Insights

Kaylene Shuttlewood: "Millennials are changing the travel industry"

We sat down with Regional Managing Director Kaylene Shuttlewood and discussed the emergence of business-minded millennials and how they are transforming the travel industry for the better…

[OPINION]

After 3 decades in the travel industry, I believe that the one thing you can count on is constant change. Yet the shifts I’ve noticed in the last five years are beyond anything I could have predicted when I first entered the industry nearly 30 years ago.

The tech-savvy, freedom-loving younger generation of customers and agents are driving the changes – but that doesn’t mean other generations can’t benefit. On the contrary, everyone in the industry can take advantage of the brave new world of travel.

Generation Game-changer

Recently, we were surprised to discover that a rapidly-growing portion of our customers are millennials. We were even more surprised to learn that 74% of them value and will pay for travel-assisted experiences. This is surprising because this generation are digital natives. Aren’t they supposed to be booking everything online and relying on apps to track and manage their travel plans?

While millennials are keen to use tech, they are still driven by the same things previous generations were. A desire for human connection is universal, but there’s something else millennials need from their travels – meaning.

Travelling more frequently than previous generations, millennials want bespoke travel experiences that reflect who they are as a person and what they stand for, and this includes the booking process. From scaling mountains in Kenya to learning how parmigiana cheese is made in a tiny Italian village, and eating at that must-visit restaurant in Brooklyn, their trips are an expression of who they are, not just a way to enjoy some downtime and use up their annual leave.

It’s this trend that is driving millennials to seek the advice and services of travel agents – but not just any travel agent will do. They need agents who are on the same page as them, understand their needs, and are as enthusiastic and savvy as they are when it comes to trip planning.

The new breed

Simultaneously, we’ve had an influx of driven millennials join Travel Counsellors in recent months, because remote-working has become a valid opportunity for this cohort who crave flexibility and autonomy in their work schedule.

Witnessing their parents being held back by rigid work structures, millennials are keen to embrace a new way of working by forging their own path in life. And this means giving the traditional, salaried retail travel agency job the heave-ho.

Dealing with rosters, commuting, office politics, limited pay, micromanaging bosses and rules on which products they can sell isn’t something millennials are interested in. Being able to work from anywhere, anytime, while building their own business that affords them unlimited earning potential is a much better deal.

Being able to create bespoke itineraries for their clients without being locked in to selling a narrow range of products is also a huge factor because they genuinely want to build the best trips ever – not just flog package tours that they’ve been instructed to sell by the powers that be.

This smarter, more genuine way of working isn’t just for millennials though. Travel Counsellors of all ages and life stages – from young singles, to parents, and middle-aged professionals are all choosing to reap the rewards that come with working from home.

The world is their office

The term ‘working from home’ is a bit misleading though, because most Travel Counsellors choose to work from multiple environments. When you’re truly mobile you can work anywhere – not just from home, and millennial travel agents are really leading the way when it comes to working remotely.

From spending time in co-sharing workspaces in their own city, to working from a café in Europe, a beach shack in Bali, airport lounge or hotel lobby, Travel Counsellors are able to embrace a working arrangement and lifestyle that would have been unfathomable a generation ago.

Harnessing technology such as Skype, Travel Counsellors can chat with clients no matter where they are in the world. When they’re at their home base they meet clients in cafés, bars, their homes and workplaces. When they’re travelling either to visit family interstate or to enjoy a stint in Thailand, they can utilise Skype, FaceTime and Whatsapp to stay in contact with clients and other Travel Counsellors. In this way, tech enhances, never replaces.

Undoubtedly, both millennial customers and travel agents are reshaping the industry. The best part is that the benefits of a new approach to working in travel are available to all enterprising agents keen to make a change. These days, you don’t need to be a millennial to work like a millennial, and the hundreds of Travel Counsellors working around Australia (and the world) are living proof of that.