A few weeks ago I was lucky to be invited to speak at the The Economist Future of Travel congress in Madrid (read about my impressions of the day here). Quite a few people have asked us what I talked about exactly.
Here’s my 5 minute “pitch” about the topic “The Future of Travel for millennials”:
I think there is a good chance that in 2025 the Eiffel Tower will no longer be considered a tourist highlight by millennials. For the future of the planet and the travel industry, I hope this prediction comes true.
Of course I will explain, and I hope we can get a nice discussion going about this today!
As Dr. Rifai of the UNWTO reminded us this morning we can expect 1.8 billion international tourist arrivals in 15 years time, versus 1 billion a few years ago. That’s a huge change.
I live in Amsterdam, which is very small and a very popular tourist destination. Many fellow Amsterdam locals are genuinely scared our city is slowly being taken over by tourists and that we are pushed out of the city center to make room for accommodation.
I think it will not come to that, because the new generation of travelers will save us from this horror scenario.
Millennials spend much more time abroad than our parent’s generation did. Almost every young student goes abroad for at least a semester during their studies. They make friends all over the world, and keep in touch on a daily basis via social media. That’s something we could not have imagined 20 years ago, and quite amazing!
When my parents’ generation goes abroad, they go on holiday. For our generation, the line between traveling for pleasure or work is increasingly blurry.
As a citizen of the European Union, I can live and work almost anywhere in the world. That’s really an amazing opportunity, and like many millennials I take full advantage. For the last 7 years I’ve traveled at least 6 months a year. In 2015 I will be away the entire year.
There’s nothing I love more than traveling, but I can imagine it’s not as special as it was for people 20 years ago. For millennials traveling is a way of life. They don’t feel like a tourist and they don’t want to be seen as one. I’m maybe a bit of an extreme example, but when I travel to a destination, even the first time I go, I usually skip all the highlights altogether.
I think we as a travel industry have not adapted to this new reality. But we should.
Tourist boards, airlines & hotels mostly promote big tourist highlights, because they pay them to advertise them. I understand why, but it doesn’t work because it is not what young travellers are interested in.
So don’t give millennials a map with shopping malls & tourist highlights, but help them experience a destination like a local! This will attract a much more interesting type of tourist. It will also spread tourists around in a city, and will save many destinations from becoming “touristy”.
Lastly, I think the companies in the travel industry can really help by partnering with locally owned businesses instead of big multinationals, to make a stance against companies like Starbucks who are slowly trying to make every city of the planet look the same.
Millennials won’t let this happen, but the travel industry can help make a change. It’s better for the world, and also for them in the end. I’d love to hear what everybody thinks about this!