As travellers, millennials are boldly going where no generation has gone before, with greater expectations of workplace flexibility and bigger budgets for adventure, not luxury. Some of these travel trends and attitudes are leaving employers and tourism providers baffled, so here’s a deep dive into the millennial mindset.
“I think millennials are one of two things, either they don't travel, or they're super adventurous,” says David Mackenzie, Group Managing Director and Head of HR at Mackenzie Jones.
“We've got consultants here who never leave the UAE, because all they focus on is brunches and yet I’ve got other people here who think, ‘ah, Thursday, where shall I go? Right, I'm going to go off to Uzbekistan’ and they just go.”
In the 13 years since he established Mackenzie Jones in Dubai he’s seen the way his younger colleagues have broken the mould on work-life balance.
“Millennials are very instinctive people, they don't plan very much ahead at all more, which means I have to give them very defined boundaries, i.e. if you want days off you have to give us a week's notice,” says Mackenzie.
With the tendency to fly by the seats of their pants, travel providers must have technology in place to capture this mercurial market.
Millennials are very instinctive people, they don't plan very much ahead at all more, which means I have to give them very defined boundaries, i.e. if you want days off you have to give us a week's notice.
According to Travelport’s Global Digital Traveler research, 36 per cent of UAE millennial travellers consider it a major inconvenience not to be able to access their bookings around the clock, from any device. Emirates is keeping across these demands, by offering an app, which is available on Android, iPhone and Apple Watch.
The app allows travellers to search and book flights, select seats as well as check in and obtain their boarding pass. The app can also provide real-time flight information and earn millennial travellers Emirates Skywards points – directly from their smart device. And, in recognition of millennials’ who wish to stay connected at all times, Emirates Airline has on-board Wi-Fi on most of its flights.
The airline’s willingness to cater for millennial travel trends seems to have paid off. An October survey by Swedish research company Universum Global, which surveyed 21,860 millennial students and recent graduates in the UAE, found that Emirates Airline topped the list of most attractive employers. In the September 2018 YouGov BrandIndex survey, Emirates Airline ranked the fourth most talked about brand among UAE millennials after global household names: iPhone, Facebook and Apple.
Those who define themselves as digital nomads, combining technology and travel to carve out a career on the road, are still a small, but increasingly influential subset of millennial travellers.
According to research on international travellers under-30 by the WYSE Travel Confederation, the digital nomad group represents 1.8 million trips per year and are likely to have popular blogs and social media accounts.
David Mackenzie says one of his marketing managers is a digital nomad. “She splits her time between working for us here and she leads groups, going as far as Kazakhstan and India, and she works when she's on the road. She runs a blog, her Instagram, and yet she maintains all of her work for us at the same time. It makes no difference where she is,” says Mackenzie.
But digital nomads are only partly responsible for the lines between business and leisure becoming increasingly blurred.
American research by AARP in their 2018 Travel Trends report shows 74 per cent of employed millennials with paid time off expect to bring work along on a trip, compared to 56 per cent of the older generation of Baby Boomers.
Travelport’s research discusses a new category of ‘bleisure’ travel - trips that combine business and leisure - and say that 62 percent of millennials who travel for work will extend their business trips by a few days so they can see local attractions.
But David Mackenzie cautions employers to establish firm boundaries that allow some give and take.
“People use the excuse, 'they're millennials so we can get away with not turning up for two days in a row'. That's not acceptable,” says Mackenzie.
“I had an employee that, just disappeared and caught a flight to Moscow and told us after the fact, just texted us to say, 'I'm going away, I'll be back on Monday'. We sat her down and said ‘that's unacceptable, you have to give us notice’.”
“Because [travel] is so accessible now, they think they can just Whatsapp us and say can I have that day off when they've already done it. They don't often think about the effects of what they're doing.”