What has been, and for many in the tourism industry still remains, a riddle wrapped in an enigma, is the generation dubbed “millennials.” Tourism officials, who once scoffed at a generation for seemingly being glued to their cell phones, have quickly realized not only its buying power, but the fact that millennials are reshaping the industry whether they like it or not.
So, who are millennials, and what makes them different? Age wise, generally they were born around 1980-1999. (They’ve also been called “Generation Y” since they follow “Gen X.”) Behavior wise, considering they’re the first age group to grow up with the Interwebs as a staple of their daily lives, they’re highly connected and tech savvy, which spills over into nearly every part of their lives, including travel.
And as a result of growing up more connected to the world, they tend to be more open to going places and trying new things than their parents or grandparents ever were.
Molly Rawn, the newly appointed executive director of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, says it’s vital moving forward for DMOs (destination management organizations) to keep up with millennial trends, especially how they behave while traveling: where they stay, what they like to do, how they share their experiences, etc.
“Compared to traditional tourists, millennials are very independent, so you can’t just lump them all into a single category and expect them to act the same,” she said. “Variety is key, and that includes the choices you offer, as well as how you reach out to and connect with them.”
Millennials are also the majority of a group being described by companies like Google as “Gen C,” whose main characteristic is being passionate about creation, curation, connection and community.
Rawn said attractions like the Fayetteville Ale Trail, which connects visitors with 10 breweries in Northwest Arkansas that specialize in craft beer, especially resonates with millennials and the Gen C crowd — those that are 21 and older, of course — since it touches on all of those elements.
Along with continuing to invest in digital efforts, Rawn said the Fayetteville A&P works to recognize what matters to millennials.
“The bottom line is that this group is quickly changing the game. To be successful, we need to embrace it and see it as an opportunity to reach millennials who are seeking not only great places to visit but places to have rich experiences.”