How the VR Industry Can Reach Millennial Travelers

This is the age of technology! Technology has spurred a brand new form of online, generational wanderlust. Millennials are the largest living generationnearly 80 million in the U.S. alone! They also have the highest percentages of travelers in their generation. Growing up in a world where everything is a click away and it is easier than ever to see high-def pictures of far away destinations means that the travel bug bites easy and bites hard.

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Traveling is more important to Millennials than buying a home!

The reason being is younger people are understanding that experiences are more important than things. They want to know what a sunrise in the desert is like sleeping in the back of a car. They want to taste those famed bagels in New York City.

And the best part is that they will literally TELL THE WORLD about it. That’s free marketing from travelers to travelers! Millennials are more likely to share real time images and videos of their travels. They are more likely to share their experiences online. They are even being hired by companies and sponsored by brands to go places and do things just for the benefit of social media marketing!

According to MDG Advertising, “The goal is to make your property or destination worthy of their conversation. It helps that travel stories now make up 42% of posts on the average user’s [Facebook] timeline.”

Appealing to a new generation of travelers means that you must:

  1. Understand the Millennial generation
  2. Reach them through social travel
  3. Build relationships with Millennials
  4. Provide them an authentic, unique vacation

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Who are you trying to reach?

Millennials are men and women born between 1981 – 1997 with an age range of 22 – mid 30s. Statistically, they’re getting married and having children later in life and using their extra income and time to explore the world around them. They’re more likely to care about the environment and have plenty of outdoor hobbies. They’re educated, but in debt. They multitask, but are impatient and have short attention spans. They have an incredible sense of brand loyalty generated by social justice, environmental impact and morality. They seize the moment and squeeze the best out of life in their youth, unsure of what will befall them in the future.

There is a prevailing therory that this generation is lazy or uninterested in anything other than their social standings online. However, research has shown that they are hypermobile and consider travel part of their idenity instead of a “luxury.”

But what kind of travel are they interested in? It’s different than their elders. They are less about the easy path, striving for customized experiences that are real and adventurous. They’re “foodies” that care about trying cool restaurants, craft beers, and eclectic destinations. They like to cross international lines on longer expeditions or tour the U.S. for weeks at a time.

Because they first discover the world online, you have to be there ready to greet them at the door. The new coined term taking the travel industry by storm is “Social Travel.”

What is Social Travel?

The term is a generality about social media becoming a primary source of information about travel. Millenials will first ask their online social networks about destinations, tours, restaurants and places to stay. They use sites that are the leaders in travel deals to cut down the cost of their trip. Hipmunk is even incorporating virtual assistants into their future business model to make it easier than ever for travelers to find the cheapest flights possible. Then they scower the internet looking for great prices on accommodations that have rave reviews and plenty of interesting features.

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Read this Tampa Tribune article that interviews David Downing, executive director of Visit St. Pete Clearwater, about his focus on marketing to Millennials.

“Today’s young adults have been working on keyboards since their toddler years. So, government-funded tourism agencies including Visit Tampa Bay, Visit St. Pete Clearwater and Visit Florida are all using YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and other programs to draw them in. Part of that effort is to get Millennials to share their Florida travel experiences on their own accounts to draw an even larger audience. ‘It is planting the seeds,’ said David Downing, executive director of Visit St. Pete Clearwater. ‘We’ve gone heavy, heavy, heavy on social. But our Twitter feed is not a selling tool. That’s not what they want.’ These campaigns aren’t likely to pack the Tampa Bay area with millennials next winter, but they’ll be thinking about it, David Downing said.”

The simplified version of the quote above is that serious travel and leisure companies have to be active in social media. Run social media contests. Ask your followers to submit pictures about their trip after they stay in one of your properties. Building relationships and an online personality is critical to the Millennial generation of travelers.

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How does your website reach them?

Your website needs to speak their language. That means beautiful images, plenty of information easily accessible about your business and travel destination, and flexible prices.

No one wants to lower their vacation rental prices, but if you offer a range of accommodations and prices, then you appeal to a wider audience. Millennials are going for cheap accommodations unless you prove that your higher prices and finer furnishings are worth it. They don’t spend money on their accommodations the same way they’ll spend money on food and fun while on vacation. However, if you give them a “one-of-a-kind-experience” you’re speaking their language.

Remember, you’re speaking to a generation that are more student debt than any generation that came before. They’re looking for a good time that won’t empty their bank account and will allow them to forget the debt they’re in.

Get their attention with a special discount that means the Millennials can afford to stay with you, or giveaway drawing where you collect emails and a winner is chosen for a “2 Night Free Stay.” Price incentives and bargain hunting is the best way to attract new guests if you’re vacation rental business no matter what generations of travelers you reach.

Authenticity – Both your Vacation Rentals and You!

