Millennial travelers are a highly pursued demographic by destination marketing organizations (DMOs)—and with good reason. According to Pew, those born between 1981 and 1997 are now the largest generation, at 75.4 million strong. They travel more for both business and leisure than older generations and are more likely than baby boomers to spend their company’s money on high-end meals (42 percent vs. 26 percent respectively) and room service (37 percent vs. 21 percent).
But while millennials say travel is their top spending priority, they are often elusive to destination marketers. Traditional advertising campaigns that worked with older travelers often fall flat with younger consumers. Marketing to millennial travelers isn’t impossible. You just have to keep a few best practices in mind. This post outlines a few of my top recommendations.
Consider running a contest that urges visitors to share an experience at the destination, provide sample itineraries of “Instagrammable spots,” or loan out 360-degree cameras that will allow travelers to create their own “surroundie” that can be shared with followers
1. Stay Social
Almost every aspect of millennials’ travel experiences is shaped by social media. They use Facebook for travel inspiration, and online reviews to select specific hotels and activities. While on a trip, they average one post per day on social media.And when they get back, they share additional moments from their experiences with friends and followers. DMOs should be leveraging these platforms not only for advertising, but by connecting with social media influencers, engaging with individual followers, and sharing engaging and shareable content. This can range from branded geo-filters on Snapchat, to promoting the destination with 360-degree video and virtual reality experiences that can be shared on YouTube or Facebook.
2. Create Instagrammable Moments
What’s better than a DMO sharing its own content? Finding ways to encourage millennials to post and share their own experiences. Consider running a contest that urges visitors to share an experience at the destination, provide sample itineraries of “Instagrammable spots,” or loan out 360-degree cameras that will allow travelers to create their own “surroundie” that can be shared with followers. Getting millennials to post about a destination is one of the most impactful (and inexpensive) ways to market it to this group.
The key for destination marketers to remember is that this is a generation drawn to memorable experiences and opportunities to share them with friends and family.
3. Make Them Insiders
For millennials, experiences are incredibly valuable. They use experiences to gain social currency from being able to say that they were part of an event. To them,participation in an event tells a story about having done something interesting.
Virtual experiences speak directly to this value. VR experiences appeal to this experience-driven generation—and give them something to tell their friends—which might even be more powerful than offering a discount or freebie.
4. Tap Into Bleisure
Millennials are more likely than older generationsto extend a business trip into a vacation. As Fast Company explains, “While traveling for business, millennials are spending more company money than their gen X and baby boomer colleagues.” They are 60 percent more likely to buy flight upgrades during business trips, and see value in extending a business trip with a few days of vacation. DMOs would be well served to not just encourage this group to visit their destination, but include messaging about extending their trips, adding extra activities to their itinerary, or upgrading their experience.
5. Encourage Loyalty
Did you know? Millennials are more open to loyalty programs than other generations. According to Expedia, 51 percent of millennials “find loyalty programs important” when booking hotel stays, compared to just 30 percent of baby boomers. After the trip, DMOs must be sure they keep up the connection and find ways to get these visitors to return. Inspire them to tell their friends about what a great time they had, and provide rewards and offers that will encourage them to come back again.
Overall, the key for destination marketers to remember is that this is a generation drawn to memorable experiences and opportunities to share them with friends and family. The more experiential the marketing campaign, the more likely it is to attract millennial travelers.
For more information, download our Virtual Reality Travel eBook, which shows you how to improve the customer experience and increase bookings.
Alex Daniel is a travel writer and content strategist based in Brooklyn.