millennials, but they have not generated a lot of new business, according to Shelby Donley, president & owner.
“When that business comes in, it’s a real natural to be able to send it to them because (the Millennial employees) are extremely well-traveled. They grew up traveling all over the world from a very young age. They already have the destination knowledge, and they understand real luxury, five-star hotels and flying in the front of the plane.”
For Lia Batkin, co-founder of In the Know Experiences, a New York agency, it’s a matter of seeking out individuals who are, first and foremost, bright and blessed with good people skills. But, beyond that, Batkin looks for job candidates for whom travel is more than a rote, by-the-book experience.
“The exciting thing about Millennials is that they don’t just want to visit a city; they want a whole experience, starting with a wonderful hotel and an amazing restaurant,” she said. “But not a hotel or a restaurant everyone knows about. They want a small, local, even underground restaurant, for example, that may be hard to find, which makes it all the more special.”
The ideal travel advisor for this client would likely be a Millennial, someone who intuitively understands what the client is looking for because that is how he or she approaches travel. There’s a certain synergy between the two. The travel advisor, furthermore, is likely to have a passion for travel of his or her own, having either traveled as a child or in college.
When you say “Millennials,” people too often think they’re only interested in exotic destinations, but that’s not necessarily the case, Batkin noted. The destination could be popular cities including London, Paris or Rome. Millennials, however, would be looking for their own personal take on these cities.
“When you’re dealing with Millennials, you really have to understand what they’re asking for,” she said. “When they ask about the hottest club in Paris at the moment, they expect their travel advisor to have an informed answer. They’re looking for a collaboration with their travel advisor.”
Better yet, the well-informed travel advisor is able to take the collaboration to a higher level, she said. “Club Silencio on the Rue de Montmartre may be that club in Paris, but my client plans to be there on a Thursday night, when it turns out the action at Club Silencio is actually on Saturday night. So the travel advisor will know not to suggest it.
“That piece of information could make or break that particular portion of the client’s trip.
Millennials are not looking for someone to help plan every moment of their trip. They’re the kind of people who will go to Paris, but don’t want a car and driver every day, even if money is no object.”
Since In the Know Experiences was established in 2007, Batkin and her co-founder, Seth Kaplan, have recruited travel advisors with an eye towards the new recruit’s career goals. “Once they develop clients of their own, their business grows as their clients’ careers grow. The 20-something-year-old client who is booking a $1,500 trip now could be booking a $10,000-$15,000 trip in 10 years,” Batkin said.
The founders see their jobs as alternately being coach, teacher and mentor. “We want to help our travel advisors add to their contacts and build their knowledge base, so that one day they can go off and establish their own business, whether it’s under us or somewhere else,” she said.