This year’s World Tourism Day arrives as brands working in the sector already have 1.6 trillion reasons to celebrate. In the age of millennials and experiences, the demand for travel and tourism has never been greater and, even as challenges in the form of disruptive startups and increased digitalization continue to rock the boat, if organizations can successfully court consumers, it will be smooth sailing.
Tourism is on the rise. Over the course of 2017 gross bookings reached $1.6 trillion – or 10.2 percent of global GDP – and that figure will continue rising over the course of 2018 and beyond.
So what is causing these already record figures to move even higher? Geopolitical change is presenting people with an opportunity – that they’re seizing – to travel beyond their borders for the first time. Newly rich consumers from emerging markets have been bitten by the tourism bug; while in countries from the U.S. to the U.K., consumers are spending more of their income on seeing the world rather than seeing if they can afford the latest gadgets and gizmos.
“U.S. Department for Commerce data shows that over the past decade money that would have been spent on automobiles and appliances is going on experiences – travel, eating at restaurants, pursuing interests and hobbies,” says Joe Reynolds, VP Global Business Development at Sitel Group. “This change is most acute among the millennial generation and as it moves into its salary-earning prime, it will stop being a trend and start being the norm. This change will present savvy brands with a golden opportunity to redefine their offerings and to create new kinds of customer connection, but only if they understand this new customer and how to deliver for them.”
However, the millennial generation, defined as those aged between 18 and 37, is such a diverse group in terms of tastes, aspirations and financial stability that no brand has the power to target it in its entirety.
“One message aimed at the largest generation of Americans is a tall order,” concedes Reynolds. “However, crunch the data and the group within the group that places the highest premium on vacation and adventure is millennial families – couples with children up to the age of 16. The data shows they’re the driving force behind the vacation boom in the U.S.”
Travel marketing and consulting company MMGY’s latest Global Portrait of American Travelers survey shows that U.S. millennial families – representative of 16 percent of all U.S. travelers – spent a combined $50.4 billion on leisure travel over the past 12 months.
They’re also more likely than any other group of Americans to take international vacations, to take a cruise and to take group vacations where extended family and friends tag along.
“Even the traditional belief that a family with young children is going to hit the beach or a resort so that the parents can recharge their batteries and get some rest is turned on its head with this generation,” says Reynolds. “A number of studies show that once children come along, millennials are more likely to crave active vacations to urban destinations. This means a joined-up approach from travel and tourism companies. How can you add value and build on your customer experience by helping these intrepid travelers discover boutique hotels, great restaurants, museums and other in-destination activities, once their plane touches down?”
Once on vacation, pushing crafted content to a smartphone is one very simple and effective solution and more importantly, the sort of service that tourists across all generations are beginning to expect.
“But while travelers like to leave certain elements to chance, millennials invest a lot of time in choosing their destination and the types of experiences they want once away,” adds Reynolds. “So, for example, if you’re a travel agent, it would mean feeding inspirational content around festivals, local cuisine or family-friendly activities through social channels throughout the year.”
According to a Resonance Consultancy report on millennial travel trends, 24 percent will check out their friends’ and family social media feeds for travel inspiration – the most trusted of trusted reviews. And 22 percent support this by reading articles about potential destinations to arrive at their vacationing decision.
And the destination is the most important thing, meaning that millennials will use the channel that enables its booking. Almost two thirds (64 percent) use online travel sites to plan and pay for their vacation, but 24 percent said they’d picked up the phone and called a hotel, airline or resort directly and 47 percent had used individual brands’ websites to build up and book their break.
“The findings here are clear, you need to be present where your customers are and that presence has to be consistent, whether it’s the information in web content or the level of service and emotion when speaking to a contact center representative,” Reynolds points out. “The fact that travelers have had to use different sources and channels also suggests that they have been driven to using several channels in order to get what they want. The customer journey should be smooth and simple to complete without unnecessary touch points. Don’t forget that when in the preparatory stage, eight in 10 travelers place more value on the content of a travel site than on the brand. If they don’t find what they want, they will try another company before they will consider trying another channel.”
Whether it’s data analytics to gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ preferences, optimizing contact and sales channels, applying social tools to boost engagement or the use of technology platforms to send SMS notifications or support dedicated chatbots, Sitel Group has the tools and expertise to help your company gain a 360° view of customers regardless of generation, to eliminate unnecessary touch points and to elevate your brand’s standing through levels of CX that really will make a difference, even to millennials.