The next generation of travelers is a topic that always sparks interest in the travel an tourism community. Numerous studies and reports have been conducted on the preferences, buying behaviour and information search patterns of the Millenials, Generation Y or the Digital Natives. Of particular interest to tourism marketers is the usage of social media channels of this demographic group. A recent study by iInvestmentbanking firm PiperJaffray provides an intersting insight. The report suggests that teenagers are turning away from Facebook and choose Twitter and Instagram as the primary social network instead (Tnooz, 2013).
SHIFT AWAY FROM FACEBOOK
Although teenagers most likely do not purchase travel at the moment themselves, it provides an interesting insights into the next generation of travellers. In general it takes 3 - 5 years for consumers to shift resources from one social network into another. People begin to invest time in building profiles and filing them progressively with content. At the same time they are reluctant to abandon content repositories that they have built up over years. This is a guarantee that Facebook will not fade into obscurity in the near future.
However, as Twitter and Instagram are becoming the drivers of teens’ social networking activities, it means that within 3-5 years – when they graduate and start purchasing travel – these online networks become the main channels for communication.
NEXTGEN WANT "SOMETHING DIFFERENT"
Social networks like Instagram that centre on visual experiences will become increasingly important for raising consumers’ awareness and providing travel inspiration,. NextGen travelers seek unique experiences and information that deliver “something different”. Amadeus’ (2013) latest consumer study Trending with NextGen travellers confirms that authenticity, co-creation and unique inspiration are amongst the key trends for future tourists. Image based networks like Instagram that provide unique, visual insights into potential travel destinations and are created by consumers rather than marketers, will be a channel in the marketing funnel to be reckoned with, as they serve the above highlighted needs of young travellers best.
IMPLICATIONS FOR STRATEGIC MARKETING
The highlighted studies show that social media is under constant development and firms need to closely monitor the situation to serve customer on the channels of their choice. For travel and tourism firms it is also important to not only tailor their marketing activities to specific channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc), but also to address the wider strategic implications of embracing social media for marketing. Only if organizational strategies are aligned with the requirements of social media in general (flexibility, agility, appropriate staff empowerment structures, staff incentives, etc) will companies be able to quickly adapt themselves to emerging channels and the most recent developments in the social sphere.
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