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Millennials, the future of cruising, crave authenticity, travel in packs

Millennials, the future of cruising, crave authenticity, travel in packs
How to communicate value, authenticity and creativity to millennials—those born in the 1980s and '90s—is all about juggling communication tools and shaping perceptions, panelists said during the Thursday session, Cultivating Millennial & Multigenerational Markets, at Cruise Shipping Miami.

How to best reach those millennials, unlock their mindsets and effectively market cruise vacations to those 18- to 35-year-olds—and their multigenerational families—also were topics discussed.

Outlining Avoya Travel’s curated statistics on millennials and multi-gen groups, moderator Scott Koepf, Avoya’s svp sales, pointed out that 24% of the US population is millennial-aged, the same percentage as baby boomers who are their parents.

Of 17m US millennials, 2.5m have household incomes of more than $100,000, while a third, 36%, have children but only 21% are married. One of five has a same-sex partner.

'Although millennials came of age in a grim US economic climate, they are diverse, expressive and optimistic,' Koepf said. 'They are deal shoppers who like a personal touch. Authenticity is incredibly important.'

With multigenerational vacations, four of 10 grandparents—35% who foot the bill or pay to play with their families—say millennial grandchildren influence vacation planning.

By 2020, there will be 80m US grandparents, Koepf said.

'Kidfluence' is key with family vacations. Millennials who research travel are heavily influenced by social media and their friends, said Nancy Schretter, founder and managing editor, Family Travel Network.

Soft family adventure is family travel’s most rapidly-growing segment. 'Build your own cruise experience,' Schretter said. 'Keep those memorable experiences coming.'

Wherever millennials travel with their families, which typically are three generations, connectivity is key and 45% of millennials check their phone every five minutes.

'Wi-Fi is a big button,' said Vicky Garcia, founder and chief operating officer of Cruise Planners, adding that travel agents have to be able to utilize multiple communication tools. 'You have to be able to juggle.'

Defining industry acroynms, Garcia explained several need-to-know terms when marketing to millennials.

For example, 'FOMO' translates to the fear of missing out. 'YOLO': You only live once. 'PANK': Professional aunt, no kids. 'SPANK': Super-professional aunt, no kids. 'PUNK': Professional uncle, no kids. 'FABLET': a large phone but smaller than a tablet.

New ships, like ultra-sleek contemporary hotels, will offer sleek new residential-styled interior design elements and more efficient space, said Fredrik Johansson, partner and art director, Tillberg Design of Sweden.

'In five to 10 years, millennials will be the largest consumers in the hospitality industry,' Johansson said. Because ship designs take five years to execute, 'if you want to address these people, it’s time to start now.'

During his design presentation, Johansson also highlighted old-school cruise buffets, including one with a cow’s head carved from watermelon. 'Will these people like that?' Johansson asked. 'I don’t think so.'

Joni Rein, vp worldwide sales, Carnival Cruise Line, detailed elements of the new 133,500gt, 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, scheduled to launch next year.

Carnival Vista will offer cruising's first three-story IMAX at sea, family-friendly staterooms with private lanais, Carnival’s largest WaterWorks park, alfresco dining, a Havana Bar and Red Frog Brew Pub, with on-board beer brewing.

'We’re really finding ways to get people engaged,' Rein said.

Koepf noted the industry has come a long way in the last 30 years —when he and his wife worked on board ships.

So, in 1985, the most popular on-board activity? 'Napkin folding,' Koepf said.