Experience the Northern Cape, South Africa

Millennials – or the desirable Generation Y. Every brand on the planet is trying to figure out what they want so they can tap into their adventurous spirit and capture a chunk of their considerable spending power. Now, Generation Z has entered the picture, too.

The Northern Cape, for one, is perfectly positioned to be high on the millennial traveller’s bucket list, with its many immersive, authentic, low-key, off-the-beaten-track experiences. But how can we give the millennial traveller what he or she wants?

Here are 10 insights on how to attract millennial and post-millennial travellers:

They’re seeking experiences, not stuff

Across the world, millennials are showing that they’d rather invest in memorable experiences than in trinkets or possessions when travelling. Wary of the curse of “overtourism” besetting tourist hotspots such as Venice and Barcelona, they’re more likely to explore “exotic” or less commercialised locations than any other demographic.

If they’re going to be stocking up on something during their trip, it’ll be memories in the form of photos and videos, not material mementoes – unless there’s something really unusual that catches their eye.

They are hyper-connected

Unless they’re deliberately going for an off-the-grid experience, younger travellers are tech-savvy and expect free Wi-Fi connectivity as standard. This isn’t just so they can Instagram their holiday snaps – it’s also so they can stay connected to the outside world and do impromptu research on places they'd like to visit. Besides, South African mobile data costs are considered prohibitively high.

Millennials do want to switch off to a certain degree when holidaying, but chances are many of them will want to show off, too, by sharing their experiences online.

They want immersive, authentic interactions with locals

Millennials are keen to go beyond the obviously touristy, at-arms’-length experiences. They want to meet and interact with the communities – rural, township, urban – where they’re staying. In some cases, they want to “live like a local”, too.

This type of experiential travel could include them not just going on a game drive, but also rolling up their sleeves and pitching in with conservation or community upliftment projects. “Voluntourism” is a growing trend among this market.

They’re looking for sustainable and responsible tourism practices

Environmentally aware and ethically conscious, millennials strive to leave a sustainable footprint where they tread. Eco-lodges that use renewable power sources and hotels that practise water saving in drought-stricken areas are right up their alley.

According to Avukile Mabombo, group marketing manager for Protea Hotels, quoted in the Skift Megatrends Defining Travel in 2018 report, “millennial travellers are going to start making hotels more accountable”. This extends to rejecting “unnatural” wildlife encounters, with cub petting, ostrich riding and similar practices widely seen as not just unethical, but morally repugnant.

Don’t forget about South African millennials

It’s not just the international millennial traveller that’s the glittering prize – South African millennials also travel a lot, have sizeable budgets and are adventurous, according to the Skift report. They have similar aspirations to their global counterparts – although their spending power is more limited.

What they want is also slightly different. As Cape Winelands-based destination marketing expert Mariette du Toit-Helmbold notes in the same report, the local millennial traveller “still cares about brand and brag value, whilst foreign travellers want a more meaningful and mindful experience”.

They value recommendations over marketing promises

Millennials won’t just trust destinations’ or establishments’ promises at face value – they’ll go and look for recommendations from travellers and friends, either in person or via social media and travel review websites such as TripAdvisor.

They want to customise their own trips

Millennials aren’t necessarily looking for an all-inclusive package deal – they want the freedom to craft their own itineraries and select their own activities according to their needs, not be dictated to by the whims and availability of others.

There’s also the feeling that they don’t just want a cookie-cutter travel experience like the tourist hordes – their holiday must be personalised, special, meaningful and extraordinary. For them, curating their own adventures and telling their own stories are of paramount importance.

They’re looking for value over price

If you offer little perks and unexpected extras, you’ll reel in the millennial traveller. There’s nothing like a complimentary bottle of wine, a room upgrade or free transfer to make them feel like they’re getting added value for their tourism buck. They want to feel that they’re not just another impersonal travel “number” to the establishment.

Those small, personal touches and courtesies add up to intangible value that breeds goodwill and encourages referrals – great for brand-building and online reviews.

They want to sample the local foodie scene

While some travellers might still opt for “safe” and familiar meal staples such as burgers and pasta, more and more millennials are venturing into trying local cultural cuisine.

And chances are that, once they’ve feasted on traditional favourites like the roosterkoek and venison potjie in the Northern Cape – not to mention roasted leg of Karoo lamb and slow-cooked pens-en-pootjies (tripe and trotters) stew – they’ll be hooked!

They like taking micro-cations

A lot of under-40s are so time-starved that they can’t get away for a holiday of longer than three or four days at a time. Even though they love to travel, they’re stressed, have multiple demands on their time and finances, and just can’t get around to planning and bankrolling a lengthy getaway.

Enter the “micro-cation”. This is a three- or four-night “sho’t left” that’s like an extended long weekend. According to Allianz Global Assistance’s 2019 Vacation Confidence Index white paper, 21% of American millennials polled said their longest trips were three to four nights – and 29% said they took at least three of these micro-cations per year. Food for thought for our tourism bodies and establishments!