No one is sure when this shift in travel ideology changed, but Millennials want authenticity. They want to eat what the locals eat. Walk the streets. Stay in a real home, even if they share it with a stranger. Millennials want their vacations to be personal, authentic and sharable.

They will ignore hotel chains in favor of a place to stay with some minimal comfort and tons of character. Millennial travelers like charm and unique touches and hotels often feel to commercial and bland for their liking. That is where vacation rental homes and condos have the advantage. If a home is slightly outdated in a retro-vintage kind of way, that might attract those quirky Millennials.

Sell the experience of staying in your properties in that particular travel destination. Paint a story of waking up in an beautiful place with adventures to be had. That’s what the Millennials want to dream about.

“All-inclusive packages are not that attractive to Millennial crowds. Instead, “they want their vacations to be personal, authentic and sharable.”

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*New Ways & New Places To Stay*

You have to post your properties on OTAs in this day and age. If you want to reach younger generations and even travelers from older generations who realize that it is the fastest way to find a place to stay. Homeaway, VRBO and AirBnB are the largest 3. However, there are plenty of Millenials that will first search for hostels in a location. More popular in Europe and Australia, hostels are growing in number in the U.S. and offer a budget hotel for travelers. They have private or public bunkrooms with shared bathrooms that allow guests to socialize and share information. Like a living form of Facebook, guests will often compare notes on where they’ve been, what restaurants they like nearby the accommodations.

For you to compete with this kind of social vacation, you need to prove that your vacation rentals offer easy access to great things to do and places to see. Highlight the privacy of your vacation rental because not everyone wants to share their personal space with a dozen strangers. And every so often, a Millennial traveler will pay extra for lodging just to experience a sense of the “high life.”

Here are the most important features for Millennials:

  1. Highspeed WiFi – they need to post about their trip and constantly look up directions, restaurant hours, etc.
  2. Homes With Charm – they want a unique space that is something to write home about
  3. A Touch of Luxury – not all Millennials, but some, want to live it up on vacation and that’s worth paying extra for if they get crazy cool amenities. Feature accommodations with stylish decor and interesting features on social media to get their attention.

Building Relationship – Building Trust

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*What Do Your Reviews Say?*

“Millennials also put greater trust into the opinions of their peers, frequently consulting crowd-sourced review sites before booking.” – MDG advertising ebook So not only are they asking their friends what is good, but they are actively looking for reviews and guest testimonials.

The negative is that a property manager for a vacation rental is going to continuously monitor their online reviews. No one expects to find 100% glowing reviews of a vacation rental. It never happens, and it never will. But when you have anything below a 70/30 approval rating through online reviews, those Millennials will instantly distrust you.

You can redeem yourself by responding to every negative review on your website, social media, and OTA sites. Yelp (on an interesting note) does not seem to matter that much to the younger generation. When someone hammers you because they had a bad experience, you can show empathy and grace when apologizing and offering a level-headed explanation.

Prove that you are a compassionate human being that doesn’t deserve the bad press, and the Millennials will join your side. Give them a warm and friendly experience with your staff and they are your best friends for life.

*Using Email to Build a Relationship*

Travelers like to book. They get an endorphin high when that confirmation email comes in the inbox and the trip date is set. It’s the same reaction a person gets to a dozen likes to a Facebook post. Play to that sense of fun and enjoyment during the process of wooing travelers to come stay with you.

Send them updates through your email newsletter. For instance, if they have booked and their trip is coming up – send a quick email with a picture and caption, “Can’t wait to see you in 10 days!”

Did your guest stay with you a few months ago? Send them a, “How have you been? We hope to have you stay with us again soon,” email.
Use informal language. They stayed in your vacation rental, that practically makes you best friends right? Don’t spam their email inbox, but use words and images to remind them that they enjoyed their stay with your business. The loyalty of the millennial generation runs deep.

*Phone Reservations*

They will not call you. Millennials don’t even like picking up the phone to order pizza. If you are a “reservation by phone only” business, you are guaranteed to lose most of the Millennials that look your way. Your website must offer an easy vacation rental booking option.

“Modern travelers don’t want to hunt down a 1-800 number, fight through a sprawling phone tree, and spend hours on hold. Some organizations, including Hyatt Hotels, use Facebook Messenger to answer customer questions, while others rely on chatbots, using artificial intelligence, to simulate instant online chats.” – RootsRated Media

What is a chat box? It appears at the bottom of the screen when a visitor enters your site. This allows for a personal connection and immediate answers to questions. Millennials don’t have time to waste. They want a trip and they don’t want to spend even a minute longer than necessary trying to locate a great place to stay.

“My millennial clients want our communications to be clean and simple. Things like texting, social media and emails are more important to most of my clients.” – Tyler Diehl, CEO of Zapdog Travel in Beverly Hills