Booking Celebration Travel for Millennials

Beach destinations remain popular with Millennials who are marking a milestone.
Beach destinations remain popular with Millennials who are marking a milestone.

It’s hard to talk about any niche market without including its appeal to Millennial travelers. After all, Millennials, most commonly defined as anyone born in 1979 or after, are becoming one of those most sought out demographics by advisors simply because Millennial clients are adventurous, fearless and love to spend. “The Millennials who were bit with the travel bug will use any excuse to travel, including celebrating life events,” says Sarah Nelson Wandrey, an agent with Travel Leaders and the national manager of finance for Millennials in Travel. “Many Millennials celebrate major milestones ... by traveling for birthdays, graduations, destination weddings, honeymoons, bachelor/bachelorette parties, baby-moons and even promotions [at work].”

How Do They Like to Party?

Travel Agent spoke to some of our valued experts in Millennial travel and learned what types of celebration travel are hot amongst the Generation Y demographic and what are the hottest destinations for Millennial celebration travel.

Agents are reporting that Costa Rica is a hot destination with Generation Y celebrants.
Agents are reporting that Costa Rica is a hot destination with Generation Y celebrants.

“Since Millennials seem to be the generation of entitlement, they celebrate all big and small life events: birthday, graduation[s], bachelor[ette] parties, destination weddings, anniversaries, baby-moons, first trip post-baby, divorce,” says Heather Christopher of Classic Travel at Tackett’s Mill in Woodbridge, VA.

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“You have two groups within this though,” she continues. “The type that wants to do something no one else has — typically in the case of couples celebrating honeymoons/anniversaries or in the first-time-traveling-solo-want-to-experience-the-world — or you have the group of friends who want to get away to celebrate graduation/pre-job/bachelor/moms getaway. That’s a budget-conscious, ease-of-travel type of trip to the Caribbean and Mexico or, of course, Las Vegas.”

Popular Celebration Travel For Millennial Clients

Travel Agent spoke with leaders from the two different organizations catering to young travel professionals, Millennials in Travel and Young Travel Professionals, and found out what types of celebrations are going over big with Generation Y. Katelyn O’Shaughnessy, CEO and founder of TripScope and national director for Millennials in Travel, tells us graduation trips are one of the hottest celebration trips for Millennials.

Heather Christopher: “Millennials ... celebrate all big and small life events.”
 
Heather Christopher: “Millennials ... celebrate all big and small life events.”

“Many young adults go on a month-long trip to Europe after they graduate from college,” she says. “I’ve even seen quite a few utilizing registries, and having family and friends donate money to their travel funds or pay for a few nights at a hotel.”

Marisa Costa, director of NEXT, a program by Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group geared toward recruiting younger travel industry professionals, says baby-moons are also one of the fastest growing Millennial celebration travel trips.

“Baby-moons are becoming increasingly popular as well as Millennials are taking one last ‘just us’ trip before welcoming a new addition to their family,” says Costa, who is also the business development manager for Young Travel Professionals. “They are primarily beach/wellness-focused and the goal is for mom to relax. Think Caribbean, Italian Riviera or even local getaways to mountain retreats.”

Other popular celebrations, according to O’Shaughnessy and Costa, are bachelor and bachelorette parties, destination weddings (both domestic and international), honeymoons and festivals.

“Millennials are experience driven and want to check things off their bucket list,” says Costa. “They are big on traveling for festivals, be it a music festival like Coachella or a cultural event like Mardi Gras.”

Ryan Mielke: Las Vegas is “king,” but, “some more experienced Millennials are looking for more of the off-the-beaten-path destinations.”
Ryan Mielke: Las Vegas is “king,” but, “some more experienced Millennials are looking for more of the off-the-beaten-path destinations.”

And even the typical celebrations like bachelor and bachelorette parties require advisors to think outside of the box when booking for Millennials, says O’Shaughnessy.

“I’ve also seen more and more Millennials getting creative with their bachelor/bachelorette parties,” she says. “Instead of the typical Las Vegas party, I’ve seen bachelorettes taking their bridesmaids to Mexico or Hawaii. I’ve booked bachelor parties in Alaska and Iceland that include fly fishing, mountain hiking and snowmobiling.”

Hot Destinations for Millennial Celebration Travel

Wandrey says Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand, is really popular with Millennials, while other popular destinations for this market are Peru, New Zealand, Spain, U.S. National Parks like Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion, and major U.S. destinations like San Francisco, Seattle and New York.

“U.S. destinations tend to be great for Millennials who are celebrating a baby-moon, bachelor or bachelorette party or a non-milestone birthday,” says Wandrey. “Millennials who are celebrating their honeymoon, or a major birthday, such as ages 21, 25 or 30, are more likely to travel internationally to celebrate.”

Millennials in Bangkok: Thailand has gained popularity with Generation Y.
Millennials in Bangkok: Thailand has gained popularity with Generation Y.

Ryan Mielke of Regency Travel in Fort Lauderdale says the typical destinations tend to be Las Vegas, New York and Sonoma, but he also noted that he’s seen a trend toward cruises and destinations that specialize in adventure travel such as Costa Rica.

“Las Vegas will always be the king of celebrations, whether it is an anniversary, engagement, or birthday,” says Mielke. “Some more experienced Millennials are looking for more of the off-the-beaten-path destinations though. I recently booked an anniversary trip to Haiti to help volunteer in local shelters. Or even a bachelor party in Costa Rica staying in luxury tree houses.”

