You might spot them framing the perfect selfie on a beachfront somewhere in Southeast Asia. You might spot them chin wagging with Cambodian locals over a fish amok and ice-cold beer in the shadow of Angkor Wat. You might find them cooking up a Peruvian smorgasbord in a longhouse beneath the rises of Machu Picchu. You might find them trawling the Balinese coast for beaches where footsteps have yet to fall. You might find them hunting for cultural encounters with the long-necked Karen tribes of northern Thailand. You might find them anywhere; seeking, searching, exploring. But not on a cruise. Never on a cruise.
We're talking about the new breed of Millennial traveler that's taking the world of backpacking by storm. Tech savvy and ready to hit the road, it's a demographic that simply can't be ignored. It's also one that's shaping the way we all see the world and how we want to travel within it as they go. A focus on raw, real experiences and meaningful, ethical living is what drives them. A desire to participate in their environment, change it, influence it, share it, pervades everything.
With this exciting travel group only just taking shape, we're eager to understand just how the Millennial traveller really is the new globetrotter for the new era. Stats, thoughts, musings and more below…
There's Certainly Plenty Of Em'
Yep, there's definitely no shortage of Millennial travelers. Some estimations – and number-crunching scientists differ on where to the draw the line between Baby Boomers and Millennials – say that as much as 27% of the American population falls into the category. That would make anyone born roughly between 1980 and 2000 part of the mix.
What's more, there's no doubt they love to travel. Around a whopping 70% of the Millennial population say they take at least one travel trip each year, while as many as two thirds say that traveling is an extremely important part of their life – we’re already liking what we hear!
Just to put that in perspective a little, it means around 320 million outbound trips between them annually. That's one whole load of pad Thai cooking lessons and elephant encounters, Incan treks and Brazilian carnivals to get through, eh?
The upshot is that Millennials are now the most travel-ready demographic we know. The Baby Boomers might still love their cruises and weekend breaks, but these smartphone-touting, bio-eating young'uns have a thirst for getting around the globe that means they are 23% more likely than any others to plan a travel getaway. We are really liking what we hear!
Scratching The Life-work Balance
We know we rant a whole load about getting that work-life balance right at LBW. AKA, we prefer living life to the full before working! And apparently so do Millennial travelers.
That's music to our ears. Hey, who wouldn't prefer an inspiring sunset view across the volcanos of Costa Rica to an office space? Who wouldn't want to swap out the desk and the swivelling chair for the fresh surf spray of the Pacific Ocean? Who wouldn't want to drop the canteen for a lunch of sizzling BBQ fish on the Nicaraguan coast? No one? We thought not.
Millennials are really determined to do just that. Take the recent upsurge in the amount of people combining their working jaunts with travel experiences – just check out #Bleisure for some glimpses (that's 'business' and 'leisure' together, by the way). As many as 49% of people are now opting to attach some sort of experience to the end of their business trips. Why not? A bout of yoga in Thailand after those meetings in Bangkok perhaps? A sailing week in the Adriatic before you hit the offices of Rome? No worries.
But that's just half the story. The other half goes by the name of 'digital nomad'. These folks have transcended the office space and the 9-to-5 altogether. Riding the wave of a booming freelancing industry, they spend their time hopping between exciting destinations like Bali, Nicaragua, Thailand and others, tapping away on the keyboard and communicating with business peers over the interwebs. Pretty nifty, eh? Not all of them are Millennial, of course. But most of them are.
Meaning For Millennials
The world is more fluid, more changeable, less predictable than ever before. Everything from politics to pop culture seems to be in an undefinable state of flux that can leave young people feeling bamboozled as they emerge from those college lecture halls or classrooms and into the Rat Race for the first time.
Then comes travel.
There's a stability in travel that isn't found in other places today. The meeting of minds that occurs when you encounter a great elephant for the first time. The touch of soft sands on the soles of your feet. The warm evening breezes that roll off the Andaman Sea. The peace of a yoga session between Thai coconut groves. That ancient vision of Machu Picchu perched on a mountain in the clouds.
