Where Next For Travel Promotion Trends and Millennials?

 We look at the millennial obsession with travel and what you need to do to make sure you’re ahead of latest travel promotion trends.

Ah the millennial dream. Is it to own a house? Or is it to pay off the massive debt that this generation has been saddled with since university fees were introduced? You could put your answers on a postcard, but nobody seems to sell them anymore. But really, it’s neither of these things, as we’ve been finding out.  

Millennials’ highest financial priority is to travel according to market research institute, GfK. Incredibly, this age group is spending around £150bn globally on tourism each year.

Not bad for a generation that’s meant to be sat at home stockpiling the pennies so they can one day do all the things that older generations took for granted.

Yet new reports suggest that millennials are resigned to being ‘generation rent’ and that gives them the leeway to place travel as a lifestyle necessity rather than a luxury. We’re not exactly surprised by this – I mean, isn’t it the proviso of the young to explore the world and discover new things with zesty enthusiasm and wild abandon? So far, so normal, right?

For marketers however, it reveals a world of opportunity for those willing to put travel promotions at the heart of their next targeted promotional activities. And as the ‘2018 Sodexo UK Exploring Travel survey reveals, what’s interesting is, it won’t just be millennials whose heads are turned.

The question now is, how best to go about it?


it comes to marketing to millennials, we all know that experience is king. But now it seems that other generations want a slice of experiential action too.

It’s well known, that, fuelled by Instagram bragging rights and fear of missing out, millennials crave experiences over stuff. Travel plays perfectly into this youthful desire to live life to the max. They might not own cars, books, music or <insert other stuff here>, but they will seek out authentic, meaningful experiences that enhance their lives.

The 2018 Sodexo UK Exploring Travel Survey explores latest travel trends and what they mean for consumer promotions. Amy Nield, Head of Prize at Sodexo states, “Whether it’s sales, awareness, loyalty, or simply the chance to stand out from the crowd, the power of experience is unrivalled when it comes to driving real results.”

Marketers need to devise experiential incentives that tap into this consumer desire for authenticity, whilst being cost-effective and irresistible. Do that, and you can drive business success stories as you watch your marketing ideas take off. Easy, right?

Sodexo’s research also states, “33% of consumers put ‘exploring new places’ as their main motivator for travelling. People simply won’t respond to the same old incentives — they want unique, they want immersive.”

Travel promotions are going to have to go off the beaten track.

Dare we say it, it’s not just millennials who want a great life experience rather than a tacky souvenir at the local market. When you get people doing things they’ve never done before, you create real impact. And that can totally drive brand loyalty into bold new landscapes – you just need to decide where to take them. 


The big view is, travel incentives need to go above and beyond.

Watch out though – millennials are increasingly fatigued with keeping up with current trends at the expense of authenticity. They’ve long realised that savvy sales people know how to cater to their niche tastes by now.

Journalist Sherelle Jacobs, writing in The Telegraph puts it well, “Acting out the 'cool millennial abroad' can ruin a perfectly good holiday.” She claims that the pursuit of trendy, non-mainstream activities can mean you end up solely hanging out with other tourists, at the expense of an authentic, travel experience where you’d meet the locals and sample real culture.

For more seasoned travellers, this is a well-trodden path. Many of us have been there.

We can all recognise dodgy tourism when it pops up and tries to grab our wallets out from under our noses: from pop-up tribal villages to packs of coin-thirsty camel owners, we know ‘staged authenticity’ when we see it. That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy it.

Yet it’s this latest surge in millennial travel experiences such as salsa dancing in Cuba or supper clubs in Paris that simply play into the age-old marketing quest to attract customers – something we can all relate to. And one person’s naff tourist experience is another’s tip-top bucket list highlight.

This boom in millennial tourism has led to all sorts of new trends for the travel industry. The government has even got in on the act, in recognition of this love of travel and a need to attract young voters, by extending the 16-25 railcard to millennials up to the age of 30.

Then there was the creation of a millennial airline, Joon, launched by Air France. The airline decided to revamp and gain market share by introducing a low-cost carrier, with the millennial tech-savvy generation seemingly a prime marketing opportunity.

