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Being a travel journalist isn't always just about the destinations and experiences waiting out there for intrepid travelers, you also need to be a bit of a future-forecaster.
But future-forecasting isn't so much about next season's must-visit beaches, or which resorts are building the most luxurious eco-pods, it's about trying to keep your finger on the pulse of the world of travel. What's driving people's choices? How is the travel experience evolving? What are some of the new trends or influences that might be shaping how we experience the world in the months and years ahead?
One of the demographics that the travel industry seems to have been obsessed with in recent years is the Millennials.
Millennial is a term for Generation Y – born somewhere between the years 1980 and 2000. Millennials are an attractive market segment – here's why:
- From a population perspective, they're the largest generation in world history – so their current spending has a huge economic impact, as will their lifetime spending.
- Millennials are a social generation – growing up in a world where the internet is embedded in everything they do, and social media shapes much of their day-to-day interactions.
- Millennials play a key role in influencing perceptions, reputations, and trends – by sheer force of numbers and their adeptness at online activity.
- There's a perception that Millennials aren't as cautious with their spending as Baby Boomers or Gen-X forebears. This means that there's a lot of disposable income on the table if you can attract the attention and loyalty of Millennials.
While continuing to understand the Millennials market and opportunity is essential, the reality is that Millennials are reaching the age where they are stepping into management positions, starting growth businesses, and setting the agenda for the way that we do things. If you're sitting around wondering how to appeal to Millennials, or how to re-shape your business to make the most of the Millennials market opportunity, then you're probably employing the wrong people.
The interesting question for forward thinking businesses has got to be – what happens next?
Generation Z is population wave born sometime after the year 2000. They're today's teenagers, just beginning to start their college studies, turning their attention towards entering the workforce.
How will Generation Z be different from Millennials? It's probably a bit early to tell. One obvious factor is likely to be technology. These are people born around the same time that Facebook was founded – they're going to see things such as Facebook and Twitter as being old-fashioned.
Generation Z is truly a mobile-first generation. Not only are they communicating with their friends and networks primarily through their phone, they're also accessing their entertainment and information needs, plus shopping and purchasing.
The combination of mobile technology and social media platforms means that Generation Z are less likely to identify (or visit) specific websites or brands. What will drive purchasing decisions (or consumption of news/entertainment) will be trusted recommendations from friends or people they are influenced by.
The political context surrounding Generation Z is also likely to be a strong influence. Much of the established norms, structures, and traditions that were familiar to Baby Boomers and Gen-X seem to be undergoing a fairly fundamental re-alignment. Much of this political change is also technology driven – from the nihilism of 4chan and the alt-right, to the death-cult of ISIS.
While Millennials toyed with the concept of the sharing economy, Generation Z is growing up surrounded by an on-demand economy. Brands like Uber, Deliveroo, and Spotify deliver immediate, real-time need-fulfilment and consumer satisfaction.
What does this mean for travel businesses?
- Invest in technology: The online experience that you're offering to your target market has to be seamless.
- Communicate: Identify ways in which you can offer your target market real-time updates and communication – whatever stage of the booking or purchase process they're at.
- Tailor and personalise: Look for ways to offer your target market unique, local, authentic, personalised experiences.
- Stand for something: Don't be corporate. Don't be bland. Don't take yourself too seriously. Have a personality and a point of view.
Move over Millennials. There's some new kids in town.