You could call these anchors. Anchors that will keep you connected to the world, its past, its people. They are like the perfect antidote to a modern world that seems to change every day and can never be predicted. They remove you from that sphere of competitive job interviews, partisan political debates, grad schemes, student debt, professional pressures – the list goes on. They remove you from those and offer a connection to the deeper tissues of mankind and the planet, whether that's a moss-clad Incan ingot in the cloud forests of Peru or a meditative moment with the sunrise in Southeast Asia.
Those are memories that are stable, natural, unchanging and elementary. It's no wonder Millennials seek them like gold dust, and why it's a pleasure to help them in the quest…
Millennials Meet Tech
Loads has been written and said about just how tech is going to change the way we live, work and travel in the coming years. It's obvious if you think about it. Who even considers going to a travel agent to buy those flight tickets these days? Whoever suggests skipping the online reviews for a restaurant or a hotel at the risk of an undercooked chicken leg or dodgy tummy?
Hardly any. Especially not in the Millennial clique. Get this: A mega 52% of Millennial travelers admitted to consulting an online-based site for info on their next holiday; 62% said they consulted other sources that include online expert sites like travel blogs and online travel agents. As many as 43% of the demographic say they use smartphone apps to manage their day-to-day lives!
The upshot here is that tech is now one of the main pillars of the travel landscape when it comes to Millennials. You won't get far as a hotel without an online presence. You won't be able to show just how awesome your tours are without getting them out over the web. You won't be able to catch the attention of would-be visitors without a hashtag or a share or a piece of digital content to do the talking for it. The writing is on the wall.
Tech is also allowing Millennials to breed a new, more efficient mode of travel. If you're one to lament the loss of the 'good ol' days', when A-Z road maps and compasses and asking the locals was the main way to get about that new and exotic destination, you might want to look away now…That's just not how it works anymore.
With a flick of the phone and a tap of the thumb, apps can let the travelers of today pinpoint the best hotels and seek out the directions their after. They can also offer inspiration, though Instagram posts, expert travel blogs, review sites, Facebook content – the list goes on. Mhmm, Millennials are never stuck for somewhere to eat, the next top beach destination, the nearest volcano climb or spa hotel – all that's right at their fingertips.
Leaving The World Of The Package Tourist In The Dust
Imagine the Millennial traveler as a sort of Clint Eastwood circa The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly era. Waltzing into a Mexican standoff with the older types of globetrotting, it's simply bound to come out on top. The reason? Not it's superior gun slinging a la one elaborate metaphor, no. Rather a focus on the sort of travel we've actually all be searching for all these years: Meaningful travel.
Yep, noises coming from agents and outlets and white-coat data scientists the travel industry over is that Millennials are all about raw, earthy experiences that see them really feel the pulse and character of a destination.
We're not just talking about a fly-in visit to hit the temples of Chichen Itza and the beaches of Cancun. We're talking about a jungle trek through the old Mayan cities of the Yucatan, a swim in deep cenotes and a SCUBA odyssey in the Carib seas. We're not just on about a guided temple tour in Thailand. We're talking local-led yoga sessions as the sun rises over the Andaman Sea, encounters with ancient hill tribes in the Shan ranges, and all-night parties that evoke the spirit of the Summer of Love hippies who once hit the fabled isles of the Gulf. You catch the drift.
Ethical travel is another area that's being stoked to life by Millennials. We've been avid followers of conscious globetrotting for years at LBW and we're certain that it’s time everything from ecotourism to conservation travel entered the mainstream. As global warming turns up the heat, fear of extinctions sweeps across natural habitats and the oceans gather plastic, it seems like a logical end that travelers – those who prize the world around them so highly – become aware of the impact they are making. Hopefully, changes should follow suit.
If you're a Millennial traveler and can think of any other reasons why you're in the demographic that's going to shape the industry in years to come, we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you're not and want to add anything to the mix, feel free to comment too! If you think it's time you hit the road and got adventuring in the spirit of Generation Y, we can help – just check out our tours from Thailand to Costa Rica to Peru to Croatia. See you on the road folks…
"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."
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