Why the hype about hipster travel trends is, like, so unhip
The Millennial version of cool is way past its sell-by date
I am suffering from a strange new Millennial affliction. Pulled pork gives me indigestion. Ironic T-shirts make me sick. Selfies have become an embarrassing practice from my near-youth, along with wearing too much kohl and advocating red-hot socialism. I no longer find exposed-brick cocktail bars cool – just cold.
I’m not the only 20-something who feels this way. Reports have emerged that reclaimed wood is on its way out and men are shaving off their hipster beards. This is a relief for people like me, but a problem if you work in tourism. After a sluggish start responding to the Millennial market, travel companies are now feverishly pumping money into selling street food tours, artisanal beer tasting experiences and trendy cruises to a hipster caricature – one that is already approaching its sell-by date.This could be particularly costly for a new breed of “ste-retro-typical” hotels opening up around the world. I mean the hip pads catering to the cool kids, dangling with vintage light bulbs, and glinting with more copper than the belly of a Chilean mine. They will very quickly go out of style.
The little brothers and sisters of us Millennials – who have very different tastes – are accelerating this trend. Whereas Millennials apparently like their chill-out spaces with flaking décor not dissimilar to a serial killer’s basement, Generation Z – those born between 1995 and 2014 – are more fond of “elegant connoisseur” design. According to interior software company Modsy, this boils down to a slicker, more glamorous look (expensive-looking vintage rather than tatty Millennial kitsch; bold pops of colour; slick design pieces like Barcelona chairs).Shifting social media trends could also scupper the travel industry’s grand plans to flog holidays to the Millennial generation. Facebook has been a big marketing focus. The only problem is young people are ditching the platform in their droves. Vero – the latest trending “anti-Facebook” social media app – is proving popular because its business model is algorithm- and ad-free, with users paying a subscription.
If this pattern continues, it could throw long-term online youth advertising strategies into disarray. Instagram’s popularity endures, according to tech experts. Not with me though. I can no longer be bothered to post my personal holiday pics (and I’m a travel writer). Hashtagging photos has become as much of a chore as the hoovering. No platform is safe when the core market is youth – we are fickle and easily fatigued.What’s worse, nobody is sure if the lifestyle influencers my generation is supposedly enthralled by have much – well – influence. There is no clear evidence of a relationship between social media follower numbers and generation of revenue. I have spoken with tour companies who pay bloggers eye-watering sums to plug their ware but don’t actually have a clue whether it delivers returns. Moreover, research shows that the higher a blogger’s social media follower count, the lower the rate of engagement.
Even in the fashion industry – which has a far more developed influencer subdivision – there are serious questions about whether collaborations with leading bloggers actually drive sales.All the better that the market is potentially unravelling. Acting out the “cool Millennial abroad” can ruin a perfectly good holiday. On European weekend breaks, I went through a phase of favouring supper clubs over anything as mainstream as a restaurant. Until I realised it was only tourists – not locals – at these “authentic” gatherings. I’d rather forget my one experience of AirBnB – a studio in “do-or-die” Bed-Stuy. I thought it would be a taste of “real New York”; my reward was a damp hovel that smelled of student depression and cigarettes.
Where does this leave the millennial travel market? The industry will have to work harder to understand younger consumers. They must recognise tastes are complex, and habits and interests are shifting over time. I, for example, have tired of frenzied 48-hour breaks in Europe. No longer can I deal with the heart palpitations from the stressful hand-luggage packing sessions, or get up for 5am flights. Instead, I prefer mindfulness breaks at top spas and exploring the countryside.
Travel companies will also have to stop trying to court a hipster stereotype. News that cruise company Uniworld has already abandoned the age limit for its slick new “Millennials-only” ships launching in April is a sobering lesson that the market is not straightforward.The Millennials are no more all selfie-stick-wielding brunch addicts than the Baby Boomers are all satisfied to spend their holidays entombed in a super resort, shuffling between the swimming pool and the golf course. The travel sector would do well to go back to basics and remember the first rule of any business: don’t insult your customer.
© The Daily Telegraph