Analysis | Understanding the Millennial Traveller: Convenience vs Serendipity

By understanding that Millennial travellers crave and require a constant interplay between ultimate convenience with experiential and serendipitous moments, brands, retailers and airports can start to configure to their needs.

The Millennial generation is defined by people born between 1980 and 2000 (aged between 18-34 years in 2015). This large cohort of young adults will be the next biggest consumer group and are projected to surpass the number of Baby Boomers in 2015 (to 7.3 million in US alone) 1, so understanding how their behaviours differ from previous generations will be key for the future of travel.

In a recent report more Millennials (37%) identified with the term ‘I consider myself more a world citizen than a citizen of the country I live in’2 than any generation before them, and it is this very attitude towards belonging that gives them nomadic characteristics. Factor this in with the ever-increasing freelance job market and we have a traveller for whom travel is not just leisure but also work, play and discovery all rolled into one. There is a sense of productivity about the Millennial traveller – that their travel experience is an opportunity to further their educational or work agenda, travelling to learn a new language or volunteering their skills in a foreign country.

In short, the Millennial traveller is proactive, productive and purposeful. To tap into the core needs of the Millennial traveller, brands and retailers must provide a fusion of flexible and efficient services and combine them with serendipitous moments that allow them to learn, play and experience.

An example of creating serendipity was a pop-up restaurant at Copenhagen Airport that was created to encourage solo travellers to sit and dine with another person by pairing together two strangers. In San Francisco Airport there is the Converge Lounge – a place where working Millennials can use the space to work, meet and host talks and workshops when in between flights, facilitating the flexible interplay between learning, working and play.

Utilising previously underused spaces are also another indispensable way of grabbing the attention of Millennials. In retail, the opening of Kate Spade’s new store in New Jersey proved a creative approach that combined advertising, visual merchandising, shopping and interactivity. They used the barricades as more than just a projection for the opening of the new store by having iPads integrated into the barricades for shopping and style quizzes, whilst the square cut windows took a playful twist on the term ‘window shopping’. In hospitality, the Ace Hotel has gained traction for its open lobby that is always bustling with people eating, drinking, working and hosting meetings and is used not only by the guests of the hotel but the general public too.

Airbnb is another example of a company that matches hyper-convenience with serendipity and in turn has created a category in its own right, along with other flexible services like Uber. They are successful because they offer an existing service through new and easy logistical systems that help them thrive in an on-demand economy. The success of its convenience lies in its booking platform because it is important to employ the formats that Millennials are familiar with (such as digital and mobile) in order to provide ultimate flexibility.

However, the most interesting part is that Millennials are using these services in conjunction with one another and creating an ecosystem of complimentary elements that build their time away from home. MakeSpace is another example of creating a service around a familiar format: a storage service that has a particularly unique logistical system. Describing themselves as ‘your closet in the cloud’, MakeSpace take the idea of the digital cloud into a physical sphere.

Users of MakeSpace have an online account that can be accessed at any time that includes a visual catalogue of their items and can schedule drop offs and pick ups to their desired points. Many international customers use this service to store and drop off their belongings to Airbnb points – especially poignant when you factor in that the top annoying aspect of low cost airlines for Millennials are hand luggage restrictions3 – meaning that they can, and would, afford to splurge a little for services like MakeSpace that ease the carrying load. Both services provide an unparalleled flexibility through their booking platforms and logistical systems that appeals to the nomadic tendencies of the Millennial, and most importantly – within a format that they understand.

The Millennial traveller is the 21st Century nomad – reach out to them by providing authentic cultural experiences, make learning feel like play, and most importantly, be proactive by making all processes feel as seamless and as convenient as possible.


1 U.S. Census Bureau 2014

2 Motivaction International 2014

3 WYSE, Millennial Traveller Report, 2014

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