Being an avid traveler, a travel blogger, and a media strategist, I have always had a keen interest in the way the travel industry has developed globally as well as within Pakistan. It’s been a remarkable and very visible shift in consumer behavior; ranging from consumers prioritizing travel when it comes to spending their disposable income, to the role played by social media and mobile as the most important avenues for triggering such behavior.
This trend is on the rise since the 2010’s. In Pakistan, it started off as a small number of Facebook groups offering group tours to northern areas. This soon became immensely popular due to the ease of having trips preplanned as well as the photos, ratings and consumer reviews on these pages that provided reassurance that it was a worthwhile investment. In 2010, organic reach was still achievable with virtually no investment, so the posts by these tour groups would land on the timelines of thousands of people without the need to spend too much money on boosting them. A few first movers opted for these tours, sharing pictures and reviews, and creating a very successful snowball effect. There are now hundreds of tour groups that offer domestic tours all over Pakistan.
Globally, however, the trend has come about primarily due to travel bloggers. The travel blogging industry has been and still is a huge driver in inspiring more and more people to travel each year, with well-known bloggers acting as strong opinion leaders with hundreds of thousands of followers all over the world. Their envy worthy Instagram feeds with picture-perfect photographs has inspired a whole generation of digital nomads – people who like to travel and work remotely from their laptop as they do so.
It is no surprise that the largest segment of travelers have been millennials –the group of individuals born between 1980-2000. According to a study by Goldman Sachs, millennials’ spending priorities differ vastly from their predecessors; they delay investing in assets such as homes and cars, preferring to invest in sharing economies such as Uber, as Couchsurfing, and experiences such as vacations and road trips. According to the United Nations, 200 million millennial tourists generate more than $180 billion in annual tourism revenue – an increase of nearly 30 percent since 2007.
For brands in the travel industry, this is great news. What’s even better is that millennials agree that traveling and seeing the world is an intricate part of their lives, with 78 percent of them choosing to splurge on experiences over things. They are also 23 percent more interested in going abroad than older generations, and make up 20 percent of all international tourists.
Today, international travel is more accessible than ever before. Considering inflation rates, the real cost of travel has dropped by nearly 50 percent, and brands like Airbnb that are disrupting the traditional travel market have created more opportunities for millennials to see the world than generations before them. This shift has altered the travel paradigm. Older consumers tend to consider travel a luxury; millennials – on the other hand – view travel (especially international travel) as a vital component to their personal growth and life experience.
Some of the most notable consumer trends in the travel industry are as follows:
- FOMO – or “Fear of Missing Out” is a huge driver for millennials to travel. FOMO essentially refers to the feeling of anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere. Fear of missing out is a powerful emotion that can directly influence decision-making. And while this influence reaches into everyday purchasing decisions, FOMO naturally lends itself to the highly visual world of travel marketing. According to a study by Expedia, Brands can capitalize on this by tying their communication to offering experiences that go beyond a simple product offering. The “When was the last time?” campaign by Emirates is a perfect example of this.
- Social Media is the biggest driver of inspiration. According to a study conducted on millennials by travel website Hospitality.net, 87% of travelers use Facebook for travel inspiration, while 20% use Twitter and Pinterest. It goes further to say that over 40% of millennials choose a travel spot based on its Instagramability. Beautiful photos of destinations and enviable hotels are something that destinations need to capitalize on. Social shareability is a valuable currency, and the smartest hotels and resorts have realized this.
- The need for constant connectivity. An Expedia survey found that 55% of millennials post their holiday pictures, while four in every ten of them use social media as a way to store their memories of an experience. 30% of millennials said that free Wifi is the most important amenity that they want in an airline or hotel. This is a no brainer for telcos to advertise how they can provide constant connectivity to the young traveler.
- Travel is Mobile. According to a study by ICE portal, 46% of millennials book travel through a smartphone or tablet, meaning a strong mobile presence is also important for any brand in the travel industry, be it airlines or hotels. In fact 86% of millennials are disappointed by bad mobile experiences, and it may even cause them to not choose a travel product.
- ZMOT is a huge component of travel. 82% consider travel reviews important in making travel decisions. There are also various pre travel habits that people engage in – 85% check multiple travel sites/vendors to make sure they get the best deal. Travel-related search queries have grown 43% on mobile since 2015. Being present and discoverable with your brands on search during important travel seasons can be key to gaining interested customers. Taking advantage of these trends can benefit many brands, from banks offering travel loans and credit cards to airlines offering ticket deals.
What also needs to be realized is that cashing in on millennial travel trends is not only limited to those in the travel industry. From the Telcos that offers 4G services to the remotest of regions to mobile phone companies showcasing how great they are at travel photography, to portable traveler-friendly furniture, the possibilities are endless. All it takes is some social listening and a creative mind, and you are ready to dig into the pockets of the millennial traveler.