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Not Your Grandparents’ Vacation: Attract Younger Travelers With Instagram-Worthy Experiences

A generation ago, travelers looked for hotels that provided the comforts of home.

Vacationers were herded aboard in tour buses to see the local sights, creating well-worn paths that folks tended not to stray from. But Millennials (and their younger counterparts, Generation Z) don't want their parents' or grandparents' vacation. As digital natives, this generation's worldview is shaped by social media, and so are their travel expectations.

If you're in the hospitality business today, you have to figure out how to appeal to younger travelers, who are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. That starts with knowing what motivates them. For example, fear of missing out (FOMO) is one motivator largely perpetuated through social media. Your friend or a trusted influencer just had the time of their lives in Bali? You need to book that trip.

Millennials crave authenticity, which is ironically linked to the FOMO phenomenon. Younger travelers don't want to miss out on a unique experience. They follow influencers on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms, who spread the word that a destination or activity is worthwhile by sharing their experiences. And potential travelers imagine themselves sharing their own experience with their friends and family.

As a hospitality pro, you can address both aspects of the social media element by inviting influencers to experience what your organization has to offer. For example, a hotel in an area known for a unique regional cuisine can target influencers who have a foodie following on a social media platform with a package that includes a cooking class featuring the local delicacies.

In that scenario, the influencer might vlog and/or Instagram the experience at the cooking class, inspiring followers to book the package too. You can boost influencer reach with a specialty hashtag to increase organic sharing and improve overall brand awareness. A playful social media presence with replies to or retweets of influencers can help spread the word.

It's hard to overstate how much photo sharing on social media and image-making by key influencers has shaped travel plans of younger guests. It creates a feedback loop, with influencers sparking FOMO in followers, which prompts followers to seek a similar experience, which they then share digitally, inspiring others to make the same trek.

To find the right approach, keep in mind that the opportunity to "travel like a local" is enormously attractive to younger travelers in search of an authentic experience. The most successful Airbnb hosts understand this and illustrate listings with Instagram-worthy views and hip décor that make prospective guests want to spend their vacation stepping into a foreign brand.

Hotel chains can get in on the action by attracting authenticity-seekers with strategies like stocking minibars with local snacks instead of mass-produced goods. Chains can go the boutique route and exchange bland, interchangeable decorations for a one-of-a-kind look and feel, featuring striking local art and stylish spaces that make guests want to share what they've discovered.

Destination packages are another excellent way to grab Millennials' attention, but the strategy has to be executed on their terms to make it work. This means smaller groups engaged in activities that are identifiably local or that appeal to guests' personal interests. Get off that beaten path and think of guests on a local kayaking or horseback riding adventure. What experiences can you provide that they won't find anywhere else?

Look at photogenic Iceland, which is a hot tourist destination now, in part due to social media sharing. CosmopolitanCosmopolitan's "Instagram Itinerary" series recently featured "10 Ridiculously Cool Places in Iceland That Were Practically Made to Be on Your Instagram Feed." And the location doesn't have to be exotic: "Fixer Upper" influencers Chip and Joanna Gaines made Waco, Texas, cool.

So, if you're looking for ways to attract Millennials and Generation Z, keep in mind that these generations are wired for sharing. Curate your visual brand for Instagram-worthiness. Offer authentic experiences. Work with influencers to build awareness. Have an engaging, authentic voice on social media. And make it clear that this won't be their grandparents' boring tour bus vacation.

Written by Kelley Heider, VP of Innovation and Social Media at SSPR.

This article was shared with permission and originally appeared on


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