AmEx Panel: How Travel Agents Can Woo Millennials

The discussion took place at the NOMO Soho rooftop in Manhattan.
The discussion took place at the NOMO Soho rooftop in Manhattan. 

To draw Millennial customers, travel agents need to find their value and demonstrate it, Travel Agent learned at a recent panel on Millennial travelers hosted by American Express Travel

American Express Travel Salon Series Presents, #NoFilter: Millennial Perception vs. Reality” drew together Shedisha A. Matthias, operations manager for Travel Noire; Grant Legan, co-founder of Elsewhere; Sarah Osman, brand strategist at Tumblr; Tom Harding, director of immersive products and virtual reality at Samsung Electronics America; Rebecca Minkoff, fashion designer and entrepreneur; and Will Farnan, client partner in the travel vertical at Facebook to discuss the latest research on Millennial travelers. Claire Bennett, EVP and general manager of American Express Travel, moderated the discussion. 

One of the main takeaways from the discussion? While travel agents still have a great deal of room to grow when it comes to Millennial market share, Millennials who do use travel agents report a positive experience. 75 percent of Millennial travelers cite customer service as an aspect that can make or break a trip, and 92 percent of Millennials who use a travel agent say that the experience enhanced their trip, according to AmEx research shared by Bennett. 

The discussion then turned to how agents can adapt. 

“I think travel agencies are having a bit of an identity crisis,” says Matthias, although she did note that Millennials’ use of travel agents had been trending upward in recent years

What should agents offer Millennials? “The benefit is time,” says Matthias. “It’s about having someone that’s tailoring to what their needs are.”

Legan agrees, noting that offering a well-personalized travel experience “feels like you’re talking to a friend and coming into their city.”

Understanding the client is important, too. “If I know that I’m talking to someone who gets me, that’s far more valuable,” says Minkoff. 

For Farnan, it’s also about defining a travel agent’s place in the marketplace. “It’s a function of where they can define value in what they offer,” Farnan says. “When agencies can fill a void you can’t get online or in a mobile app, that’s an opportunity.”

Millennials and Hotels

During the discussion panelists also shared their thoughts on what Millennials want from a hotel. Despite the common stereotype linking Millennials and Airbnb, recent AmEx research shows 76 percent of Millennials prefer staying in a traditional hotel, says Bennett. 

“If it’s going to be a longer trip I’ll book Airbnb, but if not I’ll look for a boutique hotel with a great vibe and feel,” says Minkoff. 

A hotel’s location is paramount, too, and that extends to more than just nearby tourist attractions. “It’s about the community around the hotel,” says Matthias. “It’s about the neighborhood.”

A good hotel can also work to foster a community within its walls, too. “For example, if there’s a happy hour at the hotel, that’s a chance to meet others,” says Matthias. “If there’s a chance to meet an influencer you follow on Instagram, I’m definitely going to stay at that hotel.