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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Seeking a tech-fueled Experience Economy

The travel industry today is on fire with technology-propelled Millennial experiences  

Oberyn Martell, a fictional character in the medieval fantasy epic Game of Thrones, said, “It is a big and beautiful world. Most of us live and die in the same corner where we were born, and never get to see any of it. I don’t want to be most of us.”

Most young people today share this view. The wonder of the unexplored, the defining colors of faraway places and their exotic cultures, mesmerize the young, propelling them into seriously considering travel to different regions of the world. In the words of British historian, Miriam Beard, “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on. Deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Millennials Tara Cappel confirms this vein of thought, “Millennials don’t just see travel as something we do, we identify with it. We consider ourselves citizens of the world and we have an enthusiastic desire to immerse ourselves in another place and return rejuvenated, inspired, and ready for our next adventure. We are travelers.”

Equally significant is the fact that technology has revolutionized the travel industry in a way no one dreamed of a few years back. As tourism specialist Xavier Cubeles, commented, “the travel industry is in the midst of a deep transformation” where “the Internet and mobile have changed the way people plan and experience their trips and have had an impact on the most highly-demanded professional profiles and the way destinations promote themselves.” In fact, a Google Travel study showed that 74% of travelers plan their trip online, and just 13% rely on travel agents to prepare their itinerary.

People no longer rely on travel agents to suggest where they should travel. They turn, instead, to Internet research, to help them choose their preferred destination. Thus, internet helps customize travel, and enables great choices of lodging, as well, like Burlington VT Hotels.

According to TripAdvisor, 45% of smartphone users involve their phones for their travel at the planning and execution stages, as well as  post-travel. Thus, for most young travelers today, the Internet and their mobile phone together act as travel agent, tour guide, best restaurant locator, the travel map, and camera rolled into one. And, for all of this, social media is the trigger. Millennials see photos and videos of places visited by friends and favorite influencers. This makes it imperative they do the same. The Millennial generation’s desire to “get out of here and go there,” is constantly put to the test.

At the planning stage of travel, virtual reality plays a major role in clinching ideas into active plans.  In fact, it is probably the main reason that people choose one travel choice over another. Virtual reality helps the hospitality industry usher customers into virtual settings through the booking stage including the hotel stay. Today, hotels are increasingly using 360-degree imaging technology to allow potential guests to experience the hotel room before making their choice. Virtual reality is extended to experience local attractions, so guests can decide what they really want from their vacation.

Technology indulges a prominent Millennial desire for customization. This is a reality the travel industry was forced to understand as Babyboomers and Gen X waned into retirement.  Millennial demands are so vehemently different from older generations, with totally different expectations of brands. Millenials obsession with memorable moments and their emphasis on activities over material goods has created what many call “the experience economy.” In fact, studies show that one in four millennial consumers would rather pay for an experience than a product.  They want to not only experience different situations, but also to share their experiences. This is what they do every day on social media.

And so, the travel industry is trying to please them in diverse ways. Hotels are now enlisting the services of virtual assistants along the lines of Siri and Alexa, specially-designed for interactive and personalized experience for consumers. As Vice President of Marketing at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Stephan Croix, said, “Digital technology has changed the way we connect with guests, creating a 24/7 relationship in and out of stay.”

Unlike earlier generations, Millennials do not book travel months ahead. It is an adventure they will plunge into at the spur of the moment. Sometimes their travel materializes over a few days. And not just once a year as earlier generations traveled, but many times over, as dreams appear on the horizon waiting to be fulfilled. As American businessman Douglas Ivester, said, “Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.”

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