The list of things Millennials are “killing” grows longer by the day, but don’t expect to see travel on it. In fact, Millennials are giving the tourism industry its biggest boost in generations.
To get their slice of the pie, however, travel companies have to understand the way sites like Instagram are influencing young adults’ adventures. Millennials aren’t just leaving photo albums on store shelves: According to industry experts, they’re choosing, booking, taking, and sharing their travels in ways older generations simply didn’t.
Social Media’s Mark
What, exactly, are Millennial travelers doing differently? Thanks to social media, they’re:
1. Listening more to peers and less to marketers.
Word of mouth has always been powerful, but Millennials are taking it to a new level. To reach them, Reservations.com’s Mahesh Chaddah recommends influencer marketing. “The best company blog post in the world won’t engage Millennial travelers like suggestions on social media,” warns the online travel agency’s co-founder. “To some of them, a favorite travel influencer’s recommendation means more than one from friends or family.”
Compared to prior generations, Millennials are 54% more likely to make a purchase based on a social media influencer’s recommendation. Just be sure the influencer aligns with your brand: If you’re a carefree resort company, you probably shouldn’t partner with a base-jumping adrenaline junkie. Look for potentially inflammatory posts, too: Millennial travelers tend to have a worldly perspective and don’t appreciate derogatory “jokes.”
2. Picking destinations for the pics.
Not that long ago, vacation pictures were an afterthought. For Millennial travelers, they’re the entire point. The top priority of young adults traveling abroad, travel broker Expedia claims, is how Instagrammable their destination is.
To attract Millennial travelers via Instagram, though, brands need more than beautiful photos. Millennial and lifestyle entrepreneur Andrew Arnold encourages marketers to think like travelers: “To make the most of this, travel related brands must create a presence on Instagram that is sincere and true to their brand,” Arnold argues.
Just look at Hipcamp’s Instagram. Yes, the campsite-sharing site posts shots of pristine lakes and mountain retreats. But more importantly, it shares guests’ own photos. Without user-generated content, Hipcamp’s Instagram would likely be a lot less popular.
3. Booking budget-busting trips.
Fear of missing out is a powerful motivator. Millennials may be the generation most burdened by student debt and high rents, but they’re also the ones most likely to splurge on vacations. Travelport’s latest U.S. Vacation Survey found that one in three young people is willing to pay more than $5,000 for travel experiences.
The best way to get Millennials to spend big with your brand? Sherelle Jacobs, Millennial traveler and Telegraph editor, suggests showcasing travel’s social and educational benefits. “I now have basic competence at salsa (obtained in Havana), and a new national cuisine to butcher at one of my mediocre dinner parties (Colombian),” she says, defending what she calls her “grotesque” overspending.
What’s the best way to promote the experiences your company can offer? Let video tell the story. Social media posts that include videos receive 48% more views than those with only photos or text.
4. Bringing travel agencies back.
To book the faraway adventures they see on social media, Millennials are turning to a service that many in the industry worried they’d wipe out: travel agents. A report by the American Society of Travel Advisors found a stunning 55% of Millennials are inclined to hire travel experts to plan their trips, while just 28% of Baby Boomers say the same.
Unlike Boomers, however, Millennials are looking for agents in the same place they find their inspiration: online. “Millennials are far less inclined to pick up the phone,” says Simon Russell, CEO of U.K.-based luxury travel agency. “They want to organize and engage digitally and they seek much more instant gratification.”
Although Millennials are hiring agents online, they still want human help if they hit a snag on the road. Consider a hybrid model. Give Millennials the ability to book with a click, but maintain a concierge team they can call in case of last-minute delays or miscommunications.
Social media has shaped Millennials in many ways, but none more strongly than travel. The trips they take, the places they visit, and the activities they do all trace back to one question: What will it look like online?