Is a question that came to mind, whilst I was discussing summer travel plans with my niece, arguably my best insight into the world of Millennials. With holidays around the corner, I asked her how she planned to travel whilst away from University. She stared at me strangely, as if I was not up to date, with the latest trends and set about explaining how technology made planning an entire trip possible, over a Tall Soy Latte (what happened to regular coffee?). She would find a flight online, within her budget, in minutes. Room bookings through Airbnb and figure out what to do, by reading what others are saying on TripAdvisor.com.
To put things in perspective, thinking about how I (many moons ago) was a teenager and how the industry catered to us. Student deals at Flight Centres, YMCAs and the famed Lonely Planet travel guides (print versions) came to mind. Flight booking centres on the high street (remember those?) would urge those on shoe-string budgets with neon posters, with cheap flights to dream destinations. Ticket in hand, the next stop would be to buy a print version of a trusted travel guide, from the nearest bookstore. Evenings would be spent planning, highlighting and underlining. For hotels, we would either enquire with the travel agent, or chance it by trying to score a deal at an airport arrival hotel counter. Which often meant, wandering door to door at city hotels looking for a good deal.
The future, as is no surprise, is digital. The need for human interaction from booking flights, to seeking help at a bookstore or negotiating in person at a hotel counter, is slowing diminishing. The travel industry needs to ensure they can reach the world’s largest market digitally. I am convinced that stopping a Millennial on a high street and asking about their travel plans, may distract them from their connected world. After all, it’s best to send out that Tweet, before going underground. The industry needs to ensure their offerings are easily found on the High Street. The Digital High Street, which is growing exponentially.
I am not sure this behavioural change is limited to any one age group; as a gentleman of a certain age and now in receipt of his State Pension, I only use my devices - laptop, tablet and iphone - to research travel options, interrogate travel provider offers, read authentic traveller comments before making an online booking often through an app on my phone. I haven't been inside a travel agents office in decades, nor would I make use of a travel agent, because only I know what is REALLY hitting my experience/price equation.
Just last night we heard of a 8 year old who, knowing she and her family was off to Borneo for their vacation, was encouraged by her mother and teacher to use a school homework exercise as a reason for an online and offline research project of what wildlife and eco-holiday opportunities were available to the family - and the child then presented the findings to her grandparents, parents and school friends. I only wish at her age we had had access to same amount of knowledge. The parents had effectively insourced a Lonely Planet look alikel!!!
What I haven't got into is the sharing economy - yet!?!?! Maybe that is a bit of a generational thing even if a bit like you I used Youth Hostels when a teenager travelling separately from my family
On the sharing economy - Is there a little bit of you that feels guilty or disloyal if you use Airbnb - given the challenges it's presenting to the traditional Hospitality Sector where you've ploughed your furrow for may years? Personally I did once, but I've got over it now! I was admonished by someone for using Uber in London the other day: "How will the black cabs survive?". But the newcomers have shown just how inefficient, inflexible and overpriced the traditional model was - and what an important role disruptors play in doing just that! I don't think our generation is going to stay that far behind the Millennials on sharing models - our kids will see to that.