Quarterly Travel Recovery Index - Part III: The State of the Millennial Traveler

Our new survey takes a closer look at the preferences of younger generations (Millennials and some Gen Z) around future travel.

Adit Damodaran - Feb. 18, 2021

Nearly a year after the initial coronavirus lockdowns, many Americans are hoping to take a vacation getaway this year. However, safety concerns are still top of mind for travelers.

In part three of its Quarterly Travel Recovery Index, the expert team at travel app, Hopper surveyed consumers to get a sense of how Americans feel about future travel? In this new survey report titled, The State of the Millennial Traveler, Hopper takes a closer look at the preferences of younger generations (primarily Millennials and some Gen Z) around future travel, and their willingness and comfort around flying in the next year. 

Prior to the pandemic, millennial consumers were known for prioritizing experiences (travel, entertaining, dining) over material things. In fact, millennials were among the largest generation flying before COVID-19. Nearly a year into the pandemic, what does the state of travel look like for this important consumer segment now? 

To stay current with evolving attitudes and preferences about travel, Hopper surveyed 1,000 consumers nationwide during the week of January 12th, 2021. All respondents had taken at least one flight in the past three years. The following survey captures the sentiment of younger travelers who are ages 18-34. 

Summary:

  • Among the findings, millennials are split on when they’ll feel comfortable flying again. 

  • On average, millennials rate their current level of comfort around flying at a 6 out of 10.

  • 55% of millennials said that they would feel comfortable flying in 3-4 months (late Spring 2021), with 30% stating that they were comfortable travelling now. However, the majority of millennials reported that they’ll be ready to fly by Summer 2021.

  • 81% of millennials in the U.S. are planning to fly in the next 12 months. While 60% of millennials are planning to fly domestically, about a third (34%) are planning to fly internationally this year.

  • Flexibility or the ability to change/cancel a flight without incurring an additional fee, was ranked the number one factor for millennials when considering future travel plans.

  • When planning future travel, 43% of millennials reported that the intention of their next flight will be to visit friends and family.

  • The majority of millennials plan to stay with friends or family the next time they travel versus a larger hotel chain or vacation/home rental.

When will millennials feel comfortable flying again?

55% of millennials would feel comfortable flying in the next 3-4 months.

Millennials are split on when they’ll feel comfortable flying again. Over half (55%) said that they would feel comfortable flying in 3-4 months (late Spring 2021), with 30% stating that they were comfortable traveling now. The majority of respondents reported that they will feel comfortable flying again by Summer 2021.

However, a quarter of millennials (25%) reported that they won’t feel comfortable flying again for at least 8 months. 

Comfort level

Millennials currently rate their level of comfort around flying a 6/10.

We asked respondents how comfortable they felt flying on a scale of 1-10. On average, millennial respondents rated their comfort level around flying a 6 out of 10, which was the median response. 

How would you rate comfort level

How does the vaccine roll-out impact future travel decisions?

When Hopper asked what would make consumers feel more comfortable before flying again, the majority of respondents said that they would prefer either getting vaccinated themselves, or waiting for those in higher risk groups to be vaccinated before taking a flight.

34% of younger travelers said they preferred being vaccinated themselves first before they would feel comfortable flying again. Another 19% of respondents said they would feel comfortable flying again once high risk groups have been vaccinated.

Which of the following would you prefer before you feel comfortable flying again?

Flexibility is the most important factor for millennials when considering future travel.

According to the survey, flexibility or the ability to change/cancel a flight without incurring an additional fee, will be the most important factor for millennials the next time they take a flight. In fact, 36% reported that flexibility was the most important factor to them when considering future travel plans. 28% of respondents said strict sanitation practices from the airline were most important, such as enforcing mask adherence and reducing the number of passengers on the plane, which was tied with another 28% saying price was the most important.

What will be the most the most important factor to you the next time you fly?

Where do millennials plan to fly in 2021?

According to Hopper’s survey results, 81% of millennials in the U.S. are planning to fly in the next 12 months. While the majority are planning to fly domestically (60%), about a third (34%) are planning to fly internationally in 2021.

Where do Millennials plan to fly in 2021?

What is the purpose of their travel?

Many millennials who are traveling or planning future trips are going to visit friends and family. Young adults will seek to reconnect with those they’ve been apart from for a while. 43% of millennials reported that the intention of their next flight will be to visit friends and family, which is about on par with the 44% intending to travel for a vacation. Only about 7% reported that their next flight would be for work related reasons. 

And they’ll stay with family and friends too.

When asked where travelers are most likely to stay during their next trip, 35% of millennials responded that they’ll likely stay with friends and family the next time they travel. Staying with friends or family exceeded the 24% planning to stay at larger hotel chains, along with the 26% planning to stay in a vacation or home rental during their next trip.

Where are you most likely to stay during your next trip?

Methodology

These findings represent people who are between the ages of 18 and 34. We surveyed a representative sample of 1,001 U.S. adults through Google Surveys, of which 18% were classified as millennials based on their age, as well as n=197 Hopper users. We screened for the n=596 respondents who reported taking at least one flight in the past 3 years, of which 18% were millennials. Data was collected on January 11th/12th, 2021.

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