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Millennials: The Target Audience in the Travel Business Market

17 Jun, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Despite the Fact That Not All Members of the Generation Are Traveling Independently Yet, the Sports and Hospitality Markets are Stepping Up the Game for Them

The group every event planner seems to be chasing today is the millennial, the generation generally accepted to have been born between the 1980s to the early 2000s.

And while that’s a fairly broad range (meaning an age range of mid-teens to mid-30s), there are certain spending habits that have been noted. As a result, hotels, airlines and other vendors are tweaking their offerings for this generation.

Millennials are projected to become the most influential and lucrative travelers as they mature. (The fact that some won’t actually start spending until they finish school and join the workforce, which may take another few years, means that more research than ever is being done, in order to have a market that appeals to this generation when the time is right).

An article in National Real Estate Investor noted, “Where the 1980s had the ‘yuppies’ that reflected the nation’s materialism, today’s millennials epitomize new urban-but-environmentally-conscious consumers: young professionals who live on their smartphones, eat healthy food and admire, rather than scorn, electric-powered cars. And large hospitality firms, flush with cash after making it through the recession, are all trying to gain this new customer as a returning guest with new brand launches.”

This is the technologically-aware generation that would rather e-mail than talk, would rather use the Internet than do research in a library, and would rather text than communicate any other way.

But that tech-savvy demographic has also grown up seeing things their older peers have not. They are likely to use Uber (via its app) for transportation in new cities, and they’re likely to have already used platforms such as Airbnb for inexpensive lodging when they travelled for vacation. And for that latter reason, major hotel chains want to make sure they’re future customers.

According to executives with chains such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt, Millennials want smaller rooms but bigger lobbies, healthier snack offerings instead of full-service restaurants and smart everything, from reservation set-ups to televisions and room keys.

It goes without saying they want free wi-fi. And event planners, hotels and more will know if they aren’t happy; an articlein USA TODAY has indicated millennials are far more likely to give negative online reviews of a property, an event or a vendor than their previous generation (GenX).

Mobile devices are crucial to millennials, adds USA TODAY. In booking their travel, 32% of this generation reports using a smartphone, and 20% reports booking on a tablet. Just 12% of those older than 45 used a smartphone, and even fewer used a tablet to book travel. Millennials are also much more likely to use mobile devices to enhance their travel experience, and this includes upgrading their seats and their passenger status (which often also avails them of free food and alcohol).

The article in USA TODAY, which cites research conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Expedia.com and business travel service Egencia, also notes millennials are most often sent on business trips, and are more likely to hitch a flight for pleasure. In addition, 62 percent extend business trips in to personal vacations.

The upper part of the curve of the millennial generation is already raising children; in this case, it is easy to see the family tacking a vacation onto a trip, such as a sports event one of the children is participating in.

A big part of their sports travel experience is being able to e-mail, tweet and IM about the experience they (and/or their children) are having during a sports event. TechRepublic recently published an article with a headline that says it all: “Stadiums Race to Digitize – How Sports Teams Are Scrambling to Keep Millennials Coming to Their Games.”

They love apps, and if there is an app designed for their children’s sports events, they’re likely to download it (and recommend it on social media.) In addition, the fight to keep Millennials in stadiums for pro sports events (rather than live-stream them at home or watch them on TV) is very real, and having the well-connected fan is essential to having those fans return to the stadium another time, notes Doug Lodder of Boingo Wireless.

Even more to the point is what else can be offered to the fans in the stands: the ability to order food, find a rest room without a wait, enter contests for upgraded seats and more – has given rise to sports facilities using one-upmanship in order to keep spectators in the stands, game after game. One of the latest apps, Fanpics, allows spectators to log in prior to a game, provide their seat number, and then, immediately after crucial plays, see photos of themselves reacting to what just happened on the field of play.

For sports-obsessed millennials, it’s one more reason to come to the stadium. And to stadiums, that’s a match made in heaven.

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