The next generation of travellers — millennials who are now between 16 and 34 years old – bring with them a set of expectations that are shaking up the travel industry, and frankly, its about time.

These travellers are not only smart device laden and social media savvy, they view travel through completely different lens. They don’t seek destinations, they seek experiences. According to recent report The Luxury Traveller & Social Media 2014, young Asians rate hotels on how Instagram-able they are, and this is just the beginning of a paradigm shift of both expectations and service levels requirements. It is no wonder that these group whom are travelling now for both business and pleasure want instant gratification, accuracy and control over their bookings and they want to be able to manage it all from their IPhone or Android wherever  and wherever they like. They expect their travel providers (agents and online travel retailers) to be on par with every other service provider they deal with, from their favourite online retail boutique to their financial institution. Millennial travellers have many unique distinctions between their behaviour and that of their parents. These three are set to shake up the travel scene as we know it.


To these travellers, wifi access and decent bandwidth are not nice to haves or premium services, they are table stakes. This group are Internet savvy, and agile on research and review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. If your hotel or airport is not serving up good wifi, expect to get called out for it. In years past consumers reviewed eight sources before when considering a purchase. Now, consumers research no less than twelve sources. Further, this group are well connected online, and know how to source quality information, ask questions to forums or seek out advice from peers on Twitter.  Foursquare will advise them of what their friends thought of your restaurant and what to avoid on the menu, complete with photos. Millennials connect to each other, to information sources, and ideally to your travel brand if there is value creation and this exists beyond your domain and Facebook Fan Page.


 (or offers that are inflexible)

Customisation and control are two very important emotive drivers of millennial travel behaviour. They want to feel that they can move levers to get something that is truly unique. Shaping their experience through their selection of upgrades, excursions, and add ons and giving them choices makes them feel more in control. This might challenge package deal travel companies who load their online shopping interfaces with hard lefts and rights rather than options. The “Have it Your Way” slogan is never more relevant today for this content hungry group whom want to personalised brand experience including the content for which they are marketed with. Carpet bomb them with marketing messages that are not relevant and expect to be ignored. In the “Me” economy, it truly is all about them and how your brand or company can be a part of their journey.  If millennials are relevant to your travel business, know what’s resonating with them today, and every day from the best seats on the plane for over the wing snaps to their favourite airport hangouts and which hotel chains have them buzzing through social listening tools, monitoring of Instagram and Twitter. Knowledge is certainly power.


These travellers crave exploration and the road less traveled but well documented. Active on social networks, this group will not only want a true local experience, but will life stream it across their social profiles, from micro-documentary Magisto videos to Instagram collages, Flipagram video vignettes, and GoPro action films. The advent of a bike tour in Paris or tapas tasting in Spain is now content for which can be both experienced and instantly shared and millennials are definitely au fait with rich media platforms.  The more interesting and authentic, the more this audience will gravitate towards it.  The trend of solo travel is also continuing to emerge as adventuresome souls are more and more willing face the big big world alone. “Always an explorer, never a tourist” is the creed of the millennial traveller so ensuring your company reaches beyond mainstream digital channels and focuses on interest and location based marketing platforms is relevant to this trend and making each traveller feel individually and uniquely welcome ensures return visits and positive reviews. What do you think is disrupting travel in the advent of the millennial traveller? Share it in the comments, please.

About the Author

Stephenie Rodriguezstephenie rodriguez is the CEO of the Mighty Media Group a digital agency specialising in digital marketing strategy in Australia founded Mighty Media Group, a leading data-driven digital, mobile and social marketing strategy and solutions firm, in 2004 and is currently the company’s Chief Executive Officer. She is also the former publisher of Ocean Drive Magazine (Australia), a speaker and futurist on all aspects of social technology, an evangelist of engagement, and has advised companies including SSP – The Food Travel Experts, Club Med Asia Pacific,  Austereo, JR/DutyFree, Radar Group of Companies, Transfield, Allied Mills, Income Solutions, and Bayer (Berocca), Toyota, Mercedes Benz, and the UN FAO. You’re likely to find her Tweeting here @digitalgodess or present at events such as #SXSWi, #TFWA, #Tedx and #SocialBiz.


Teen (16-17) girl lying on bed using smartphone

It almost feels like I am in on a dirty secret, seeing the #LoveTravels video today after it was delivered by an online publication Skift that I exist to read. If you follow my check ins and Tweets, it is no secret that I travel — a lot,  and Mighty Media Group have worked with many highly recognised global travel related brands, and yes, we’re passionate about the travel industry.

Seeing that this video had only 63 views and knowing how big this is going to be almost feels like a guilty indulgence and better than dark chocolate at midnight. Watch for yourself and you will appreciate my inspiration for this post.  (This would have been great to show to top tier guests of their loyalty program with exclusive access if Marriott had thought to deploy some gamification in their strategy. #justsaying)

I was intrigued about this campaign and how Marriott is taking a bold position in dedicating its marketing resources to what has been “counter culture” in mainstream America. The airline and hospitality industries as employers have long supported their LGBT employees without discrimination, however Marriott are first to make this bold move rolling out the welcome mat to families of two or many, and frankly, I love it.

What I also loved about this campaign is that it extends beyond niche marketing and makes a broader statement and one that encourages everyone to participate. I know from the two months I have slept in hotels this year that hotels are lonely places where service means different things to different cultures. Japanese hotels are pristine, Malaysian hotels are less formal, and Club Med resorts shouldn’t be classified in the same category.


#LoveTravels with me” is something I have often felt, sharing elevator greetings and bows with strangers, breakfast buffets with people who don’t speak my language, eating things I neither say nor spell and finding patience with anyone who is different as a means to not lose it when communication is a barrier and I am socially inconvenienced. It has taught me a simple truth which is that smiles are universal and translate everywhere.


The presence of  Talisha – a real Marriott Digital employee – who appears with her “wife” proud of her company is powerful, money can’t buy kind of love. This is an authentic story that comes from inside its walls,  and compelling storytelling. That is the kind of passion that I encourage my clients to nurture with their employees. (They after all are your brand ambassadors!)

The #LoveTravels campaign will no doubt reach it’s target audience – the LGBT community and likely to force its competitors to open their conservative doors to compete with this American hospitality institution. In this game, I think equality wins, the community win, and we can all find a place where “No Bias” is the invisible Braille that translates on marketing campaigns briefs and on every fibre of their hotels literally and figuratively.

What do you think of Marriott’s bold move? Will this be the best viral marketing campaign for 2014?  Leave me your thoughts!

About the Author

Stephenie RodriguezStephenie Rodriguez founded Mighty Media Group, a leading data-driven digital, mobile and social marketing strategy and solutions firm, in 2004 and is currently the company’s Chief Executive Officer. She is also the former publisher of Ocean Drive Magazine (Australia), a sought after speaker and futurist on all aspects of social technology, an evangelist of engagement and big data application. She’s advised companies including SSP – The Food Travel Experts, Austereo, JR/DutyFree, ClubMed Asia Pacific, Transfield, Allied Mills, Income Solutions, Bayer (Berocca), Mercedes Benz, and the UN FAO. You’re likely to find her Tweeting here @digitalgodess or present at events such as #SXSWi, #TFWA, #Tedx and #SocialBiz.