Column: Millennials Top Buzz for 2014

Vice President—Content/ Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero
Vice President—Content/ Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero

It’s been a while since we’ve closed a year on such an upbeat note. The Dow is up, unemployment is down, hotel rates are inching up and so is occupancy. Have you tried to book a room for business travel at a decent rate in a major city lately? Travelers are vacationing again—and if a client doesn’t reserve premium space now for a cruise or a hotel during peak season, they may find themselves waiting another year for the opportunity.

Millennials have topped the conversation for 2014; travelers between the ages of 18 and 35 are making new demands on hotels, which are crafting entirely new products for them. Nearly every major hotel company has announced a brand for the younger, wired market. On the advisor front, pulling in new blood to the industry remains a hot topic. Tremendous inroads have been made but we still need to do much more to help fill in for the generation of travel consultants that will eventually retire. For more on Millennials, see our cover story.

I’ve done several presentations this year on the Millennial market focusing on how this generation is even larger than the Baby Boomer group. Inevitably, someone will ask me why we’re not also talking about Generation X. Good question. This age group is smaller than the two it’s sandwiched between, but it’s filled with young professionals making a good income, often with children. And, as we know, family and multigenerational travel is huge for all agents these days. As I write this, I’m on Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas; it’s hyped as the most technologically advanced ship at sea and I have no doubt it is. Wi-Fi abounds throughout the ship and guests can make reservations at any restaurant using an app on their phone or on a tablet at a kiosk on the ship. A band I wear on my wrist opens my cabin door and allows me to charge items to my credit card. But one of the neatest takeaways I got from one of my tours of Quantum of the Seas was that all of its 14 restaurants have children’s menus. We’re not talking chicken fingers and hamburgers available at each outlet—options for children are specific to the restaurant they’re in, whether it’s the Chops Grille steakhouse or Silk, which serves Pan-Asian cuisine. That attention to detail makes parents happy and enhances the cruise experience for the child, who develops a more sophisticated palate through traveling and who feels they’re actually part of the party. When you craft your family itineraries, are you making specific arrangements for the little ones in the group? It’s one way of working with Gen Xers to ensure you’re getting their return business.

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What else has been the buzz this year? Marriott International has just made the bold move of saying it will reward free Wi-Fi to those who book directly through its channels. I was surprised at how many media outlets picked up the story without taking the time to notice that the strategy excludes the travel agent channel. As of press time, several travel agency groups were talking to Marriott about the move; we’ve yet to see where those discussions go. It’s been a while since we had a bypass issue of this nature and we should all be alert to see how this one is resolved as travel agents happily face a new era of multiple brands and products from which to sell.

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