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September 16, 2016

Cracking the Millennial Travel Mindset: Surprising Insights on Attitudes and Behaviours

As the largest demographic since the boomers, Millennials are influencing the travel industry. According to new data released from The American Express Future of Travel and the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, Millennials are more optimistic and plan to travel more frequently (52.8% Millennials vs. 32.1% Boomers) in the next five years and spend more on travel than boomers (58% Millennials vs. 41.3% Boomers) in the same timeframe. There are similarities too. The survey data shows both Millennials and more mature demographics share an appreciation of high-touch, human interactions, with 89% of Millennials reporting that the value of personal service cannot be replaced.

"One thing is clear, people, regardless of their age and the cost of travel, place a high value on personalized service in their travel experience," said Claire Bennett, Executive Vice President, American Express Travel, while speaking July 26 at #NoFilter: Millennial Perception vs. Reality, the first American Express Travel Salon, a series of conversations the company plans to host relevant to the travel industry.

The Salon, which featured a panel moderated by Bennett, was designed to discuss and debunk the myths surrounding Millennials and travel.

Here are four travel topics and corresponding data presented at the Salon that appear to discredit accepted millennial myths:

Opting Out of Traditional Travel Help
The most notorious myth: Millennials won't use a travel agent. Yet, Millennials give travel agents an "A," with 92.4% of those who have used a travel agent in the past five years reporting it enhanced their travel experience. Additionally, nearly 60% of Millennials agree they would pay more for an agent's expertise. "Led by Millennials, travelers are beginning to articulate a vision of high-touch and high-tech service and the industry is watching," Bennett said.

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree
There's an assumption that Millennials have different travel needs than their parents, but in many cases, the data suggests that they may be more similar than they like to admit. In fact, according to American Express Travel, 76.3% of Millennials say they prefer to stay in a traditional hotel, nearly equal to boomers, and both agree (46% equally) that enhanced in-room technology is the most appealing hotel trend.

Customization and Cost
There's a dichotomy when it comes to Millennials' travel planning habits. On one hand, the data shows that customization is king, with nearly 70% of Millennials saying they would put in the effort to plan a personalized travel experience vs. purchasing a pre-packaged trip, yet 58.7% of Millennials report that they would choose a package if it were less expensive. Price was not the only consideration when it came to customization. By more than 25 percentage points when compared to Boomers, Millennials surveyed shared they would be willing to let brands use data from their past travel purchases to deliver a more personalized experience.

If They Don't Document, Did it Happen?
While three-quarters of Millennials claim to prefer to live in the moment while traveling and not view experiences through the lens of their phone, the fact is the pressure to post on social media for this group is real. More than half (54.9%) feel that it is their responsibility to post reviews for the benefit of other travelers and more than a quarter (25.8%) feel they spend too much time on social media while traveling. "Previous generations simply did not face this situation," Bennett said. "It is a constant push-pull between connection and taking the time to be present."

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