One of the most surprising comments I've heard recently was from an office colleague who had just returned from her honeymoon. When the topic of travel agents arose, as it often does here at the magazine, she said, "You'd be surprised at how many of my friends go into travel agencies, wanting to go on a great trip, and the travel agent ends up trying to talk them into a less expensive vacation because they think they can't afford it. Many of my friends work in the financial sector and wouldn't think twice about spending $10,000 on a vacation."
This young woman is speaking up for Generation Y, whose members are also referred to as the "Millennials." While some members of this demographic are still youngsters, others have graduated college and moved into careers at which they're very successful at a very early age.
In the past few years, the baby boomer has garnered most of the attention as the most important age group for travel, and why not? The average boomer is now 62 years old; the flood gates have opened and this affluent, ready-to-travel retiree market is anxious to take to the road in grand style. You've heard it all before and often. But what about the Millennials? Not only do some of them have similar travel budgets, they may even want to spend more money—as young people, they're likely in an aspirational phase of their lives, so for them, a suite at an iconic luxury hotel might be just what they're looking for.
Don't Underestimate Youth
For you, the travel agent, it's important that you don't look at that sweet young couple across the desk or with whom you're chatting via e-mail and recommend only a romantic getaway that you assume they can afford. Instead, use your client-qualifying-101 skills: Where did they go on their last trip? How much did they spend? What activities did they enjoy? Where do their friends travel? If their responses indicate that they're big spenders, don't steer them away from taking that high-priced vacation just because they're only 28 years old.
When you do get their business, act as their concierge and charge them for your services. Does the resort they're visiting provide water sports you can reserve for them? Better yet, does it have a yacht they can charter for the day? They may also want a private car and driver, so don't be afraid to ask. They'll also want nightlife, so be sure not to put them in a property that's too remote. Don't forget about booking them that hard-to-get table at a swanky restaurant. If you are able to create the ideal itinerary for your Millennials, they'll tell their equally affluent Millennial friends—who may also be misunderstood by travel agents assuming they want to stay in a hotel that provides only group activities and buffet lines.
The reality is, it's tough to rely on demographics alone anymore when you're trying to size up your clients. These days it's more about life stages. You may have a 33-year-old Silicon Valley billionaire client who just wants to stare at the beach all day or who thinks a three-month trip to the outback is what he needs to regroup. More realistically, you may be used to booking family travel for couples who are in their 30s who have very young kids, but don't act surprised if that 44-year-old prospective client you've just met has a new baby and a much older husband who is starting his second family. Showing them that you are in touch with their needs—both intuitively and practically—will help you retain their business.
Ruthanne Terrero, CTC EDITORIAL DIRECTOR firstname.lastname@example.org