How U.S. Millennials are like Chinese tourists

u-s-millennials-traveling-in-paris chinese-traveling-to-parisU.S. Millennials clearly behave differently than their mostly Baby Boomer and Gen X parents. What I have observed from many millennials is a different value system when it comes to how they like to spend their time as opposed to their forebears. Generalizing is always risky so it’s important to acknowledge that in painting with a broad brush in no way do ALL millennials behave the same way.

Being the first truly digital/mobile natives, so many millennials (to me) appear to be ALWAYS engaged in something at any given moment. The default option is to look at their phone. Obviously that practice is hardly limited to millennials. A large number of college-educated millennials have taken to moving to cities in and around the United States. Living in a metropolitan area is often extremely expensive. It’s common to find millennials living 4 or more people to a two- bedroom apartment and even that does not make things necessarily ‘affordable’.

Today’s Chinese tourists also are digital and mobile savvy much like U.S. tourists. Their mobile devices complete with translation apps and great GPS enable those tourists to navigate foreign places with some degree of confidence. In fact, while group tours remain popular they are not the be-all and end-all anymore and individual Chinese people, couples and families are traveling apart from group tours more frequently than ever before.

U.S. Millennials behave much like Chinese tourists when it comes to what they want to do and how they want to have ‘awesome’ experiences. Living as inexpensively as possible and eating ramen to save money affords both Chinese tourists and Millennials the opportunity to create memorable travel and life experiences that they document in social media in real time. The days of inviting friends and family over to watch a slide show of a recent vacation to Yellowstone are over. Now you can watch it as it happens on Facebook Live or Snapchat. Thankfully.

An excerpt from this week’s China Skinny helps bring the point home.

At this time three years ago, we were celebrating the 94 million Chinese travellers expected to jet abroad in 2013.  Only three batches of mooncakes later, and that number is expected to grow to 133 million – an extra 39 million travellers spending up large overseas.

In 2013, the big tourism stories were the nightly TV clips from Beijing to educate Chinese travellers about behaving better and the ringing tills of luxury retailers abroad.  This year, a good shopping experience still remains the top reason for choosing a holiday according to an HSBC survey.  Yet when the top three reasons are factored in, nature/hikes and tasty food are more important than shopping to travellers overall, representative of the increasingly diverse Chinese tourist.

The attraction of nature and hiking is reflective of China’s youth growing more interested in healthy exercise, and the ability to escape the polluted concrete megacities that most Chinese travellers come from.

Mín yǐ shí wéi tiān: “Food is the God of the people” is an old Chinese idiom that is as relevant today as ever.  Increasing exposure to foreign cuisine in the Mainland has whet consumers’ appetites to experience more on their holidays.  On previous tourism-related marketing campaigns, China Skinny has found that food and beverage are some of the most engaging communications for Chinese.

Destinations are increasingly going beyond just talking about food and beverage to Chinese, and are enhancing related attractions to appeal to them. For example, New Zealand’s vineyards are hoping to tap into China’s growing taste for wine with one vineyard hiring the greensmaster from the “Lord of the Rings” movies to advise on landscaping around the winery and cellar door.

Food-related tourism is not just great business for attractions, but is also good for building sustainable sales of food back in China.  A study earlier this year found that Chinese tourists to Australia spend 40% more on Australian products after returning home to China.  But it’s not just the travellers who will buy more.  The obligatory social sharing on holidays is also influencing their family, friends and colleagues back home to buy those products in addition to influencing their travel decisions.

Sounds familiar right? And when it comes to educating tourists on behaving better there are some U.S. Millennials that could use more than a few tips (are you listening Ryan Lochte?)

There are still too many people who get left out of having memorable travel, dining and other entertainment experiences because it’s simply too expensive. But I would argue the desire is there particularly on the part of U.S. Millennials and Chinese tourists and they will go out of their way, to find a way.

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
This entry was posted in China Marketing, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How U.S. Millennials are like Chinese tourists

  1. Hallie says:

    The girl living with me is a true millennial (27 years old) — not just loves experiences, but spontaneity. At moment’s notice, she booked a flight to Miami and stayed at a room, courtesy of BnB, by the beach. While her joie de vie is charming, it may not translate well into marriage, which requires focus & a certain monotony. As a friend of mine (Silent Generation) observed, these young’uns might get married, but it remains to be seen if they stay married.


  2. markkolier says:

    Maybe marriage like sleeping will become cool again at some point in the future Hallie. Thanks!


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