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A snapshot of the U.S. Millennial traveller

Tourism research peels back the layers of who they are and what they want



Of all the U.S. travellers heading off to countries around the world, the ones most interested in visiting Canada are the U.S. Millennials.

But who are they and what are they looking for on vacation?

These are interesting questions for Whistler given the American market — whether family, Millennial, independent or mature travellers — is the largest international market for the resort in both summer and winter.

"Our biggest opportunity in my mind is right here," said Chris Fair, president of Resonance Consultancy and speaker at the recent BC Tourism Industry Conference.

Millennials are 18 to 34 year olds and there are 75 million of them in the U.S. But don't paint them all with the same brush, cautioned Fair, joking that not all are living in their parents' basements.

One in three, or 25 million of them, are called "mobile Millennials" with disposable income and interest in travelling. Of those mobile Millennials, 57 per cent are married and 54 per cent have children, bucking the image of the traditional Millennial.

Compared to travellers in general, these U.S. Millennials are much more interested in travelling for athletic competitions (things like Ironman and Tough Mudder) as well as volunteering opportunities and so-called once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

They are also interested in participating in local community events, more so than U.S. travellers in general.

So, asked Fair to a packed room at the conference: "How can you take existing events that are really designed for the community and turn those into tourism opportunities?"

When asked what type of accommodation they prefer if given the choice, the answer was surprising.

More than half — or 58 per cent — would prefer a full-service hotel; an all-inclusive resort was second on the list.

Airbnb was the very last preference for Millennials if money is not an object.

"What this tells us is that it's really more about value, in terms of the cost and benefits... It's not all about the social values that Airbnb tries to portray itself as," said Fair.

Yet, 40 per cent are using Airbnb. This is not the end of the world for hotels.

"The aspiration is still there to stay in a hotel," said Fair.

And what is the most important amenity for Millennials when it comes to staying in a hotel? Another revealing statistic — more than half, or 58 per cent, valued free Internet access as the top amenity. Privacy came in second place.

They also love to travel for music festivals, like the Pemberton Music Festival and the Squamish Valley Music Festival.

"Those are right on track in terms of product development targeted right at this audience," said Fair.

The proportion of U.S. Millennials travelling to Whistler increased in the winter of 2014/15, according to research from Tourism Whistler.

"Whistler is a perfect destination for millennials," said Tourism Whistler manager of communications Patricia Westerholm. "(It's) an audience that loves to travel and explore adventurous destinations. Tourism Whistler has seen success in reaching this tech savvy market through social media, content marketing and user-generated initiatives that showcase Whistler's authenticity and genuine and welcoming community."