In order to make products and services appeal to specific groups of consumers, marketers frequently classify consumer groups according to certain characteristics, of which age is a common denominator with labels applied to different generations. Assuming that people start to make independent consumer decisions once they reach their late teenage years as they start to acquire some degree of financial independence, ‘Millennials’ are currently the youngest generation of independent consumers.
Among the first to use the term ‘Millennials’ were William Strauss and Neil Howe, whose 1991 book, Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, was widely recognized for its contribution to the analysis of cohort differences in U.S. history and their potential impact on the future. In Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, published in 2000, Strauss and Howe focused on those born in or after 1982.
Today the Oxford Dictionary neatly describes Millennials as ‘those people reaching young adulthood around the year 2000’ while resource site LiveScience offers the following, more detailed explanation:
‘The term Millennials generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Perhaps the most commonly used birth range for this group is 1982-2000. The Millennial Generation is also known as Generation Y, because it comes after Generation X — those people between the early 1960s and the 1980s. It has also been called the Peter Pan or Boomerang Generation because of the propensity of some to move back in with their parents, perhaps due to economic constraints, and a growing tendency to delay some of the typical adulthood rites of passage like marriage or starting a career’
Descriptions of their behaviour or the phenomena of their time (the predominance of the Internet in daily life, the global economic crisis, the election of President Obama) are never far away when defining Millennials. The Urban Dictionary is much more searing (and funny) when it comes to describing Millennials’ personality traits. Some contest that the ‘Millennial’ is dead as a concept – you can check out more about that theory and my response to it here.
The diagram above takes in the widest definition of the Millennial generation in terms of birth years and ‘consuming years’. These children of Generation X and the grandchildren of the post-WWII generation are already starting to have their own children, and already the labels ‘Gen Z’, followed by ‘Gen Alpha’ are being tentatively applied to these consumer groups of the future.
Travel products and services for the Millennial generation
In the context of travel and tourism, ‘youth travel’ has traditionally been applied to the industry that has built up around the needs of the younger traveller, however it’s not a clear concept to grasp for those looking to cater to a specific generation of consumers who have such game-changing characteristics as this one. For this reason ‘Millennials’ and ‘Gen C’ serve as a particularly useful label for the current generation of young travellers.
Besides, the products and services that have built up to serve young consumers are now being avidly consumed by older generations too, raising questions over the term ‘youth travel’ as an effective label for travel products aimed at this consumer group.
A generation that’s changing the rules of the game
One thing is for certain, and that is that the Millennial a generation comfortable with disrupting the norm. Being the first generation to have grown up in the era of ‘internet everywhere’, Millennials are highly connected, technologically advanced and globally conscious and far more open to trying out new products and concepts than their parents or grandparents ever were.
This is partly why the sharing economy – a phenomenon which is tearing up the rule book for traditional tourism providers in particular – is flourishing as Millennial consumers flock to benefit from the value and convenience it offers for accessing a whole range of products and services.
Travel, tourism and the Millennial generation: learn more