By Dr. Marc Mancini
They’ve never smelled a dittoed test. They’ve never seen a TV set with only 13 channels. To them, the Mouseketeers were Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. They are the Millennials. And fortunately for us, they are eager – very eager – to explore the world.
The Millennials number anywhere from 75-100 million North Americans. That makes them the largest generation ever, bigger than the vaunted 65 million Baby Boomers, who, for now, dominate the travel marketplace. By their sheer numbers and – tellingly – by their passion for travel, Millennials will have an impact on our travel business like no other generation has ever before.
However, unless you are in your 20s or early 30s, Millennials are probably somewhat a mystery to you.
So let’s demystify them a bit. Let’s examine five things you must know to sell successfully to your Millennial customers.
- They love to do things as part of a group. When they were kids, Millennials watched TV shows like “Friends” and, at school, learned through the team-based activities that now dominate education. That’s why if they go on a cruise or stay at a resort, they want multiple rooms or suites, perhaps with a common area accessible to them. (Think Norwegian Cruise Line.)
Booking this form of “mini-group” travel can, of course, be quite profitable and usually less time consuming for you.
But there’s a totally different type of travel that Millennials find equally appealing: solo travel.
- They also like traveling on their own. In the movie Wild, Reese Witherspoon plays a character who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon-Washington border – all 1,100 miles of it. Based on a true story, Wild embodies the self-confidence and determination that mark Millennial thinking, their attraction to challenging and adventurous travel and their willingness to do it alone.
Until recent times, single travelers were considered by some to be, well, a bit odd. Don’t they have friends? Are they antisocial? Why aren’t they married?
The Baby Boomers began to chip away at that notion. Millennials completed the process. There’s nothing wrong with solo travel, say Millennials. In fact, sometimes it’s the best choice.
Millennials live in a tech-enhanced, self-contained “bubble.” Sure, they have friends, yet most of the time they communicate with them through tweets, texts and Facebook. So it’s no surprise that many Millennials are comfortable traveling solo. After all, it’s the way they experience much of their lives.
- The world is their neighborhood. Millennials are not all that interested in visiting familiar destinations. They want to go to the distant, exotic places they see on “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor.”
The irony is that Millennials, for the most part, are geographically illiterate. The average Millennial studied geography for about two weeks as part of a high school social studies course. Very few take geography in college.
Luckily, they are highly skilled at researching those places online that they want to visit. At the same time, they’re keenly aware that much of what they find on the web is misinformation or hype. This might explain why they seem to consult travel agents more than did their Gen X parents (whose TV motto was “trust no one”). To a Millennial, knowledge and expertise are hard to find. That’s where you come in.
But, warning: Don’t position yourself as an expert. A pet peeve of Millennials is that they know more about a product than a supposed “expert” does (or at least they think they do). Take a collaborative approach. Explain that you will work with them to find the best solution for their needs.
- They have the patience of a puppy and the attention span of a gnat. Millennials consider themselves masters of multitasking. Self-confident and media-savvy, they’re convinced that they can pay full attention to several things at once. (Several major studies have found this to be an illusion.) In any case, you’re dealing with customers who move at a breakneck speed and expect an almost instant response. Catch their attention or they’re gone.
If they contact you, get back to them quickly or you’ll lose their business. Don’t expect them to come in to see you. The closest you’ll get to a face-to-face meeting is Skype. They’re not fond of email, either, but they’ll use it for important things, like a vacation. And make your communications with them short, compact and clear. You only have a brief time to grab and keep their attention. Make the most of it.
- They want to make the world a better place. One of the most admirable Millennial traits is their desire to make things better, to fix the society they’re inheriting. That explains why they’re attracted to “voluntourism.” They want to help hurricane-ravaged towns get back on their feet, do something about poverty in developing nations and experience authentic places, not tourist-enhanced ones. A good example: Carnival’s new travel product, Fathom.
Most of us know little about this kind of travel, but we should. The demand for voluntourism is sure to increase and the market is wide open for specialists who understand it.
Marc Mancini is one of our industry’s leading speakers, writers and consultants. Click here to read his bio and contact information.