The Millennial Traveler

by Brad White

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What would happen to millennial travelers if we took away their phones?
73% of millennials would be lost 81% of the time.

OK, I totally made that up. But it has to be at least partially true. Today, the millennial traveler racks up an extraordinary amount of time on their mobile devices. Remember that in this group 43% would rather give up their sense of smell than their technology and 53% would rather have high-speed Internet than good food at a hotel. So if you’re marketing to millennials, it pays to pay attention to what and how they are using technology and the changing rules of destination marketing. First, let’s get our facts straight. According to research from, millennials comprise 32% of U.S. travelers and are the fastest-growing age segment in travel. MMGY Global cites data showing that nearly 60% of millennials would rather spend money on experiences than on material goods. Far more millennials than non-millennials (75% versus 47%) report having travel apps on their smartphones. At Luckie, we’ve done a fair amount to help our clients cater to this group, from building Web and mobile experiences to creating major integrated campaigns that work to engage, inspire and motivate this challenging demographic. Along the way, we’ve learned some valuable lessons of what to do and what NOT to do.

Personalization matters
Increasingly, millennial travelers are looking for more personalized experiences on mobile. According to Usablenet, 80% of millennials indicated they preferred using brands that personalized their travel experiences. Whether it be pre-populating information during the research and booking phase or using search history to offer suggestions while at the destination, these travelers view personalization as a sign of customer commitment. What this amounts to is an imperative to use data to quickly customize your content to their interests and needs. Millennials have shorter attention spans and are less likely to sift through information to find what applies to them. There’s a reason Snapchat only lasts 10 seconds.


Your opinion does not matter
No matter how amazing you think your content is, it will never carry as much weight as millennials’ peers. If millennials smell a sales pitch, your influence goes down. The popularity of user-generated content and reviews is also growing exponentially because of the demand for tips about local, destination-specific travel experiences. “Millennials are looking to hack travel and get something special, based on their perception about what everyone else doesn’t have,” said Josiah Mackenzie of Review Pro. “They want to feel like they’re insiders, and kind of in on this little secret about how to get a discount or where to find this great little restaurant in some kind of hidden neighborhood.” They’re always looking for some level of inside information. It speaks to the millennial trend of wanting something special.

App Screens

Stay with me
For years my son slept with his phone right next to his head on the pillow. And while I did worry slightly that it might melt his brain, what I learned is that millennials need to be connected. All the damn time. So as a destination or a hotel marketer, your job is to make sure you are providing easy access to whatever service or information a traveler needs. Travel brands need to make travel accommodations more mobile-friendly, offering mobile booking functions, mobile check-in and mobile itineraries. Travel research showed 100% of people want the opportunity to order services from their room, directly from their mobile device. And if they can turn off the light without having to actually get up, all the better. But what this also means is that your job is obviously not done when they decide on and book a destination. Finding ways to engage them along the way is critical. And not just to react, but also to predict how they will react and be prepared to respond. For Alabama Tourism, we created an app that alerted travelers when they were within a certain distance of one of our most famous barbecue restaurants. We provided off-the-beaten-path road trips to destinations like the Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery and pushed content based on their digital behavior. And the great thing about millennials is that they don’t really care that you are using their personal data to market to them while traveling. Just try not to make it feel like marketing.


So, the moral of this story is what worked in the past may not work in the future. Millennials are changing the game in destination marketing. They travel more. They spend more. They care more. They’re looking for experiences that feel ownable to them and they desperately want to share what they have found. They are travelers who have a disdain for tourists and typical tourist attractions. But treat them right and at least a whopping 9% will be loyal to your brand.

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