By Sarah Spagnolo
December 23, 2013

Millennials are on the mind of travel industry insiders. What is this group looking for in a travel experience? How can hoteliers and agents entice this growing segment of luxury travelers?

To help answer these questions, earlier this month T+L hosted the Rising Stars luncheon at ILTM Cannes, the largest luxury travel forum of the year. Sitting around a ballroom-sized table, the 12 Rising Star agents—each handpicked by a member of T+L’s Travel Advisory Board—shared their insights with executives from key hotel groups, from Fairmont to Six Senses.

The conversation began with a focus on trends: Millennial travelers continue to request a mix of high and low experiences, especially as it relates to food (both Michelin stars and food trucks, please). The emphasis on dining is no surprise. According to a recent T+L trends survey, culinary experiences outperform both cultural activities and shopping as the number one preferred activity while on the road. Krista Craig of Renshaw Travel pointed out that especially for Millennials, food is an entrée into the true soul of a place.

Trust is high on the list when it comes to selecting both an agent and a hotel. In the T+L trends survey, a recognized hotel brand was cited as the most important detail in a travel decision. Yet villa and house rentals, especially in resort settings, are rising in importance for this group, as Millennials seek out experiences that are singular and memorable—and can be shared with friends and loved ones. (A 2013 survey by the Boston Consulting Group states that Millennials are far more likely to travel with extended family or friends.) According to Katelyn O’Shaughessy of TravelStore, “Luxury experiences are about milestones, and [for these moments], Millennials are willing to spend.”

Among the tips for hoteliers: Pay attention to the family market, says Jessica Griscavage, of McCabe World Travel. “Parents are having children later in life, and don’t want to give up luxury experiences.” One hotel company doing it the right way: Ritz-Carlton, which just launched a new childrens’ program created by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Future Society. Eco-focused programs will be offered at 84 properties, so kids can explore the special details of the place—just like their parents.

Sarah Spagnolo is special correspondent & new media editor at Travel + Leisure.