What U.S. Millennial Travelers Really Want

Author: Jasmine Zhu       

Every generation has its own set of stereotypes, but Dianna Carr, vice president of Resonance Consultancy thinks that their “2018 Future of U.S. Millennial Travel Report” helps dispel a few enduring millennial myths.

As a demographic, millennials range from 20 to 36 years old, and far from being a homogenous group, they are in fact, “a huge kind of cross-section of humanity,” Carr told Convene.  There are “some that are still on the sofa and some that have kids and families.”

But what are the common threads between this disparate group, and what the heck do they want, anyway?

For one, travel. U.S. millennials were the driving force behind growth in domestic travel this past year, spending $50.4 billion on leisure travel. (Source: MMGY Global.) And Carr thinks that they’re making traveling better than ever.

City Experiences

Millennials are changing the travel experience for the better, overall — for more interesting, for the more creative,” Carr said. It is that quality of discovery-seeking that leads to creative conferences like C2 Montréal, she added. C2 Montréal is an international business conference held annually in Montréal; C2 stands for creativity and commerce.

Attendees at C2 Montréal

“C2 Montréal is really an interesting example of a millennial influence in the meeting space,” Carr said. “Meetings are having to be much more interesting and much more experience-focused in order to attract this group as they start going to more meetings and traveling. They expect that the meeting is going to be as much an opportunity for learning and as much an opportunity for an experience as going to a city is.”

Of 1,548 U.S. millennials surveyed for the “2018 Future of U.S. Millennial Travel Report,”46 percent are described as “All-in Enthusiasts,” compared with only 25 percent of U.S. travelers overall. U.S. millennial travelers are far more interested in participating in most types of activities and having many types of experiences, according to the research.

“They want to get as much as they can out of every destination they go to. Every meeting. Every holiday. All of that,” Carr said. “That’s why cities are so important to them. It’s because there are so many different kinds of experiences you can have in a city. Cities offer more than experiences in a small space than anywhere else.”

Safety First, Airbnb Way Down the List

When it comes to travel priorities, safety comes out on top, with 57 percent of those surveyed considering it a top consideration. Cost came in second at 52 percent, and English-speaking destinations followed in third place, with 44 percent of respondents including it as an important factor.

According to Carr, one very surprising takeaway from the report is lodging preference.

Housing/apartment rentals such as Airbnb came in sixth place for lodging preference.

While more than half of U.S. millennial travelers regularly or occasionally use owner-direct accommodation services like Airbnb — a majority of them said they would rather not.

More than half — 53 percent — of respondents prefer a full-service hotel or resort. Housing/apartment rentals came in sixth place for preference, after staying with friends and family (42 percent), staying at all all-inclusive resort (41 percent), staying at an upscale resort (35 percent), and camping (33 percent).

But this doesn’t mean that U.S. millennials will stop using owner-direct accommodation services, Carr predicted. Just as meetings are becoming more experiential, lodging will also adjust to meet the expectations of this demographic. “Airbnb is never going to go away,” she said. “Airbnb will adjust to making them happy and they will continue to use Airbnb.”

Are We All Millennials at Heart?

Are millennials really that different from other demographics?

In some ways, Carr thinks so. “I think what happens to boomers and what happens to older demographics is that they’ve made everything serious, and I think millennials have a great sense of fun and playfulness.”

But in other ways, they’re no different from any other generation. “What millennials want is kind of what everybody wants, really and truly,” Carr said. “We want a great place to stay that’s really cool with lots of opportunities. We want to be able to interact with locals and get a slightly better idea of what a new city is about.”