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All marketers know that millennials are a key demographic. This huge potential marketplace of upwardly mobile 18 to 30-somethings is perennially targeted by all businesses due to its commercially active nature. Millennials define most fashionable brands and industry, and as this group gets its hands on more disposable income, so it has come to be incredibly influential in travel and tourism.

In 2015, Skift engaged in a huge survey of Americans in order to establish their travel habits. The global travel industry intelligence organisation went into this process with few preconceptions, yet ultimately a picture emerged which was surprising. The impression garnered by Skift was of a nation of people that are hugely overworked and struggling to free up enough time to take a satisfactory amount of trips and holidays.

The Skift Millennial Study

But although this overall impression is rather depressing for Americans, the millennial demographic does not necessarily correlate with the overall picture. In order to deduce the current travel behaviour of millennials, Skift has begun a new series focused on the demographic, which will surely be of great value to all travel-related companies and destinations.

Of all characteristics of millennials, one perhaps stands out above all others. This group is the mobile-first generation. Millennials typically look to devices such as smartphones and tablets in order to consume media, surf the Internet, and purchase goods and services. This process has been cemented already, but with the release of the Apple Watch expected to have a hugely positive impact on the smartwatch market, the trend may diversify further, and expand, in the near future.

In order to examine and document this important social group more effectively, Skift has recently launched its first ever magazine, “Megatrends Defining Travel in 2015”. Throughout the calendar year, the research organisation intends to carry out a range of consumer surveys at regular intervals, which will probe the travel and tourist habits of this influential American group. The survey will also take a broader approach than last year’s study, as European millennials will also be taken into consideration.

Micro-demographics and Millennials

It is easy to view millennials as one single social grouping, and of course it is always possible to identify broad trends across a wide range of people that could reasonably be described as millennials. But more sophisticated marketing can be achieved if it is acknowledged that millennials are in fact not a one-size-fits-all group, and that nuances and micro-demographics can be identified within the broad millennial group.

With this in mind, Skift intends to examine both the macro and micro picture of the travel habits of millennials, in an attempt to tease out information which has never been acquired before. The greater specificity that a batch of data possesses, the greater usage can be derived from it by travel companies and destinations.

To get this valuable series underway, Skift has asked a question which is coming to define the contemporary holiday booking marketplace; do traditional travel agents still matter? The Digital Tourism Think Tank has reported on this previously, with our article on British habits towards travel agents being published in November last year. This report focused on the fact that millennials in Britain were very much inclined to book travel and tourism via mobile platforms.

Millennials Ditching Travel Agents

This British behaviour was very much reflected in the initial Skift survey. The organisation asked around 750 American millennials whether they had used a travel agent to book any form of travel over the last 12 months. And emphatically, the answer was in the negative. Only around 10 percent of millennials had utilised a traditional travel agent in the last year, while 6 percent had used one in the previous 12 month period. Effectively, this means that around 85 percent of US millennials hadn't used a travel agent over the last two years. One must seriously ponder the question of whether they will ever use one again.

The survey found that younger millennials are still more likely to utilise a travel agent than their older counterparts. Over 13 percent of 18 to 24 year olds had utilised a travel agent in the last 12 months, and this was almost double the same figure from 25 to 34 year olds. But the most likely explanation for this statistical anomaly is that younger millennials are probably less likely to have access to mobile devices, and possibly even the banking and payment services required to make purchases online.

It is perhaps surprising that more males have utilised travel agents in this group than females; 11.1 percent as opposed to 8.8 percent. But with the figures of both genders around 10 percent, it is debatable whether this is really statistically significant. The broader overall trend of millennials booking travel and tourist trips via online platforms should obviously be viewed as more significant.

One important element of the survey to pay heed to, though, is the fact that the richest millennials are in fact utilising traditional travel agents more than any other income bracket. According to the survey carried out by to Skift, one-in-three millennials that earned over $150,000 per annum has used traditional travel agent recently. This is a genuinely interesting and useful statistic, and it does suggest that travel agents can still particularly target and attract wealthy punters.

But the overwhelming picture is of millennials ditching traditional travel agents and moving towards online booking. This would hardly come as a huge surprise, but it is information that all travel companies and destinations should consider extremely important. Particularly as the Digital Tourism Think Tank found in April last year that travel agents are struggling to leverage digital media.

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