Delegates at the Aito overseas conference in Ras al Khaimah (November 22-25) were also told that they overlook the rapidly growing multi-generational travel market at their peril, now one of travel’s biggest growth markets.
Dr Eliza Filby, generations expert and historian of contemporary values, addressed delegates on travel’s love-hate relationship with millennials, both as consumers and as staff, and some of the change they are driving across the industry.
“Millennials get a bad rep for being over-privileged and over-demanding, both as consumers and as employees,” said Filby. “The fact is, millennials have gone through a process of arrested development. They are incredibly entrepreneurial.
Filby said in 1968, women, on average, achieved the five key markers of adulthood - leaving home, finishing education, gaining financial independence, marriage and parenthood - aged 27. Nowadays, it is 37.
“Essentially, people are delaying adulthood by 10 years. That has a huge impact on how they save money, spend money... and how they think about travel.”
Although millennials are likely to live until they are 95, Filby said the growth of automation, big data and AI will mean they will have retrain, upskill, and dip in and out of work until their 80s, far beyond the retirement age of 65 enjoyed by their baby boomer parents.
The advent of these “multi-stage journeys”, she said, would have significant implications for travel. “Millennials and Gen Z see travel as a core part of their identity,” said Filby. “Not just for leisure, but for education, training and living abroad. It will become ever more important.”
Filby said there were three important growth markets for travel: millennials, who are becoming parents and family travellers; Gen Z, the recession generation who are just entering the workplace and are incredibly savvy with they money; and multi-generational families.
“One fifth of UK residents last year went on a multi-generational holiday,” said Filby. “It’s becoming more and more common for millennials to go on holiday with their parents and take their Generation Alpha children with them.”
Millennials and Gen Z are also shaping trends in social media, a platform travel businesses, said Filby, cannot afford to lose track on.
She said young people are shunning Facebook and Twitter and embracing visual mediums like Instagram, and ephemeral platforms like Snapchat and Instagram stories.
Filby also spoke of millennials and Gen Z being the video generation: “They don’t Google, they YouTube,” she said. “If you’re not on YouTube, you don’t exist to this generation. If you don’t have video evidence of what you’re selling them, they aren’t interested.”
Millennials, said Filby, are also an incredibly sceptical generation, who do not believe in traditional forms of advertising and marketing. “This is the generation for whom peer-to-peer endorsement is not just an important way of engaging with brands, products and services - it is the only way they engage,” said Filby.