As an avid traveller, a travel blogger and a media strategist, I have a keen interest in the way the travel industry is developing globally and in Pakistan. The fact of the matter is that there has been a remarkable and visible shift in consumer behaviour. Firstly, people are now making travel a priority in the decision-making process of how they want to spend their disposable income and secondly, both social media and the smartphone have had a huge impact in changing this behaviour.
These changes started becoming apparent in the 2010s. In Pakistan, they started with a small number of Facebook groups offering tours to Pakistan’s northern areas. They quickly became immensely popular due to the convenience they offered of being able to plan a trip in advance, further bolstered by the photos, ratings and reviews provided, ensuring that the trip would be a worthwhile investment. In 2010, organic reach was still achievable with virtually no marketing investment and posts by these tour operators would land on the timelines of thousands of people. A few first-movers opted to take these tours, sharing pictures and reviews, thereby creating a successful snowball effect. Today there are hundreds of operators offering tours all over Pakistan.
Globally, the trend was driven by travel bloggers, who inspired more and more people to travel every year (with well-known bloggers acting as strong influencers). In fact, their envy-worthy Instagram feeds with picture-perfect photographs, inspired a new generation of digital nomads – people who like to travel and work remotely from their laptops as they do so.
It is no surprise that the largest segment of these travellers are the Millennials – the demographic born between 1980 and 2000. According to a study by Goldman Sachs, spending priorities among them differ vastly from their predecessors. They opt to delay investing in cash-heavy assets such as homes and cars, opting instead to spend on services such as Uber and CouchSurfing, or on experiences such as vacations and road trips.
According to the UN, at present, almost 0.2 million Millennial tourists generate more than $180 billion in tourism revenue every year – representing an increase of nearly 30% since 2007. For brands in the travel industry, this is great news. What is even better is that Millennials consider seeing the world as an intrinsic part of their lives, choosing to splurge on experiences over things. Compared to the previous generation, 23% are more interested in travelling abroad and account for 20% of all international tourists.
Today, international travel is more accessible than ever before. Given inflation, the real cost of travel has dropped by nearly 50% and brands such as Airbnb are creating more opportunities for Millennials to see the world. This shift has altered the travel paradigm. Older consumers tend to consider travel a luxury, Millennials view travel (especially international travel) as a vital component of their personal growth and life experience.
Here are some notable consumer trends among Millennials in the travel industry.
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
This is a huge driver for Millennials when it comes to travel. FOMO is the feeling of anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere. It is a powerful emotion that can directly influence decision-making and although FOMO also applies to every day purchasing decisions, it lends itself particularly to the visual world of travel marketing. According to a study by Expedia, brands can capitalise on this by tying their communication to experiences that go beyond a simple product offering. The ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’ campaign by Emirates is a perfect example of this.
Social media drives travel inspiration
According to a study by the travel website Hospitality.net, 87% of Millennials use Facebook for travel inspiration and 20% use Twitter and Pinterest. Furthermore, over 40% choose a travel spot based on its ‘Instagramability’. Beautiful photos of destinations and alluring hotels are factors destinations need to capitalise on. Social shareability is a valuable currency and smart hotels and resorts have realised this.
An Expedia survey found that 55% of Millennials post their holiday pictures, while four in every 10 use social media to store their memories of an experience. For 30%, free Wi-Fi is the most important facility they look for when choosing an airline or a hotel, so it is a no-brainer that telcos should advertise the fact that they provide constant connectivity to young travellers.
Travel is mobile
According to a study by the ICE portal, 46% book their travel through a smartphone or tablet. In fact, 86% are disappointed by bad mobile experiences and it may even cause them to not choose a travel product. Therefore, a strong mobile presence is important for brands associated with the travel industry.
Zero Moment Of Truth – a term coined by Google in 2011 to refer to the stage in the online buying cycle when the customer researches a product, even before the seller is aware of it – is a huge factor when it comes to travel. For example, for 82% of Millennials, travel reviews are an important component when it comes to making their destination decision. There are also various pre-travel habits that Millennials engage in; 85% check multiple travel sites and vendors to make sure they get the best deal. Travel-related search queries have grown by 43% on mobile since 2015. So, brands need to be present and easy to find on search engines during the travel season, as this can be key to acquiring new customers. These trends are also applicable to banks offering travel loans and credit cards, and airlines.
From the above, it is clear that cashing in on Millennial travel trends is not limited to brands directly associated with the travel industry. From telcos offering 4G services in remote regions to mobile phone makers showcasing how great they are at travel photography, to portable traveller-friendly furniture, the possibilities are endless.
All it takes is social listening and a creative mind, and you are ready to dig into the pockets of the Millennial traveller.
Urooj Hussain is Associate Director Digital, Brainchild Communications.