Want to Attract Millennials? ‘Talk to Us,’ Advises Tour Op Exec

by Robin Amster

Millennial travelers are interested in authenticity, fulfillment and sustainability.

That’s a message that tour operators, travel agents and the entire travel industry needs to understand, according to Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours & Expeditions.

Sanghrajka, who is 36, recently joined the Millennials in Travel board of directors as director of industry relations. (See sidebar.)

He – and Millennials in Travel – are on a mission to educate the industry about the millennial market. Their objective is two-fold – to attract millennial clients and to enlist millennials in travel careers.

Travel Market Report spoke with Sanghrajka about the millennial generation’s preferences, how tour operators and travel agents can appeal to millennials and the focus of Millennials in Travel.

How does Millennials in Travel define millennials in terms of age? I’ve seen everything from ages 18 to 30, 19 to 37, even 14 to 34.
Sanghrajka: Everyone has a different definition of millennials. We define millennials as those born after 1975, because that’s more relevant in terms of bringing in new talent and getting younger customers.

Everyone wants [to attract] younger travelers, but 18 year-olds don’t have the disposable income. You’re starting to find [travelers with] disposable income at 28 to 35. That’s the sweet ground. So we set 1975 as our definition because we wanted to make room in terms of marketing.

What are millennials looking for in terms of tours?
Sanghrajka: Speaking for Big Five Tours, it’s more FITs in general.

But it depends what the organized tour is like. They’ve been on that mass market tour with their parents and realize it’s not what they want.

Millennials want experiences that are authentic. They want fulfillment. They are also vested in sustainability.

They want to be part of a larger solution, not just volunteerism.

For example, if I’m going to Kenya [Sanghrajka was born in Kenya] and I’m told I’ll be visiting a Masai village, the first thing I think of is souvenirs, versus being told I should stay in such and such part of Kenya because of its anti-poaching controls. That tells me there’s something happening there and I’m there.

So what should tour operators do to attract millennial clients?
Sanghrajka: The one thing they should not do is take an existing package, re-package it and say, ‘Here you go.’ It can’t be my father’s or mother’s tour. It has to be for me.

They have to know what we want and redefine the product. They should talk to us, not just do market research.

Tour operators are saying they now offer experiences. One of the best things about our generation is they’ve become cynical, but in a good way. If someone advertises an ‘experience,’ it’s not authentic. That’s advertising versus actually explaining.

What can travel agents do to attract millennials’ business?
Sanghrajka: They can’t put anyone in a one-size-fits-all category. Don’t make one company [tour operator] your main go-to for everything. Agents know their clients. Now they have to get to know their clients’ kids.

One thing transcends all generations – service.

What do you hope to accomplish as a board member with Millennials in Travel?
Sanghrajka: I would like to see the average age of frontline travel advisors go down by 10 years during my tenure. I’m not talking about agency owners retiring but about them collaborating.

The agency consortiums have recognized us. If you look at the consortiums’ internal organizations, they have so many millennials. That’s not translating to the frontline advisors. Part of this is fear of change.

I would love to see the rate of change increase on the frontline advisor side. It is happening on the supplier side, because we [suppliers] want change. We have to be agents of change; we can’t be afraid of it.

Related story
New Trade Assn. Aims to Unite Millennials in Travel

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