When I’m not blogging, I am usually at my other job where I pour foamed milk over oakwood-roasted espresso shots. People tell me I, a 20-something, lead a pretty common 20-something millennial lifestyle. At my café, a place on a corner in a pretty residential area, we serve a conspicuously Baby-Boomer and Generation X crowd. I know almost all of our regulars by name and can start making their drinks as soon as they walk in the door.
Most of the local high schools are nearing the end of spring break. So while everyone’s away on vacation, business has been a little slow. I am really excited for regulars to come back and order their “usual”.
“I’ll have my usual,” the phrase and the concept, is a generational difference my peers have probably seen on television and even have a sweet nostalgia for, and yet they can’t imagine it as a real occurrence. It surprised me at first. I change my mind so often that my cravings really depend on the day. Routine enables many good behaviors but I prefer a few things to remain unexpected.
I used to think generational differences about travel were purely imagined, that the millennial way to go on a vacation was a sensationalist hoax cooked up by the media. That is, until Single Shot Sugar-Free Vanilla Latte With Nutmeg got back from her vacation to Mexico.
Let’s call her Daisy Tangley. Daisy’s travel agent booked her family a week at an all-inclusive resort on the beach in Mexico. What this means, she explained, all the drinks, food, her son’s surf lessons, snacks whenever, 24-hour room service, what have you, all of that was already paid for. All the resort employees knew her as Mrs. Tangley, and they greeted her in the hallways. (“Hello, Mrs. Tangley.” and “How’s your afternoon, Mrs. Tangley?”). Maids cleaned her hotel room twice each day (“Your room is clean now, Mrs. Tangley.”). To most people, this sounds like the ultimate getaway. Complete relaxation in a beautiful location with freedom from cleaning and cooking. I told her I was really impressed by her trip. And to a point, I was. I love the beach and surfing sounds like fun, but I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. And then I reflected on it more: why did that trip sound like the opposite of relaxation?
The attention Daisy received, to me at least, seemed wildly unnecessary. Tiresome, even. “OMG, leave me alone,” I imagined a version of myself saying.
What follows is my reflection on travelling and being a millennial. At the heart of it though, it really comes down to having a stellar online presence and customer service that feels authentic.
Let’s Begin With Online Presences
When I go on vacation, I like the feeling of discovering something myself. That was the first thing that deterred me from the Tangley Family’s packaged deal. From the lodging where I sleep to the beach where I hang out to the mountain I hike, I make use of all the internet content out there to provide recommended adventures.
I often worry there is a negative connotation to the word “millennial,” that we are selfish or demanding or too involved with our cell phones. When I think about my peers, however, I see us wanting to discover something new. On Pinterest, for instance, one “discovers and saves” a bulletin board of their favorite things. Or on StumbleUpon, users go out “exploring” the internet based on certain search criteria.
This preference for building our own adventure helps explain why the travel industry is changing so dramatically from hotels to vacation rental homes. While this new way of lodging is often more affordable and convenient, what it promises even more is to be unique, unusual.
Millennials planning their travels are really judging places by their online presence. Being on Facebook—it’s kinda stopped being an option and is a requirement now. The debate goes on about whether you need a professional website in addition to your social media platforms and online listing pages. To jump in though, OneRooftop has enabled many small businesses to develop their own brand and establish independence by building up their online presence simply with having a website.
Knowing What Kind of Customer Service to Provide
OK. Remember Daisy?
The other part of her story that deterred me was the very attentive hotel staff. The renowned author David Foster Wallace once wrote an essay about his sojourn on a luxury cruise line entitled, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” Throughout the vacation, the same predacious maid continually asks if she can clear Wallace’s dishes before he has finished using them. I think there’s a good moral in that story.
At a certain point, traditional forms of customer service that are attentive on the surface can feel overzealous to the younger traveller.
Being polite is still just as important as before. But consider the paradox of calling me “Mr. Potter” but also charging me for Wi-Fi. Instead, you could provide complimentary Wi-Fi to convey how well you understand the millennial strategy of planning out a day on the fly. This gesture makes a much better impression because it demonstrates your knowledge of customer needs.
Travel Industry is Transitioning. Expect Some Generational Balance.
So if millennials want something more unique in their vacation, where are they staying? The easy answer is that share economy is still growing.
The website Skift.com reports from a survey of 750 American millennials that “only about 10 percent of millennials said yes, they had used a traditional travel agent last year.” However, Skift also notes that most millenials still prefer to stay with family or in a hostel when they do travel, rather than book with Airbnb.
Now that more of the younger millennials are becoming 20-somethings and begin to have more consistent income, home share options are likely to keep gaining speed ahead of the hostel option.
The important thing to mind is that most generations do hope for similar things at their vacation lodging. Some Baby Boomers act like millennials, and the reverse can also be true. Because the industry is changing though, vacation rental professionals should begin to plan so your lodging can properly balance the generations who want to travel.
Matt Potter resides in the Bay Area and is the Content and Community Manager at OneRooftop.