Targeting UK millennials? New insight shows they will take and spend more on leisure trips during 2019 in spite of the clouds over Brexit

The UK millennial outbound market is a key target for foreign destinations – whether they are travelling for business or leisure. In what are positive signs for the travel and tourism industry, a new research study highlights how the group will drive overall tourism growth from the UK for 2019, have the most positive outlook on Brexit’s impact on travel and are increasingly turning to social media to make travel decisions.

The findings come from the ‘Portrait of UK Travellers’, compiled by integrated travel and hospitality marketing agency MMGY Global and are based on the travel motivations, preferences and behaviours of the 13.4 million travelling households in the UK from research carried out over the first two months of 2019 during which 2,000 respondents participated in a 25-minute online survey.

While the focus group were leisure travellers, the findings, which have been analysed across three generational bands – millennials (aged 18-39 in 2018); Xers (aged 40-53 in 2018) and Boomers (aged 54-72 in 2018) – will also provide some valuable insights into the UK travelling mindset for any travel provider, especially as the lines between business and leisure travel blur through ‘bleisure travel or ‘workcations’.

Most interestingly, the study found UK adult travellers under 40 intend to take an extra two holidays per year on average in 2019 and additionally boost their spend by around a fifth over the coming year. This is despite the constant ‘doom and gloom’ headlines that dominate the UK media as the country’s departure from European Union clouds its economic development.

Many of the behaviours most prominent among millennial respondents followed logic – for instance, that they are far more vested in social media than their older counterparts – but other, more surprising, results were also found.

These include:

  • While only one in ten millennials had taken a cruise vacation in the past year, more than half expressed an interest in going on a cruise in the next two years – the strongest level of intent across any of the age brackets;
  • Staycations are more popular with millennials than with Xers or boomers – domestic holidays will account for around half of their intended trips;
  • Almost half of millennials booked at least one holiday with a travel agent in the past 12 months – compared to just over a quarter of Xers and Boomers.
  • Nearly a quarter of millennials have made a travel purchase based at least partially on a post by a social media influencer or celebrity.

On the subject of Brexit, a topic that we cannot ignore on any story about UK travel, two-thirds of millennials believe it will have an impact on holidays, but this generation demonstrates the most optimistic outlook, with the majority believing the impact on passport control queues, GBP exchange rates and airline fares would be more positive than negative. This was in direct contrast to the predictions of those over the age of 40.

But while the millennials might be driving future travel and tourism decisions, the study’s findings highlight travel businesses should not remove focus from those over the age 40, since they still lead the way in a number of areas. It shows that the desire to experience different cultures is strongest amongst the boomer generation when it comes to motivations for travel.

“The boomers and Xers show the most interest in visiting historic houses and gardens, museums, botanical gardens and vineyards; and while millennials favour dining options that are new or notable in some way, the boomers are the generation most keen to sample the authentic food eaten by locals,” it explains.

Even more significantly, more Xers and boomers than millennials are planning longer, international trips. Two-thirds of future vacations planned by Xers will be overseas and last at least five days, with boomers not far behind. Only half of the trips millennials intend to take will fulfil the same parameters, according to the research.

With family travel accounting for around a quarter of the trips taken by UK travellers (Xers are the most likely to travel with children) the research offers some insight into who the industry should most effectively target with marketing. Its findings suggest that kids have the upper hand – at least two-thirds said children influenced their destination and hotel choices and four in five said they also influenced the planning of daily activities.

The research suggests that millennials show more enthusiasm and more diversity when it comes to their reasons for travelling, the destinations they want to visit, the activities they want to incorporate – even the companies they want to travel with – than their older counterparts. “The outlook is optimistic and the opportunities are ripe for travel businesses and destinations ready to act on them,” says Amanda Hills, president Hills Balfour, Europe and Middle East, part of MMGY Global.