Panellists explore preferences of millennials, see mobile and social as keys for travel players

Malek Nejjai

Chief Diversity Officer, Amadeus IT Group

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Many millennial travellers (born after 1980) are already taking trips, but what do they expect from the travel industry? How will they re-shape the entire travel experience and what will the business model look like by 2025? What investments should the industry make today to ensure future growth? These were a few of the questions examined at The Economist’s Future of Travel panel discussion entitled ‘Inspiring the new explorer generation of travellers’.


‘Inspiring the new explorer generation of travellers’ panel

The panel kicked off with a compelling opening by Facebook’s Lee McCabe, Global Head of Travel, Education and Consumer Services. Lee explained how Facebook is today’s prime communication tool and THE platform to share travel experiences. According to Facebook data, 70% of travellers update their Facebook status and share information and pictures of their trips. He also said that the ‘wisdom of friends’ played an important role in trip planning.

App development should be a focus

Lee shared the excitement of his experience using Oculus Rift, which is revolutionising the gaming and entertainment industry and how this technology could be used in the travel industry as a research tool for experiencing a destinationbefore actually taking a trip. However, for Facebook, the future is about mobile and apps: “we have to move away from the world of the web to the world of apps.” Lee firmly believes that today, travel companies should be focusing on app development and that no matter what device prevails in the future, “apps will become a key utility.”

To further debate, Lee was then joined by Louis Cole who describes himself as an adventurer and film maker for FunForLouis vlogs. Louis actively shares his life and experiences on YouTube as he travels the world seeking new cultures and listening to the stories of the people he meets. According to Louis, real-time video is the best social media platform to transmit genuine experiences and young generations prefer pictures and videos to text. Cole is convinced that “the future is heading towards video” as a way to share experiences and memories and that tourism destination providers have to change their marketing approach to reach this next generation of travellers. He is convinced that videos are the best medium in which to support brands, destinations and travel in general.

Allister Hann, CTO of Skyscanner, then shed some light on the new generation of travellers who “consume travel in the same way as they live and for whom travel is a social experience” that has to be shared in order to connect to the “tribe“ that they belong to. No matter what platform the future brings, “travel search has to be made easy” and the travel experience has to be the only objective.

Facebook's Lee McCabe, Global Head of Travel, Education and Consumer Services
Facebook's Lee McCabe, Global Head of Travel, Education and Consumer Services


The differences with millennials

Bart van Poll, co-founder ofSpotted by Locals, joined the panel to talk about how he started his own travel guide after experiencing too many frustrations with unoriginal, impersonal and outdated recommendations in touristy travel guides and online. Spotted by Locals consist of a series of apps and blogs with up-to-date tips by locals in close to 60 cities in Europe and the US. Bart mentioned that actually, “in 2015, Millennials might not even visit the Eiffel Tower when travelling to Paris!“ He added that Millennials go abroad much more than previous generations, they keep in touch through social media while travelling, and that the line between business and leisure travel is getting more and more blurred. Finally, he said millennials want to feel like locals when they travel as they see this as a “way of life”. Bart urges the travel industry to adapt to the new requirements of millennial travellers and use the right channels and means to meet their expectations. For Spotted by Locals, millennials and the travel and tourism industry have to build links with local providers and not so much with big corporations like “Starbucks, who makes all cities look the same”.

Lee McCabe from Facebook closed the panel stating that the future of travel is about;

  • Connection, i.e. the devices that will be used
  • Context , i.e. personalisation where big data is key in knowing who to target and with what type of offer
  • Convenience, i.e. “when I transact, make it easy for me”


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