Millennials – the generation of 18- to 30-year-olds who grew up glued to their smartphones, their tablets, their Ipods and a host of other devices – are as devoted to technology when it comes to travel as they are in other aspects of their lives.
That’s one of the less-surprising findings in a new study on the future of travel from online giant Expedia. Conducted by Harris Interactive, the study queried more than 8,500 adults in 24 countries to determine how millennials’ travel habits and preferences differ from those of their older peers.
The study also netted some surprising findings that highlighted key differences between millennials and more mature travelers. Among them:
• Millennials are far more likely than older travelers to embrace loyalty programs.
• Millennials spend their company’s money more freely when traveling on business.
• Millennials are more likely to extend a business trip into a vacation.
The challenge for agents
“The challenge to travel agents is to be where their clients are if they expect to be on their radar when it comes time to book,” Jason Coleman, president & chief visionary of Los Angeles-based Jason Coleman Inc., told Travel Market Report.
“This applies to suppliers as well,” added Coleman, a past president of ASTA’s Young Professionals Society.
“Cruise lines, tour operators, air consolidators, activity providers and all others need to have mobile technologies that allow me to book and service my clients without being tied to a computer and a desk.
“Virtually all travel suppliers are way behind the times in this respect,” he said.
According to the study, 32% of millennials use a smartphone and 20% use a tablet to book business travel, compared to just 12% for smartphone and 9% for tablet bookings for those over 46 to 65.
Millennials are also far likelier than 45- to 65-year-olds to use mobile devices to enhance their travel experience.
Coleman said his own travel planning reflects the trend.
“I haven’t booked a flight on my computer in at least two years,” he said. “I use my American Airlines app to book and manage all my reservations. I’m even checking in to my Marriott hotel using their app.”
Crazy for apps
For agents who serve millennial clients, it’s essential to keep up to date with technology, including the growing number of travel apps, said Gary Oakley, vice president of travel services for Aventura, Fla.-based House of Travel.
“We’re just a different species than more mature travelers,” said Oakley, who is officer of development for the Miami chapter of Millennials in Travel.
“Millennials like the fact, for instance, that they can download their boarding passes on their [cell] phones,” he said. “It’s all about being in the know and what cool stuff you can do.”
Because there are so many travel apps on the market, part of Oakley's service is to review apps and tell clients which will best fit their needs.
Hooked on loyalty programs
Among the study’s other findings are the significance of loyalty programs for millennials, their penchant for spending more of their companies’ money and their preference for extending business trips to include leisure time.
About half of millennials find loyalty programs important when booking flights, 48%, and reserving hotel stays, 51%. That’s compared to only three in ten 46- to 65-year-old travelers, at 31% and 30% respectively.
A larger share of millennials (42%) will spend more company money on high-end meals than when they are paying their own way. That’s compared to the 26% of 46- to 65-year-olds who spend more for high-end meals when traveling on the company dime.
Room service is also a favorite of millennials, with 37% spending more company money on it; only 21% of 46- to 65-year-olds are more apt to spend company money on room service.
Sixty-two percent of millennials tack on leisure time to business trips, versus 51% of 31- to 45-year-olds and 37% of 46- to 65-year-olds.
Millennials love personalized service and the kind of special treatment extended to loyalty program members, Oakley agreed.
“They’re very loyal to their [frequent flyer program] airlines,” he said.
“I have a [millennial] client who, though he likes to fly nonstop, is willing to take a flight with a connection because of his Delta platinum status, which gives him an automatic upgrade,” Oakley said.
“Millennials love any kind of incentive,” Oakley added. “When I book my millennials I reach out to my sales reps and ask if they can, for instance, leave something extra in the room for them.
“It’s like instant gratification.”
A lot of millennials’ travel behavior circles back to technology, Oakley said.
“There’s so much information out there and where there’s information, there’s curiosity,” he said. “That prompts them [millennials] to ask the question, ‘Can I get this too?’”