Google “Millennials and travel” and 34,700,000 results appear in 0.47 seconds. Look closer and something else appears too: travel brands that are desperate to cater to this younger, up-and-coming generation.
Say “Millennial” and marketers swoon. Yes, they think, I can’t wait to attract people born in 1980 who seek completely different experiences than anyone who came before.
The word “Millennial” is so powerful that some brands create entirely new product lines and extensions to attract this coveted new segment, defining them simply by the year they were born.
But Millennials are not homogenous. Millennials are not unique. And Millennials aren’t much different than anyone else. That’s because age doesn’t determine how we make decisions. But mindset—driven by our values, experiences, needs states, and personality—does. And in travel and hospitality, it’s no different. Call someone a Millennial and they’ll call you oversimplified—they don’t define themselves by their year of birth—and you shouldn’t define them that way either—at least if you want them to become a customer.
Consider this: two women, both born in the United States in 1980 and raised by hard-working parents. Both become successful adults and are now married with young kids. One of them is Kim Kardashian. The other is Chelsea Clinton. They’re in the same Millennial demographic, but they have drastically different buying criteria for everything from travel to cars to baby products.
That’s why segmenting only by age is not a smart marketing strategy for hospitality and travel brands. Our research proves it. Over the last decade, we’ve conducted multiple attitudinal, needs-based segmentation studies across different hotel categories and price points. Not once have we uncovered a Millennial-only segment.
In fact, the segments in our research that “looked” most Millennial were, in fact, cross-generational segments, with only a slight skew towards Millennials. And in each and every segmentation study we’ve conducted, at least two “Millennial-looking” segments always emerged. But when we dove deeper into the statistics, one thing became clear: it’s not Millennials who are looking to travel differently; rather, it’s the travelers who share a Millennial mindset that are.
Segments with a Millennial mindset work hard to play hard. They often possess a zest for life and value authenticity and unique experiences. They want to explore, try something new, and connect with themselves and others, whether traveling for business or leisure. They want it all—and they defy the traditional Millennial category. Comprised of less than 50% of Millennials, the Millennial mindset segment is truly cross-generational—it includes GenXers and Boomers too. And the hospitality brands that understand this and cater to this mindset are the brands with the greatest ability to capture the hearts and minds of their audience.