Asian millennial travelers make their mark

Digital access

The stereotypical Chinese tour group is still very much a force in the global tourism industry, but alongside this now established market is another rapidly growing segment: the Asian millennial traveler.

Hotels in the U.S. and Europe have been catering to millennial travelers for some time now by customizing experiences, budgets and how they interact with guests. InterContinental Hotels Group, for example, is piloting a mobile check-in and check-out service for guests to manage their stay via mobile devices. Its mobile room key technology then allows customers to bypass the front desk to access their rooms. Hilton Hotels also allows guests to check-in and choose their rooms, customize their stays, and make special room service requests.

The Asia Approach

Brands are now taking a similar tack in Asia.

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Aloft, a Starwood limited-service brand, has piloted a project in New York, Liverpool and London properties that allows guests to order room service using an emoji menu and a text message. The program will reportedly move to Aloft properties in Asia next.

“In general, Asian millennial travelers (AMTs) expressed strong disenchantment with the packaged tour model,” noted a report commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) last year titled: Capturing the Asian Millennial Traveller.

While AMTs are not Asia’s most significant group of travelers, their numbers and influence are growing. The STB report cited that they account for about 35 percent of the $600 billion Asians spend on international travel. By 2020, however, STB estimates millennials will spend $340 billion on international travel, more than half as much as today

A big chunk (64 percent) of AMTs surveyed make their own travel arrangements for leisure trips and dislike the highly regimented “military style” schedules of organized tours with crammed itineraries, flash visits to tourist sites and forced shopping. There is little choice of accommodation or meals. A series of workshops next month at the annual Asia Pacific conference of the Tax Free World Association, will look at how duty free and travel retail outlets can do to attract more AMTs.

AMTs make their own itineraries, choose their accommodation and tend to do extensive online research. Many of them aim to tap into low touch luxury and are comfortable using digital technology as an integral part of their travel experience over face-to-face interaction. And they can do this on the fly.

The tourism board has an online hub called Live Like A Local, to showcase Singapore through using user-generated content on TripAdvisor, a hotel and travel booking review website.

The STB report points out that travel is a status symbol and an aspirational lifestyle choice for the AMTs.  

“By extension, social networking sites end up serving as a source of inspiration for which destinations to visit,” it said.  

The challenge for all segments looking to tap into AMTs is that there are as many varieties of them as there are countries in Asia-Pacific.

So offerings have to be tailored. This could mean cross selling Thailand or Australia to Chinese travelers but Japan or Singapore to Thai travelers but also channeling marketing through WeChat in China or YouTube in Malaysia. 

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