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Travel Meets Tech: How the Industry Is Digitally Catering to Young Travelers

To cater to the next generation of travelers, the travel industry is tapping into the latest tech advancements…

Millennials want to get away. When we asked 18-34-year-olds the kinds of entertainment they spend on in an average month, 41% said travel/vacations, and we consistently see that when given the choice between travel and physical belongings, the majority will pick the escape. A recent study by Airbnb revealed that 56% of 18-35-year-olds from the U.S. are spending more on travel this year than last, and even placed getting away above purchasing a home in their list of priorities. Our holiday wishlist roundup also echoes their desire, with travel coming in second after money as the one item 13-34-year-olds wanted most for the gift-giving season.

Their wanderlust has been increasingly pushing the travel industry into high gear to cater to this next generation of travelers—something we’ve kept tabs on for years. We’ve seen chains remodel their locations, begin to focus on incorporating local culture, create social experience marketing, offer exclusive events, create Millennialized spin-off brands, and more. But now that free WiFi and touchscreen check-in are par for the course, we’re seeing travel brands experiment with more and more advanced technology to impress Millennial travelers. Convenience is always key for young consumers, and there probably isn’t an experience more in need of seamless solutions than travel, which is why, according to New York Times, traditional hotel chains are targeting young travelers through “customized experiences, digital convenience, and relevant information on social media.” Digital also plays a role in hooking in Millennial travelers before they even book their tickets: creative agency Blitz revealed that 84% plan trips based on someone else’s social media pictures and updates.  

Here is roundup of a few of the latest tech-forward tactics the travel industry has taken up to help Millennials get away:

Hotels Go High-Tech  

Marriott International may not be a young brand, but it’s definitely not letting the young traveler slip from their hands—which is why they’ve gone all in on tech to provide a seamless experience. Recently, the company hosted a pop-up innovation lab to showcase the new food and beverage concepts being considered for their hotel brands. One example: a drink cart that dispenses a glass of complimentary wine outside of a guest’s hotel room with just a wave of a room key. The innovation is being considered for their Element Hotel, but it’s the brand’s Aloft hotels that are already leading the way for tech-forward lodging. Their Boston and Santa Clara locations are experimenting with voice-activated smart rooms that lets visitors control room temperature, lighting and more, and at their Cupertino location you’ll find a robot butler.

Las Vegas lodgings have also experienced a “sudden rash of…amenities and attractions aimed squarely at a Millennial audience.” Wynn Las Vegas put Amazon Echos in all of their 4,748 hotel rooms—making it a ‘worldwide industry first’— and Caesars has gone even more high-tech with Las Vegas’s first VR bar, the Oculus Virtual Reality Lounge. Then there’s the city’s newest ‘mega-casino’ hotel, Resorts World, expected to open in 2019 with a “celestial sphere” that will broadcast guests’ selfie images.

Virtual Reality Lets You Try Before You Buy

Along with showing off scenic views on social media, travel and tourism companies are tapping into 360-degree videos to let young consumers try before they buy. Recently, the Tourism Authority of Thailand released 360-degree videos of their elephant sanctuary near Chiang Mai and the Khao Luang Cave in effort to “appeal to the senses of consumers.” Carnival Cruise Line took a similar approach when they brought on YouTube celeb Zach King to promote their new Carnival Vista ship, creating a 360-degree video where viewers can choose to follow King on his tour or explore spaces on their own. According to one expert, ads are no longer cutting it in travel marketing, and instead creating an experience should be the focus.

Attack of the Travel Bots

“There’s an app for that” is being replaced with “there’s a bot for that.” More and more brands are turning to chatbots to boost customer service, and the travel industry is no exception. From offering hotel recommendations to letting users book trips to giving activity ideas, travel-related bots can be the perfect companion for the Millennial traveler, with well-known travel services like Expedia, Kayak, and Skyscanner already on board. SnapTravel, a bot on Facebook Messenger and Slack, scans through hotels based on brand preference and budgets—even surfacing “secret deals” of their own—and pulls up photos, links, and booking options. The Pana bot takes a similar approach, but its “concierge” plan comes with a price tag of $49 per month. Users can chat through the app with travel agents to plan trips, and a virtual travel agent can check them into flights and recommend restaurants and activities in their destination city. 

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.