As millennials seek out meaningful, authentic travel experiences, supply is not the issue. Creating the bridge between this demographic and the travel agents who want to serve them is the challenge at hand — but those who have successfully tackled this market say the task is easier than one might think. It all comes down to having the right marketing focus.
The research on the 80 million millennials who control 40 percent of the purchasing power in the U.S. is endless. Every day, the consumer and trade press are bombarded with information on what makes this demographic tick.
Let’s just recap the most relevant highlights to your agency business, in case you haven’t had time to read up on the latest news. First off, destinations are important — but they are not the driving force motivating millennials to take flight. This group, which includes those born between approximately 1980 and 2000, are seeking transformative experiences that will lead them to be more socially connected people. The destination takes a back seat to what motivates them.
Second, given their exposure via social media to world events, this demographic wants to immerse themselves in the destination they do choose, with the hope of playing some small part in leaving it better than when they found it.
Let’s move on. Third, whether it is a driver or a byproduct, millennials want to be able to share their experiences. So, if it isn’t “Instagram-able,” then for them, it didn’t happen. Being able to connect with others through travel is high on their list.
Here are five of the best ways to go about tapping into the millennial market to get results:
1. Inspirational content.
Millennials don’t want a sales pitch, and if you give them one, it will likely make their eyes glaze over. What they do want is inspirational stories that put the decision to travel, where and when, in their hands.
You’re in a much better position if you get them to sell themselves on the concept. But just because they want credit for the idea doesn’t mean you can’t be the one who planted the seed. Diversify your focus away from purely direct marketing, and add some consideration to sending subliminal messaging through Facebook posts and other forms of social media. They want to write their own story, so help them make that happen.
2. Exceed their customer service expectations.
You need to wow, surprise and delight this group. They might expect good customer service, but if you want them to respond, then you need to offer them exceptional customer service. Make service delivery what differentiates you from the rest. Leverage the expertise of the agents around you.
For example, if one of your agents was recently in Barcelona and your client is headed to Spain, share the agent's favorite restaurant spots or the best café for coffee. It will take them time to find that information online themselves and, even if they do, it won’t necessarily come from a trusted source.
3. Stay away from price.
Discounting should never be the focus. Your client’s vacation will not necessarily be better because they spent less per night. In fact, everyone has the ability to go online and find the lowest prices, but you can add value they can’t Google for.
For Jason Merrithew, president of Merit Travel /Travel Cuts, a millennial-focused agency in Toronto, it’s all about humanizing travel and having a conversation that is not based on a commodity. “Whether you’ve returned from your first trip abroad to London or Paris or your fifth to Cambodia, you never start the conversation with your friend by saying, “it was cheap. You say, it was fun!” said Merrithew.
While budget constraints can be a factor, and offering deals always makes good business sense, Merrithew implores agents not to go to market with the “save money, buy now” tactic. “If it’s all about price, it reduces your relationship with your client to a binary one where the only conversation you’re having is ‘are you more expensive or less expensive,’” he added. “Making travel a commodity does not resonate with these travelers.”
4. Be community-focused.
Where does this demographic spend their time socially? Use the same thought process that brings consultants to retirement communities and church groups, and look at this as a networking opportunity. Make yourself part of the community they travel in and don’t be looking from the outside in. While it’s true that first-time millennial travelers can best be found at campuses, you should also be looking to local music festivals and events and places were young professionals gather to interact with one another (think medical professionals and teachers, specifically).
5. Social media is a must.
At the very least, having an online campaign is integral to capturing the millennial audience. Whether Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In or Snapchat, building brand awareness within the social media arena is also key to gaining credibility and amplifying your efforts. If you’ve just gotten a sneak peek at the newest hotel in San Francisco, share your insight and emphasize that you are a reliable source for all things “new” in the travel market.
FROM THE SPONSOR:
Contiki is a global travel company specializing in social travel experiences for young people (ages 18-35). Our journeys unlock the local way of life in each and every destination we visit, and with over 300 trips spanning six continents, we see every day as the start of a new adventure. With the best team in the business, more included experiences, and your transportation sorted, that’s just the start of what you get with us. We also offer more flexibility through eight ways to travel, five ways to stay, and endless free time and options. Contiki is about discovery, epic moments and making every second count. Find out more at www.contiki.com.