Brand Strategy

4 Insights on Millennial Travel Behavior

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Lisa Anderson

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OK, we get it. The last thing you probably want to hear is more on how Millennials are special and different. But, with their generation expected to be the largest, surpassing even the Baby Boomers by 2028, and having an estimated $200 billion of spending power, there are good financial reasons to pay attention.

millennial travel behavior

When it comes to the travel sector, the power of Millennials is no different than in any other category. In 2015, 82 percent of millennials took a vacation versus 75 percent of all U.S. consumers and 72 percent say they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical things in the next year.

millennial travel behavior


When it comes to Millennial travelers, the phone is the hub of planning, experiencing and sharing every trip.

Social content is a major travel influencer: 87 percent of Millennials use Facebook for travel inspiration, and more than 50 percent use Twitter or Pinterest. Millennials say seeing where their friends on social platforms go on vacation holds weight when deciding their own trips. And it’s not just inspiration travelers seek from technology – 66 percent of Millennials book their trips via smartphone and 97 percent post on social networks and share their experiences while traveling.

millennial travel behavior millennial travel behavior

What does this mean for my brand?

It’s a great idea to think through how you can build shareable experiences into your brand experience. Provide ways for that sharing to be seamless and amplified. Take a page out of the Glendale Galleria’s playbook: Those famous landmarks made out of Legos scattered around the mall? They’re not just for decoration – they’re selfie stations aimed at landing the mall on Instagram.

  • Does your brand have social accounts?
  • Are they linked on your website?
  • Are you providing experiential integrations with your overall campaign that people can share while they’re on vacation? Depending on what kind of brand you’re managing, this could include Snapchat filters, selfie stations, social events and activations that maximize your shareability factor.

Make it easy to keep your brand in the mix from the beginning of the planning stage all the way through the post-trip photo sharing.


When on vacation, Millennials want to be anything but a tourist. Instead, this generation is even more likely than most to seek to immerse themselves in the destination, becoming almost a part of the location they find themselves in.

As Sarah Clark recently wrote in a column on Huffington Post, 86 percent of millennials would rather experience a new culture, compared to 44 percent who prefer to party or 28 percent who prefer to shop.

millennial travel behavior

In fact, 78 percent want to learn something new while they travel and about half of Millennials said they would pick a destination because they want to experience the culture. The same extends to their accommodations: Guests using home sharing sites like Airbnb feel far more “at home” than they do staying in hotels or vacation rentals because they’re with real hosts in real neighborhoods meeting real locals.

What does this mean for my brand?

Depending on whether you’re a destination, a hotel, or some other player in the tourism game, there are a number of ways to make this work. The key is to make people feel like insiders. Make it feel natural. Help people understand “how the locals do it.”

Let’s say you’re a tourism destination: Can you identify underlying themes to your destination that weave several experiences together? Maybe you don’t have a Freedom Trail like Boston, but you can offer whatever works in your region. For instance, Bend, Oregon has the Ale Trail, which offers people a way to experience something intrinsic to Bend – craft beer. Experiences like this help people understand and truly feel part of a destination.

Essentially, all of this comes down to storytelling:

Every touchpoint or experience should reinforce that unifying tale.


Not only are Millennials the largest proportion of the American workforce (making up one-third of the total working population), they also take the most business trips.

As Conde Nast Traveler reported earlier this year, A 2016 study by MMGY Global found that Millennials took an average of 7.7 business trips over a twelve-month period—more than their older counterparts, Generation Xers (6.4 trips) and Baby Boomers (6.3 trips). And these Millennials are taking in the sights when they’re traveling on business: “Bleisure” travel (ahem, “business” + “leisure) has seen rising popularity among Millennials.

millennial travel behavior

This generation has fewer responsibilities at home – namely, kids – and therefore has the opportunity to extend business trips more often than previous generations. In fact, 62 percent are more likely to extend their business vacations to gain cultural experience and see more of the world, taking advantage of their company footing part of the bill.

What does this mean for my brand?

Taking advantage of this trend may be as easy as making the proverbial “offer they can’t refuse.” More and more hotels, like the Loews group in Orlando and Radisson in Chicago, are offering to extend their discounted group rates to travelers who add 3 days to the beginning or end of their business stays.

Furthermore, the bleisure traveler may have a completely different mindset than your typical leisure tourist. Ask yourself:

  • Do you offer products and experiences specifically for “extend-your-stay” travelers?
  • What kind of micro-experiences can you offer?
  • If someone is visiting and only has a few hours open in the evening, can you give them a quick way to have that immersion experience that they still crave?
  • Business travel can feel very impersonal, so how can your brand make it more personal?

Maybe your brand decides to develop a “home-away-from-home” package (it could be something as simple as a pair of slippers and some fresh-baked cookies) for their business travelers to help them feel more welcome. A little goes a long way in terms of travel customer service.


Millennials are adventure seekers. More than twice as many Millennials as other generations have said they are willing “to encounter danger in pursuit of excitement.” Not only does this adventure-seeking nature apply to vacation activities, but it transfers over to accommodations, as well.

millennial travel behavior

According to FutureCast’s “The Millennial Brief on Travel and Lodging,” Millennials are willing to splurge on vacations and activities, but not on accommodations. They are looking for affordable options, making hostels a more appealing (and adventurous) choice when searching for accommodations. Hostels are typically low in cost, placed in convenient locations and provide more social opportunities for travelers to meet like-minded individuals.

We’re even seeing big name hotel brands like Hilton hop on board by exploring new lines of hostel-like accommodations in order meet the demands of the young traveler.

What does this mean for my brand?

Remember that “adventure” can mean different things to different people. It doesn’t just have to be thrill-seeking.

Think about social experiences. Mixing and mingling and meeting new people can be adventurous, too. What can you do to help incubate or support that type of experience?

Much like the idea of immersive travel, your brand experience should help them add an interesting chapter to their own story. To do this, find ways to present your product, brand, service in a way that makes someone feel like they are part of something unique they can’t or won’t experience elsewhere.

Clearly, how these lessons apply to your brand depend greatly on what part of the tourism experience you’re working in. However, understanding and capitalizing on these four insights could go a long way in growing your travel brand, whatever that may be. The adventure-seeking, bleisure-trip-loving Millennial isn’t too hard to understand – and you might just find your business’ new customer of the year.

millennial travel behavior

Want this for yourself? Download here: Insights on Millennial Travel Behavior infographic.

Lisa Anderson

Popcorn is totally a food group.

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