Felicity Long
Felicity Long

InsightAs Freud might have asked if he were a travel agent, what do millennials want?

A lot of them want Europe. Surprising, because for years the conventional wisdom has been that newly retired baby boomers – those with money to spend and the time to spend it - were Europe’s key travel market.

But according to several new studies, that is changing.

In MMGY Global’s 2014 Portrait of American Travelers, 50% of millennial respondents reported an interest in visiting Europe in the next two years, compared to 48% of boomers.

MMGY defines millennials as those born from 1980 and 2000, but for this survey, they did not include anyone under 18. They consider boomers to be those born between 1946 and 1964.FelicityLong

This shift toward younger travelers is important for agents not only because it represents a different target market, but also because millennials’ planning, booking and sharing habits are significantly different from those of other travelers, according to the study.

For one thing, millennials love the Internet, and their comfort level with online shopping distinguishes this group from boomers and other generations in several key ways. Millennnials are more likely than other generations to consider search engine results, to use destination websites, to consider using an online travel agent and to use collective buying websites like Groupon when planning travel.

They are also more likely than boomers to consult family and friends when selecting a travel service provider, and much of that consulting takes place via social media, according to a study recently released by Chase Card Services. The study showed that a whopping 97% of millennials post on social networks and share experiences with friends while traveling, and three in four do so as often as once a day.

Another key factor regarding Millennial travel is money and the willingness to spend it.

"Millennials are using … more of their discretionary income [than other generations] on travel, including travel to Europe,” said Steve Cohen, vice president of Insights at MMGY Global. “[They] are the driving force behind the U.S. travel industry recovery. Their travel spending is up a remarkable 20% over last year, dwarfing the average year-over-year gain of 12% for all U.S. households. This surge in Millennial spending is far and away the biggest year-over-year spike since pre-recession years.”

The Chase Card Services study bolsters these findings, reporting that millennials, more than older travelers, are likely to seek out hotels with luxury services such as dry cleaning, massage or spa services and pampering pet friendliness.

The Chase survey also shows that when traveling for business, four in five millennials will tack on a vacation to the trip, according to Sisy Vicente, general manager, Chase Card Services.

“[They] are a tech savvy generation that values social connections, convenience and opportunities to indulge in luxuries," Vicente said.

So where in Europe do millennials want to go?

According to TripAdvisor’s 2014 TripBarometer survey of the top 10 destinations millennials are most likely to go in 2014, five European destinations made the list. Italy came in at No. 3, behind the U.S. and Japan, followed by the UK, France, Spain and Germany at Nos. 4, 5, 8 and 9, respectively. Thailand, China and Indonesia made the list at Nos. 6, 7 and 10.

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