Millenials - those born after 1980 – have a travel behaviour that differs substantially from the rest of other travellers, as a recently published study by the online travel agency Expedia confirms. Thus, a closer look at the patterns and trends within this rising segment, provides us a better understanding of some changes that the travel sector will face in future. One of the key differences between the millennials and older demographics lies in their much higher readiness to make last-minute changes to their travel planning, by using mobile devices (Tnooz 2013). Expedia’s study found that the 24% millennials have made changes to a trip while being already on the trip, by using their smartphones. In contrast in the age range of 46 to 64 year olds, only 13% have made such changes on-the-go. This is only the beginning of a trend towards increased flexibility, rapidly changing travel planning and dynamic demand patterns, as:
1) most travellers, but in particular millennials own a smartphone (//bit.ly/yeluvd);
2) the smartphone becomes the remote control of our life; and
3) abolition of roaming charges makes internet usage while travelling abroad affordable for the masses (//bbc.in/1aDPp14)
Expedia UK & Ireland Managing Director Andy Washington stated in a recent interview with tnooz.com that millenials are “mobile and on the go, and [they] like the flexibility of eleventh-hour planning.” Expedia’s numbers of the “Traveler Preference Program” – a program allowing a customer to pay at time of booking at Expedia or when they arrive at the hotel – clearly confirm the trend: 43% of millennial prefer to pay at the hotel directly, as opposed to 20% other Expedia customers.
Accommodating new needs through latest digital technologies
Providing different payment options is merely the beginning of Expedia’s initiatives to meet the rising demand for more flexible travelling. While in the past, delivery of the payment confirmation and reservation statements would be the last touch point between Expedia and its customers; the company is working on innovative solutions to extend customer communication beyond the pre-purchase phase. by developing an app for the much anticipated release of Google Glass. The app could than help a customer navigate within an airport to their gate of departure or from the airport to the hotel. This would provide companies such as Expedia to interact with customers in real-time, and thereby offering new opportunities accommodate the increased needs for flexibility through upselling extra services.
New challenges lie ahead
The Expedia case exemplifies how companies in the travel sector are faced with new challenges and opportunities due to the proliferation of millennial travellers. Against this background incorporating new technologies into the customer journey will be critical in order to remain the competitive edge.
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