We can see why.

Yet the same couldn’t be said for Uniworld, the cruise liner that launched millennial cruises aimed at the 12 to 45s market. Setting sail in November 2017, the company has already decided to lift the age restrictions as of March 2018. Cruising may have seen a renaissance in recent times, but millennials just weren’t buying it.

Interestingly, spokesperson Devyn Barker said, "U by Uniworld will remain the same with sexy, stylish ships and itineraries that focus on longer stays in destination, allowing guests to connect with local people and experiences and each city's vibrant nightlife.”

There you go with that experiential obsession again...


Let’s take it back to basics then. When devising your next promotional mix, you can gain mass appeal by looking to travel incentives as a way to attract customers.

Sodexo’s research tells us that the good old city break is alive and kicking. Consumers are particularly keen to discover new cities through an experience while they’re there. 

In fact, “92% of consumers see an ‘all expenses paid’ UK city break as an ‘appealing’ or ‘extremely appealing’ promotional prize.” What’s more, the wellness tourism industry “grew by 14% in just two years (2013-2015)”.

Brands with an affinity to health, sport and wellbeing have already sailed this ship to great effect, but they shouldn’t be the only ones to leap on board the wellness trend.

Sodexo’s report says, “Even if your audience don’t consider themselves health and fitness fanatics, there’s a good chance they still value activities like spa days.”

According to World Travel Market, “Secondary wellness tourists accounted for 89% of wellness tourism trips and 86% of expenditures in 2015.” It’s not a bad place to look for marketing ideas. After all, health and wellbeing is big customer engagement news.

Hands up, who hasn’t got a cheeky spa break planned for later this year? We know we have.

What’s more, there’s an increased appetite for staycations in the UK, with even millennials admitting that the two-day city break is losing its lustre. Perhaps this is because they’ve been everywhere now, or perhaps, whisper it, they’re simply getting older…

Sodexo’s research says, “54% of British adults chose to holiday closer to home in 2017 through personal preference rather than limitations around cost. (Barclays)”. In addition, “66% are planning a UK trip in 2018 (ABTA)”.

As Jacobs says, “Millennials are no more all selfie-stick-wielding brunch addicts than the Baby Boomers are all satisfied to spend their holidays entombed in a super resort, shuffling between the swimming pool and the golf course.” 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach (hang on, haven’t we said this before?!), but we do know that bespoke travel and exclusive prize incentives make a great hook to engage consumers beyond the usual prize promotion activity.

Once you’ve devised your exciting travel-related prize incentives, it’s just a question of working out how best to promote them, right?


No one really knows where the future of social media marketing is headed, but as long as you’re creative in your approach and have done your homework when it comes to targeting, your next promotional campaign can really go places.

For millennials, hashtagging has become a chore like any other, and while it’s great to show off your latest holiday snaps online, increasing concerns about privacy and general millennial fatigue means that shifting social media trends could well influence the success of future brand promotions. 

Vero is the latest ‘anti-Facebook’ app to storm the Apple charts, proving that young people are ditching Facebook in its droves. Its ad and algorithm-free promise, invites people to pay a premium instead of being the commodity themselves. Its trends like these that are set to throw long-term online youth advertising strategies into array, as Jacobs warns.  

Marketers seeking to target millennials and have maximum impact need to think carefully before simply throwing their promotional campaign solely on Facebook or Instagram. It’s not that they shouldn’t, but it’s also worth considering the bigger picture when it comes to finding your audience.

As any good engagement specialists will tell you, it’s best to make sure you have the right incentive on board to stand out from the crowd and get in front of the audiences you’re seeking – millennial or otherwise. 

Rodrigo Sobral, VP Executive Creative Director, R/GA London says, ““An effective way to do that is by swerving the category and not being part of the noise. Be the clear signal, and get noticed by being different instead.”

Take your audience on a journey and pull out all the stops as you do it via bespoke travel incentives and expert prize management and you’ll be on to a winning destination. We just wish we could come too.

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Keen to use travel in your next sales promotion? Then get in touch with our awesome travel promotions team today!