Tapping into the lucrative Millennials market

Tapping into the lucrative Millennials market

Trend: Millennials choosing travel advisors over online booking

What’s old is new again. At least that seems to be the trend for many Millennials who are opting to book travel through an advisor, rather than a computer.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the 9.1 million Canadians born between 1977 and the late 1990s. That’s according to 2011 Census data. Collectively they are a seriously computer-savvy bunch – which, admittedly, makes any inclination they might have to book through an advisor a little baffling.

To better understand how travel professionals can tap into this new and potentially lucrative market, Travelweek consulted with David Kolner, Virtuoso’s Senior Vice-President, Global Member Partnerships (and formerly SVP Consumer), Virtuoso’s Dave Ury, Senior Manager, Customer Segmentation, as well as Lois Barbour, who operates Travel Time – TPI Inc. in Newfoundland (traveltimetpi.com). Spanning over 26 countries and 9,000 travel advisors, Virtuoso is a travel industry leader in the luxury network (virtuoso.com), and Newfoundland-based Barbour, a 10-year veteran of the travel industry, is a Certified Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialist through the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada.

“Online sophistication and using a travel advisor for luxury travel purchase are not mutually exclusive,” explains Kolner. “We know Millennials are extremely active users of online tools, and we’ve learned through our travel advisor focus groups that while they use multiple sources of information as part of their planning process, they often complete the booking via the travel advisor.”

With Millennials making up more than 50% of her client base, Barbour knows firsthand what this new generation of consumers is like, and she agrees with Kolner. “They are very knowledgeable consumers due to their technological connection,” she observes, “but they will often turn to agents to ensure they get good value from the vast selection of travel choices on the market.”

Travel professionals who want to grow their client base would do well to make a study of our next generation of big purchasers. For example, using the same tools as Millennials, such as Facebook messaging and texting, will place you in their online circles, and will make you more accessible to them – and them to you.

Another important fact: Millennials tend to book through travel professionals when trips are tied to life-stages, Kolner says, such as bachelor and bachelorette parties, destination weddings, group travel and travel with tours.

Adds Barbour: “These types of trips are very important occasions, and they want to be sure they get it right.”

This is important information, because with it you can tailor your travel packages and marketing efforts accordingly.

What else can you do to attract more Millennials, the up-and-coming generation of consumers? Here are some tips, courtesy of  David Kolner and Dave Ury of Virtuoso:

  1. Make digital your friend. Learn to use and wield social channels. Become part of your clients’ networks; it’s a great way to stay on their radar, increase your exposure, and get referrals from them. Don’t discourage DIY bookings if you can’t really add value. Instead, focus on travel where they need your guidance and expertise.
  2. Be a source of expertise and wisdom. Younger travellers are looking for guidance on how to get the best experience and value. They absolutely trust older generations if you can show them how you can help.
  3. Offer “experiences.” Millennials want travel to be unique and different; they don’t necessarily want to replicate their friend’s trip. Know the backstory, history and what’s cool about your recommendation.
  4. Provide a human touch.  Ask for their feedback after a trip. They are often pleasantly surprised when you do, and are typically happy to give it. Small thank-you gifts can really go a long way, as being an active listener.
  5. Pictures, not words.  All types of media works, including print, but a good rule of thumb when communicating to Millennials is to reduce the amount text and focus more on images, particularly inspirational ones.

What is the best way for a travel professional to advertise to a Millennial? Lois Barbour, Travel Time – TPI Inc., weighs in:

Get Social. Facebook ads, Twitter, Instagram and any other social media platform that you have identified as a place where Millennials hang out. Include images in your ads, particularly from personal experiences. It helps them visualize themselves on similar trips and encourages the planning process.

What should be emphasized to get a Millennial’s attention?

Show you care. Millennials don’t have a lot of free time. Show them you understand, and help them make the most of it. They value unique, authentic, sustainable and often adventurous experiences, and they make a point of sharing their travel experiences on social media. “It ends up being our best and most cost-effective form of advertising,” says Barbour.