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Millennials will drive tourism growth this year

By Hills Balfour, the London office of MMGY Global 

New research study Portrait of UK Travellers shows that Millennials will drive overall tourism growth for 2019 and have the most positive outlook on Brexit’s impact on travel 

Findings also reveal what influence children have on holiday decisions; which generation is most likely to travel overseas; and the impact of social media on holiday decisions

Adult travellers aged under 40 intend to take 41 percent more holidays in 2019 (an extra two holidays per year on average) and additionally ramp up their holiday spend by 20% in the next 12 months, according to a new study.

Portrait of UK Travellers™ is compiled by MMGY Global, the world’s largest integrated tourism marketing organisation, and looks at the holiday motivations, preferences and behaviours of the 13.4 million travelling households in the UK. Research was carried out in January and February 2019.

Over 2,000 active leisure travellers participated in a 25-minute online survey and their responses were analysed across three generational bands – Millennials (aged 18-39 in 2018); Xers (aged 40-53 in 2018) and Boomers (aged 54-72 in 2018).

Some of the behaviours most prominent amongst Millennial respondents followed logic – for instance that they are far more vested in social media than their older counterparts – but other, more surprising, results were also revealed. For instance:

  • Whilst only one in ten Millennials had taken a cruise holiday in the past year, more than half expressed an interest in going on a cruise in the next two years – the strongest level of intent across any of the age brackets
  • Staycations are more popular with Millennials than with Xers or Boomers – domestic holidays will account for around half of their intended trips
  • Almost half of Millennials booked at least one holiday with a travel agent in the past 12 months – compared to just over a quarter of Xers and Boomers
  • Whilst two thirds of Millennials believe Brexit will have an impact on holidays, this generation demonstrates the most optimistic outlook, with the majority believing the impact on passport control queues, GBP exchange rates and airline fares would be more positive than negative. This was in direct contrast to the predictions of the over-40s
  • Nearly a quarter of Millennials have made a travel purchase based at least partially on a post by a social media influencer or celebrity

Despite this buoyancy around Millennials, travel businesses should not remove focus from the over-40s, since they still lead the way in a number of areas. The desire to experience different cultures is strongest amongst the Boomer generation when it comes to motivations for going on holiday. The Boomers and Xers show the most interest in visiting historic houses and gardens, museums, botanical gardens and vineyards; and whilst Millennials favour dining options that are new or notable in some way, the Boomers are the generation most keen to sample the authentic food eaten by locals.

Even more significantly, more Xers and Boomers than Millennials are planning longer, international holidays. Two thirds of future holidays planned by Xers will be overseas and last at least five days, with Boomers not far behind. Only half of the trips Millennials intend to take will fulfil the same parameters.

Family travel was another area the research looked into. Family travel accounts for around a quarter of the trips taken by UK travellers, with Xers the most likely to travel with children. When it comes to decision making, it seems that kids have the upper hand – at least two-thirds said children influenced their destination and hotel choices and four in five said they also influenced the planning of daily activities.

“Portrait of UK Travellers™ provides a comprehensive and up-to-date insight into the decision-making process of the UK traveller – something that’s incredibly valuable to travel marketers wanting to understand how and when they can best engage with their target demographic in a precise and focussed way,” says Amanda Hills, President Hills Balfour, Europe and Middle East. “The research proves that UK travellers of all ages consider holidays as an essential investment into their quality of life; and the situation is particularly bright when we look at the youngest group of travellers surveyed – those with the most travelling years ahead of them. Millennials show more enthusiasm and more diversity when it comes to their reasons for travelling, the destinations they want to visit, the activities they want to incorporate – even the companies they want to travel with – than their older counterparts. The outlook is optimistic and the opportunities are ripe for travel businesses and destinations ready to act on them.”

In addition to the topics outlined above, Portrait of UK Travellers™ examines:

  • The motivating factors for taking holidays and the most popular activities for each generation whilst on holiday
  • The most popular UK and international destinations for UK travellers
  • Preferred travel brands, including hotels, airlines and cruise companies
  • The influence levels travel agents have on different elements of a holiday booking
  • The typical composition of travel parties for each generation (solo vs couple vs family)
  • The factors influencing hotel choices
  • Membership levels of hotel and airline loyalty programmes
  • A more in-depth look at the factors UK travellers believe will be affected by Brexit