Millennials Are Transforming Luxury Travel, According to New Study

Luxury travel is changing – and younger travelers are leading the transformation.

Millennials – consumers aged 18-34 – are increasingly the drivers of demand for luxury travel, according to the L.E.K. 2017 Luxury Travel Study. And they are changing the way older travelers buy luxury travel as well.

The survey of 1,972 U.S. travelers aged 17 and older, conducted online during the first quarter of 2017, shows that these younger travelers are more likely to choose luxury travel, or to add luxury elements to their travel plans, than their predecessors in the GenX and Baby Boom generations.

More than three in five (61%) Millennials surveyed said they either choose full or selective luxury travel, compared with 48% of Gen Xers and 35% of Baby Boomers.

Take special note of “full or selective.” Millennials don’t define luxury the traditional way, as “all pampering, all the time.” They’re more likely to indulge in luxuries on occasion, or to add luxury elements to an otherwise non-luxury trip. And their concept of luxury is different than the traditional one. Instead of pampering, they’re more likely to seek out experiences. A Millennial luxury traveler might give the spa and the five-star hotel a pass, and instead opt to sleep on a bunk bed while taking a special eco-vacation.

Inspired by Millennials’ interpretation of luxury, brands ranging from traditional players like the Four Seasons to relatively new entrants like AirBNB are experimenting with offerings that cater to younger travelers who are seeking “the right experience.”

They’re also trying to find ways to help Millennials use “prestige moments” to amp their social currency. For members of the selfie generation, the ability to capture “in the moment” prestige experiences and share them with their social network is extremely important. It’s the key to building their personal brand. In travel, that often means communicating that you are connected, worldly and exciting. Suppliers in the industry should embrace this mindset by offering experiences that help enable and activate it. If an agency, a hotel brand or a tour operator can help plunge guests into what they perceive to be an authentic moment, they’ll value it – and communicate it instantly.

Personal branding may be a uniquely Millennial trait. But in other respects, Millennial travelers are trendsetters. Their tastes in luxury travel are becoming mainstream. The study shows that many older consumers are also developing more adventurous palettes, influenced by the tastes and preferences of their younger peers. While hipsters may have prompted the trends toward artisanal cocktails and curated travel immersion activities, boomers are discovering, and paying for, these innovations as well.

To capture Millennials – and to get ahead of changing trends throughout the luxury travel space – hotel operators should consider shifting their focus from traditional pampering to a wider range of compelling experiences. They’ll also want to find ways to add luxury elements to their baseline travel products, in order to appeal to travelers who want to add “a la carte” luxury to their travels.

To find out more about the study, and about the impact of Millennials on luxury travel, click HERE.

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