Get ready for luxury and big travel as Millennials enter next phase

As I mentioned this morning, Millennials are driving a new luxury trend that is only starting to take off. FutureCast says Millennials compose about 25 percent of the $500,000-and-over household income class, and that rate will only grow over the next 10-15 years.

We know that Millennials prefer experiences over things – I call this the Moment Economy. So when thinking about how Millennials may shape the economy over the next 15 years, focus on the travel industry.

Now let’s put those concepts together and look at luxury travel. Forbes contributor Jeff Fromm recently did a Q&A with Cathy Ross, the CEO of Exclusive Resorts, to get some insight on what Millennials are doing in the luxury travel industry.

In short, they’re looking for personalization (concierge service), four-star accommodations and mobile compatibility. And all Millennials want to be active on vacation, says Ross, while also immersing themselves in the culture of wherever they’re visiting (traditional food and drink, customs and outdoor activities).

A lot of this is true on an anecdotal level, but even for affluent Millennials we’re about to see a shift. That shift is all about family. Soon Millennials will be frequenting enclosed resorts that allow for safe family fun, and theme parks and cruise ships that package entertainment. How the travel industry responds here will be key (think cruise ships adding more “adventure” opportunities and ethnic immersion packages).

Still, for the non-family traveler, personalization and unique experience will reign.

Ross also mentioned that Airbnb and other room sharing apps may not take off with the luxury market because it may add stress and uncertainty to the vacation process. I can see that, but I can also see disruption at the luxury level – think mobile-ready time shares.

Meanwhile, Ross cited a number of locations Millennials love. The list isn’t very focused, but for certain, places like Iceland and Thailand stand out. These are previously unheralded locations that may be more affordable to visit (though being there may include more adventure and, in the case of Iceland, cost).

I’d also be prepared to see an uptick in American locations such as the national park system. Two reasons: Millennials want experiences when they can get them, and that sometimes means hopping in the car and driving a bit; also, once again, family vacation.

Luxury is coming, and the travel industry will be ready. Just don’t think, as always, that Millennials will cause a sea change.

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