Christopher also says Costa Rica is hot for the adventurous clients while some out-of-the-box honeymoon destinations are beginning to pop up as well.

“As for the less generic honeymoons/anniversaries, Grenada with the new Sandals; Maldives and Tahiti remain hot; Greece is coming back and Hawaii is as always hot,” says Christopher. “Belize is slowly becoming more requested. Also, Chile and Peru are hot in South America.”

Millennials and Same-Sex Weddings

Millennials within the LGBT community represent the first generation that is taking full advantage of the growing trend toward legalizing same-sex marriage, with more than two-thirds of U.S. states, as well as popular getaway destinations such as Mexico, have eased or lifted long-established bans on gay and lesbian unions. This, of course, expands travel agents’ prospects for selling destination weddings.

According to Community Marketing & Insights’ “Same-Sex Couples Weddings and Engagements” study, conducted in partnership with The Gay Wedding Institute, 8 percent of legally married same-sex couples reported having a destination wedding with 10 or more people traveling. Going forward, a greater number (11 percent) of engaged gay and lesbian couples say they are planning to do the same for their nuptials.

Of Cruising and Communication

Kevin Weisner, senior vice president of sales for Vacation.com, says group cruising — typically meaning a block of eight or more staterooms — continues to be a growing trend in 2015. “Groups are often able to obtain special perks aboard the ship that individual travelers may not have access to,” said Weisner in a written release. “Plus, with it being virtually all-inclusive, a group cruise is an ideal way to manage costs.”

Las Vegas is a popular party place for Millennials. Pictured: Shopping at Bellagio.
 
Las Vegas is a popular party place for Millennials. Pictured: Shopping at Bellagio.

Translating that into sales to Generation Y celebrants, however, requires agents to be more savvy about this particular demographic. Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, told Travel Agent in a December 2014 interview that while new ships have always been a good thing for the industry, now, more than ever, something that’s new and very different is needed. “These ships are catering to the Millennials because of the technology,” she said.

For example, they are interested in the new Quantum of the Seas not only for its high-speed Internet, but also for its Robotic Bar and new types of entertainment where technological aspects — not simply the performers — are the stars. Freed said her line’s research has showed Millennials want to bring all their devices along, get connected fast and “not wait for anything.”

Freed also told us that today’s Millennials, many of them with growing pocketbooks, desire to buy everything online and about 75 percent of all travelers use smartphones. It’s no longer good enough to just e-mail promotions, she said: “In 2015, travel agents must create campaigns, strategically e-mail their clients, make calls [actually pick up the phone for a personal touch], constantly update social media networks and leverage smartphone apps to build their business.”

Similarly Michelle Fee, co-founder and CEO of Cruise Planners, tells us it’s more important than ever for agents to communicate with their customers via the communications channels the specific customer — not the agent — desires. “The world is changing faster and faster, and communication is going to be the agent trend in 2015. Those agents who are order takers will be left behind,” she says.

A ‘Portrait’ of Millennial Celebration Travelers

According to MMGY Global’s 2014 Portrait of American Travelers, when it comes to “Types of Special Occasion Vacations Taken,” Millennials are just as likely as Xers and Boomers to travel to celebrate an anniversary and the most likely demographic to do so for a birthday. They are also second only to Matures regarding trips taken to attend a family reunion. Not surprisingly, given their age range of about 25 to 35, Millennials are far and away the leading travelers for engagements, bachelor/bachelorette parties, weddings and honeymoons. They also lead the pack in using travel to celebrate getting a new job or a bonus or raise at work.

Celebration News You Can Use

New Tzell Website Includes ‘Celebrations’ Section

Tzell Travel Group recently rolled out its new luxury leisure travel website, Vacationsbytzell.com, which offers proprietary travel content, tools and resources. Notable sections of the new website include one devoted to celebration travel. In addition to destination weddings and honeymoons, this section offers resources for celebrating other major life events, such as anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, retirements, reunions and expecting a child. A section on LGBT travel includes resources on welcoming hotels, top hotspots, gay cruises and more. Tzell’s travel agents specializing in LGBT travel assist clients in planning destination weddings, honeymoons, family vacations and/or adventure travel.

MGM Launches ‘Connections’ for Vegas Group Travel

In March, MGM Resorts International launched a new program aimed at groups traveling to Las Vegas: MGM Resorts Connections. It is a free one-stop-shop for making group vacation bookings, including hotel rooms, restaurant reservations, VIP nightclub access, private spa suites, show tickets and more at 12 resorts across the Las Vegas Strip. For groups reserving at least five guest rooms, a dedicated MGM Resorts Connections professional can, at no cost, personalize and make all the arrangements. Connections amenities include skipping the check-in line, a Party Pass that takes groups to the front of the line for nightlife and day-life experiences, top tables and private dining rooms at select restaurants; reserved seats for groups to sit together at popular shows and access to M life discounts.

Cruise Trends Names Top Ships for Groups

The 2015 Cruise Trends report issued by Cruise Holidays International, a division within Vacation.com, identified its “Top 5 Cruise Ships for Groups” based on actual cruise bookings made for 2015 by its network of 1,300 cruise-focused agents. Those vessels are, in order, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Reflection, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s (RCCL) Independence of the Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dawn and RCCL’s Oasis of the Seas.