Millennials are the fastest growing segment of travelers — but they're still not the biggest spenders.
In the age of do-it-yourself online travel booking, the use of a travel agent’s services is increasing, despite what some industry watchdogs have projected.
According to three new studies, millennials have discovered the value of relying on travel agents — not just to book their trips, but also as advisors on making travel decisions, such as which hotels to stay at and which destinations to consider.
According to the “2017 Portrait of American Travelers” by MMGY Global, 33 percent of millennial respondents say they intend to utilize the services of a travel agent over the next two years — that’s twice as many as Gen Xers (17 percent) and Baby Boomers (18 percent).
And the “How America Travels” national study from the American Society of Travel Agents also indicates that millennials are more likely to use a travel agent. A healthy 44 percent of milliennial respondents said that using an agent is “worth it,” compared to 33 and 34 percent of Xers and Boomers, respectively, reports Travel Agent Central.
As millennials get older and make more expendable income, their desire to travel will also increase. According to the MMGY Global Portrait, millennial travelers reported a 16 percentage-point increase in their intention to vacation in 2017. For Xers it’s only a three-point increase, while Boomers dropped by one percentage point.
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A presentation from Virtuoso presented during Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas reported increased interest and business from millenials, though it said that Baby Boomers continue to represent more than half of its agents’ client base.
"Our Virtuoso agencies are doing really well with affluent millennials,” said Terrie Hansen, senior vice president of marketing at Virtuoso. “But clearly they're not as big a segment as boomers and matures," she told Travel Weekly, referring to the oldest segment of travelers.
The Virtuoso research showed that millennials and Generation Xers are its fastest-growing groups of new clients.
Between 2012 and 2016, the number of millennial clients among Virtuoso agencies increased from 9 to 13 percent, while the number of Gen-X clients increased from 20 to 24 percent. Baby Boomer clients held steady at 46 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2016, while matures (the eldest segment) decreased from 26 percent to 18 percent of clients.
Though millennials are using travel agents in record numbers, Hansen said, “Boomers still hold the majority of spend, total budget.”
David Kolner, Virtuoso's senior vice president of global member partnerships, told Travel Weekly, “for travel agencies today, especially in the luxury category, boomers are absolutely what those businesses should be focusing on. They are a huge opportunity. They represent, usually, at least half or almost half of total sales in an agency, so it's just a great market,” he said. “And I know everybody's very excited about millennials, and somewhat about Xers, but the real money right now continues to be in boomers.”