Millennials (people born between 1982 and 1996) are estimated to be 80 million strong, spend approximately $600 billion per year, and will comprise roughly 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2020. They are some of your current vacation rental guests, most of your future ones, and they behave in a drastically different manner from any generation before them. They hate advertisements and don’t open emails from people they don’t know, yet they are happy to spend serious time and money traveling every year.
In short, this is a demographic that all the biggest travel companies in the world are trying to figure out. I recently went on a road trip vacation with three childhood friends and stayed in a variety of vacation rentals along the way. The experiences were a real mix, and they inspired me to think about how Millenials have different travel expectations than previous generations. In this article, I want to share with you some key characteristics of Millennial travelers, and how you can make your property as desirable as possible for Millennial home rental guests.
1. We Are ‘Infovores’: Provide us with Useful Details
When considering a vacation rental in a new destination (for instance, Gatlinburg, Tennessee), I found myself searching not just for the best property, but for the owner or manager who had the most useful information about the area. In an era of information inundation, it’s very time-consuming to have to scour the web for the best hikes, the tallest waterfalls, and the most likely place to see a bear. I was disappointed to see that very few of my shortlisted properties had their own blog or some cache of useful local information that could come endorsed. An informative and engaging description is key.
2. We Prefer Unique Accommodation: Show Us What Makes Your Property Different
On my trip, I found myself pretty much ignoring the vast amount of sterile roadside hotels and motels with their neon signs and massive parking lots. Even in mainstream destinations, my friends and I always sought out accommodations that were on dusty side roads, deep in the wilderness, and generally away from the masses. Millennials like to feel like we’ve “discovered” a new place to stay. For this reason, none of the rentals we stayed in were “competing” with mainstream hotels. Rentals offering unique amenities or convenience should make sure this is easy to see in their postings.
3.We Like Prompt Responses to Inquiries: Don’t Leave Us Hanging
After inquiring to what I thought were suitable vacation rentals for my group, I was flabbergasted by how long some hosts took to respond. In the end, the vacation rentals that got our booking were the ones who answered within a few minutes and accepted my credit card or Paypal payment on the spot. In retrospect, I probably booked a few rentals that were less nice than others, based exclusively on the speed at which I could get the booking done and out of the way. Prompt guest communication is a must.
4. We Want an Insider Perspective: Give Us Local Advice
My friends and I only have a limited amount of days we get to enjoy each other’s company each year. Therefore, we want to maximize our time in a destination - this means avoiding the tourist traps and immersing ourselves in local culture. We want to see and do the best stuff in the shortest period of time possible. The owners or managers that won our booking in the end offered something more than just a great property: they offered local contacts like a recommendation to eat at a cutting-edge restaurant in San Francisco or an introduction to the guy who bakes some of the most amazing donuts in the world in Los Angeles. To us, luxury is not 5,000 thread-count sheets, it’s insider access, and we were happy to pay extra to get it.
5. We Know Good Photos: Present Your Property at its Best
I read travel magazines, I love travel bloggers, and I follow some of the most absurdly talented Instagrammers on the planet. I know what good photos look like and I know how easy it is these days to get professional photos done. So I have to say I was really disappointed to see the lack of passion that went into most of the vacation rental photos I was browsing. Some of them looked like The Blair Witch Project sets. And conversely, when I did happen to come across a property with beautiful photos, I was like -BOOM! That’s the one!- simply because I knew that the owner or manager cared. Spending the time and money to make your property look its best online will be worth it.
6. We Appreciate Personality: Be Yourself With Us
I think I am accurately reflective of Millennials as a whole in my preference for unusual or interesting personalities. To me, the least intriguing vacation rental options were the ones with short descriptions, no Owner Bio or About Us story, and (my personal pet peeve) lifeless email responses (“Yes we have space. When do you want to arrive?”). I love the owners or managers who have interesting stories, or the homes with unique histories. This doesn’t mean you have to tell me everything. But don’t be afraid to align your identity with your vacation rental brand.
We Millennials might seem demanding, but I promise these tips are worth it.
I’m not sharing these thoughts to make anyone feel bad. This is just the way I (and my friends) like to travel, and I thought explaining these characteristics may be useful to non-Millennials.
I came away from these vacation rental stays a bit disappointed in the overall lack of innovation and information provided by vacation rental owners online.
But for those who did successfully get my business and who delivered on their promises, I will recommend their rental to anyone I know visiting the area. I’ll brag about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. And I’ll likely stay there next year when I visit my friends, or for many years to come with my wife and kids.
(Note: Wife and kids still pending.)
This article was written by Matt Landau, founder of vacationrentalmarketingblog.com and vrleap.com.