IF WE HAD TO CHOOSE A WORD THAT MAY HAVE BEEN the most overused in travel throughout the past 12 months, “millennials” might be it. At this point, travel and other industries have recognized the importance of this demographic – defined broadly as those born between 1982 and 2002 – and are eager to tap into the segment which Destination Canada calls “the fastest growing travel segment and one of the largest and most influential groups of travellers worldwide.”
And there are numbers to back it up; the Conference Board of Canada’s latest figures show that Canadians aged 15 to 34 made 5.6 million overnight trips in 2016 – activity that accounted for 13 per cent of all outbound trips from this country.
So how can you make sure that you’re up to speed with this increasingly influential demographic? CT takes a look:
Ömer Kücükdere, managing director at Nestpick, a global online accommodation aggregator, ascribes the following characteristics to millennials:

• A mobile generation defined by their affinity with technology
• Well-documented for their highly expectant standards
• Will not stay long in a location that doesn’t match their criteria
• Have a sense of openness and tolerance
• Like to kick back and relax
• Travel more at a younger age than any of their preceding generations
(See the full report from Nestpick by clicking here.)
In a report released last October about Canadian travel trends, Expedia states that millennials aged 24 to 35 take 3.1 trips per year on average, for a total of 26 days. This age group prefers to explore international destinations, tackle bucket list experiences and find off-the-beaten path locations, but also, fills their itineraries with museums, historical sites, and arts and culture to a greater degree than “other generations.”
At the same time, they are “destination indecisive” (only six per cent have a destination in mind), as well as seeking value for dollar (93 per cent), want outdoor or active holidays (82 per cent), and often plan around food and drink (58 per cent).
Referrals are critical to millennials, whether it’s from trip review sites (85 per cent), branded content (80 per cent) or family and friends (77 per cent). And as for social media, which casts an overall 70 per cent influence on millennials, the top platforms are Facebook (57 per cent), Instagram (32 per cent), Pinterest (16 per cent), Twitter (15 per cent) and Snapchat (five per cent).
“In short: freedom, flexibility and social connection,” says Contiki Canada President Gabrielle Nydam. “The latest study that we conducted shows that millennials are looking for more choice, more free time and also the social component associated with travel. From this data, we realized that while young people may be type-casted as only wanting to do solo travel, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Sure, they crave independence, yet they also want to connect with others on top of experiencing authentic moments during their travels.”
Jeff Element, president of The Travel Corporation (TravCorp) in Canada (which includes Contiki amongst its brands) points out that millennials are not penny pinchers. “It is not about budget travel for this generation,” he says. “They want to stay in nice hotels and eat in nice restaurants and go to interesting parts of the world. They want to spend money on travel. In the past young people used to show off their cars; now they want to travel and take a picture and put it on social media.”
As such, TravCorp research suggests that millennials are also choosing its upscale brands, Trafalgar and Insight, “in bigger numbers than in the past,” with Element noting, “and we haven’t even promoted that to them.”
And while millennials’ penchant for travelling is certainly “good news for the hospitality industry,” that only pertains to “companies who understand millennials’ unique travel expectations,” says Louise Gardiner, senior director, Associate Program Canada, Carlson Wagonlit Travel. “Millennials want to gain experience, recognition, and value by saving, earning, and learning while travelling.”
You don’t have to look far to see how all sectors of the industry are catching-up to the millennial demographic with product designed specifically to their unique needs. Some examples:
• CRUISE LINES: U by Uniworld debuted in Paris in 2017 with the express purpose of providing “immersive, fun and adventurous travel” for 21- to 45-year-olds. AIRLINES: Air France launched Joon in December 2017 as a standalone carrier that breaks with convention, goes beyond the airport gates and is inspired by the new expectations of travellers to offer a total travel experience.
• TOUR OPERATORS: Contiki will introduce a new travel style in 2018 specifically tailored to millennial clientele. Independent Insider promises guests ultimate freedom and flexibility in a host of European cities.
• HOTELS: This year the capsule hotel concept comes to Canada with the Pangea Pod Hotel in Whistler, B.C., designed for “a generation of travellers who expect more for less and want to spend their money on experiences, not on several hundred feet of hotel room space in which they simply sleep.”
• DESTINATIONS: Jerusalem is hoping to attract professional travellers in their 20s and 30s with a Millennials Discount Package that gives reductions on hotels and transport, historical tourist sites, festivals and events, and restaurants and bars.
“It’s often been said that millennials don’t use travel agents; however, we have found otherwise, but not necessarily in the traditional way by simply walking into the office and reading over brochures,” says Nydam, who notes that a tech-friendly agency is imperative to connecting with this new generation of travellers.
“Millennials love travel agents,” agrees CWT’s Gardner. “They value knowledge, service, and the best thing is, they value us.”
But don’t take them for granted, warns Vision Travel’s Lynda Sinclair. “They demand perfection and you better prove your value,” she says. “If you are charging a service fee, you better prove that you’re giving $50 worth of stuff extra stuff that they’re not otherwise going to get. We have to continue to surprise and delight these people.”
But any way you look at it, Nydam says travel agents have a unique edge in selling to millennials: “Years of expertise.” And don’t be afraid, she urges, to “use it to your advantage.”
“Become an influencer yourself,” Nydam says. “Go on social media and dispense your invaluable expertise in the travel field. Make it easier for millennials to book with you.”
Contiki has been marketing to 18- to 35-year-olds since 1962 and continues to be at the forefront of the evolution of product to meet the needs of young travellers. Contiki Holidays Canada president Gabrielle Nydam offers some tips to help close the sale:
• Know your audience. Millennials are digitally connected, looking to peer influencers for direction and advice. So, what are you doing to speak with them on their preferred platforms? A mobile-friendly website will make it easier to interact.  Use a text service rather than solely relying on the phones, you’ll likely get a faster response time and increase the likelihood of them being a repeat customer due to the easiness of the booking process.
• Social media provides young travellers with the inspiration to travel – whether on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Many are visual learners and identify with aspirational messages. A great way to reach these travellers is through photos and video that you can post on your own social media channels; follow your clients and engage them on social media. Speak their language and they’ll likely speak back.
• The millennial audience is driven to authentic stories, and they also consume them on multiple platforms – social media, web mobile or through influencers. They also rely heavily on reviews, referrals and recommendations from third-party sites like fefo, but also friends or travel professionals. We are producing compelling content that inspires young Canadians to travel with us, all while showcasing why to travel with Contiki.
• For more tips, enroll in Contiki-U online training courses, which also make agents eligible to go on our great FAMs!
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