How has aviation shaped a generation?


Working, studying and partying abroad has never been easier, and it’s been Millennials who have benefited the most from this.

For much of my work, I tend to look at the travel industry and consider the way it is changing (though perhaps not as quickly as it should) to adapt to consumer trends, especially those led by the Millennial generation.

The air transport industry is certainly having to adapt, especially when it comes to the way it engages with consumers through marketing and customer service.

easyJet A319

Recently however, I received an invitation from the Air Travel Action Group (ATAG) – an industry association representing the world’s major aircraft manufacturers and airlines – to look at things from a different perspective. They wanted me to help answer the question: “how has aviation shaped the Millennial generation?”.

After all, over the past two decades, Millennials have been the first generation to

witness the arrival of ticket-less travel, the boom of low-co

st airlines and the simplification of travel formalities, as countries around the world have taken great steps towards removing visa requirements and passport checks. Air travel has certainly become a lot more affordable, completely altering Millennials’ approach to studying, working and of course, partying overseas. This has been

captured with much success and rolled out across Europe in easyJet’s recent tagline ‘Generation easyJet‘. Meanwhile, the boom in low-cost airlines across Southeast Asia has given many consumers (predominantly Millennials) their first taste of international travel. To these young consumers, airlines such as AirAsia aren’t only about transport – they’ve quickly become a lifestyle brand too, offering many other branded products and consumer services (something I’ve written about before on my own blog Gen C Traveller).

However, while all these things have helped to shape Millennials’ attitudes towards global mobility, looking ahead, the picture isn’t necessarily so rosy. In fact, I believe that in the future the air transport industry faces major challenges in connecting with this generation, both as customers and employees.

Today, air transport is becoming more about getting from A to B than from having an exclusive experience, yet that’s what Millennials will spend their money on, if they feel it’s worth it. With tough schedules and long hours, air transport could struggle to meet the expectations of Millennial employees who look more for compassion and flexibility from their employers.


All of this, and more is set out in a two-page article in ATAG’s annual report Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders which was released recently in New York and has already hit the headlines. It’s available for free direct download here (see pages 69-71). 

Meanwhile, if you’d like some practical tips on marketing to Millennials, check out thefree guide I produced with my colleagues at Toposophy.

This post originally appeared on the Toposophy Insights blog. Take a look

Defining Millennials


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:What is Gen C?

‘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

In future posts I’ll be discussing the approaches that travel brands have made towards targeting the Millennial consumer and asking how effective they are at appealing to the masses of Millennial consumers out there.

Is the ‘millennial’ dead?


Today Voxburner, the UK-based agency that reports on young consumer travelRIP trends sets out its case for abandoning the term ‘millennials’ to refer to the 16-24 demographic.

You can read the full article here but their call to the marketing industry goes as follows:

  1. No-one knows who you they’re talking about – Are we talking about early teens, late teens, or those in early adulthood?
  2. The millennial age range is now ridiculous – It is now too broad to be meaningful since the consumer decisions of a school leaver will be very different to someone who’s starting to have kids and search for a mortgage.
  3. Millennials are indistinguishable – No proper age limit appears to have been set for this age group, and besides, observations about the age group have become too contradictory (community-driven people with a civic outlook or self-obsessed generation-me?).  Perhaps it’s better to give up now, and wait for Gen Z to reach late teens?

The article ends: ‘we believe there is still a case for age segmentation, when you are able to identify concerns, interests and habits that uniquely belong to one age group and not another. But not when that age group is so ever-growing and broad-stretching. It’s time to stop this millennial madness.’

My take

Pigeon-holing consumers is the most efficient way that marketers can find to target specific groups, and the label ‘millennials’ has stuck particularly well to this age group, making it sound way more futuristic and sophisticated than plain old ‘Gen Y’ or the woolly term ‘youth’. Using the term ‘millennials’ anchors this age group to a particular historical period; those who became independent consumers (ie. teens) after the year 2000.

Having said that, anyone who knows anything about young consumers will know that young peoples’  tastes in music, clothing and means of communication can change within the space of weeks, let alone years. Therefore the argument that there is little that binds millennials together in the same age bracket does hold some weight.

At the same time, perhaps the age group is better defined less as what it is, as what it’s not? Sixteen year olds do currently have more in common with 34 year olds (but less in common with 40 year olds) when it comes to avid use of social media and attitudes towards collaborative consumption. In the end, the consumption habits of millennials’ children is what will make millennials seem passé and their offspring more exciting as a consumer group.

How to Attract the Millennial Hotel Guest


“Millennials,” the group covering those with birth years ranging from 1977 to 1995 and presents a dynamic opportunity for hotels to attract and retain a booming market that already represents one third of all hotel guests.

The two biggest questions for hotels are: How do you market to Gen Y? And, once you get them through the lobby doors, how do you meet or exceed their expectations?

When it comes to marketing strategies, Millenials are far more likely to take hotel advice from their peers than from traditional marketing channels. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are essential to capturing this demographic.

Does your hotel have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to market to Gen Y. More likely than any other demographic to Tweet from check-in to check-out, encourage Gen Y guests to connect with you during their stay and share their travel experience with their circle of friends. When guests log-on to the hotel Wi-Fi, your splash screen should prominently feature your social media channels.

So what does Gen Y really want in a hotel? According to consultants “Y Partnership” this new generation of travelers expects:

  • Free Internet
  • Casual food available 24 hours
  • Self-service check-in/out
  • Hotels with individual personality and a distinctive ‘sense of place’
  • Multi-use lobbies that encourage guests to socialise

Read the full article from here

My take:

So many accommodation providers still see Wifi as a lucrative revenue stream as opposed to a necessary free service. As the Skift article explains, tech-dependent young travellers won’t just expect Wifi for free, they’ll expect it to work seamlessly throughout the hotel on multiple devices at the same time. It’s surprising how many hotel and hostel chains still haven’t cottonned onto this fact yet. Avoid leaving your guests sitting in the street outside local coffee shops after dark, surfing off free wifi by offering it in-house and make up the revenue elsewhere in the bar or café.

You can also avoid competing with local eateries offering free wifi at all hours by offering your own ‘casual food’ 24 hours. This doesn’t mean employing a Michelin-starred chef throughout the night, it just means having casual snacks available when travellers who have the late-night munchies actually want them.

This ties in neatly with the use of social spaces. Chains like Generator Hostels and Meininger Hotels have understood this trend well and are applying it with imaginative effect, providing large open spaces for guests to play pool, computer games, strum a guitar or chat. Gen C might be connected 24/7 but that doesn’t mean they want to hide out in their hotel room!

Of all the recommendations, I think it’s the need to offer a ‘sense of place’ that is driving the most fascinating changes in hotel management and marketing in recent years. For decades, driven by the demands of the US hotel guest seeking familiarity in foreign climes, hotel chains went on a relentless march of installing the same plastic interiors and identikit menus. Today, hostels best placed to attract the young authentic experience-seeking traveller will offer local food, local music, art, drama, crafts and a whole host of other means of connecting the traveller to the destination before he/she’s even stepped out of the front door.

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