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Iceland, a hot destination with Millennials, is offered on Collette’s Explorations product.
Iceland, a hot destination with Millennials, is offered on Collette’s Explorations product.

Did you know that by 2020 Millennials will make up roughly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce, which means they’ll be spending lots of money, including on their vacations. But how they perceive vacations, as you well know, is a whole lot different than previous generations, and in order to cash in on this sizeable generation, you need to get into their mindset. So what do they want?

According to MMGY Global’s 2016 Portrait of American Travelers study, 82 percent are more likely to try new things while on vacation; 62 percent don’t want to feel like a tourist while on vacation; and 71 percent are willing to pay full price for a vacation, as long as they are guaranteed the quality and service they deserve. They want to meet new people, experience new cuisines and different cultures, and they want to explore.

Virtuoso travel advisor Lynn Ciccarelli, owner of Bella Vacations, points out that, “many Millennials are getting very well paid, and they want everything. They want to immerse themselves in a destination, but not in a backpacking way. If they go to London, they want to stay in a hotel that has a really cool vibe with Londoners hanging out.” They want to, she says, “go to smaller off-the-beaten paths of Europe, not just the large cities.” Like the study says: They want to experience new things while on vacation.

So where are Millennial couples finding these new adventures and experiences? Ciccarelli says Millennials are looking to go to Portugal, Switzerland and Iceland, and “it’s all about the activity—they want to go biking, hiking.”

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up three tour options that are a good fit for Millennial couples interested in exploring Europe on a romantic getaway, and if you think the words “tour” and “Millennial” shouldn’t be in the same sentence, Ashley Woodring Lawson, Contiki’s national sales director, says it’s important for “travel advisors to debunk the misconception of what a tour can be because when Millennials hear the word ‘tour’ they think of traveling with their parents, grandparents or family.”

Young & Free
Contiki, offering tours for 18- to 35 year olds, says Lawson, is a perfect fit for Millennial couples because “they’ll be able to meet peers with similar interests, and our trips to Europe are built to accommodate free time for those that fear having to stay with the group. Couples who travel on Contiki, for example, still have plenty of time to have a romantic dinner or enjoy a night out, and they have an expert Trip Manager to provide suggestions.”

Contiki classifies its trips into several categories such as “High Energy,” “In-Depth Explorer” and “Easy Pace.” The latter is recommended for couples since they provide two to three nights in each destination and feature later start times each day. The tour operator’s 9-day Croatia Island Escape Plus (another destination Ciccarelli says Millennials are requesting) includes visits to Split, Hvar, Korcula, Dubrovnik, Trstenik and Makarska, with ME Time Optionals such as a Dubrovnik city walking tour; city walls kayaking trip; and a captain’s dinner (not included in the tour cost). This cruise tour docks at stunning locales, including the unspoiled village of Trstenik, and sails past such beauties as the Elaphite Islands, known for its palms, cypresses, olive trees and citrus plantations. There’s plenty of free time for couples to explore on their own or kick-back and cuddle while sailing one of the region’s most stunning areas. Rates for this tour start at $1,324.

Another point that Ciccarelli brings up regarding Millennials is that they tend to move from city to city, rather than staying in one city and going on day tours. To that end, Contiki’s 13-day Eastern Road hopscotches across Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, taking in nine World Heritage Sites. Recommend the ME Time Optional add-ons that offer quintessential experiences such as a salt mines tour; a traditional Czech evening; and a Vienna classical concert and dinner. Tour rates start at $1,684.

Cooking Up Romance
Quintessential experiences are also on the menu in Avanti Destinations’ new cooking class offerings in Europe. The emphasis is on seasonal dishes made with locally produced ingredients. Are your Millennial clients’ ears perking up? They should be, because according to Avanti’s president Harry Dalgaard, Millennials, which make up 23 percent of the operator’s bookings, “seem to value authentic experiences. Many of these involve adventure or something unusual, like hiking on glaciers in Iceland or activities that give them an opportunity to meet local people and learn a skill, like how to make Provencal pastries or how to prepare a truly Roman dinner.”

In Capri, for example, couples can opt for a private afternoon cooking class with dinner at a private villa overlooking the sea ($279), and in Venice they have the option of going on a 4.5-hour private tour of the Rialto market with a chef instructor who’ll teach them how to prepare a complete Venetian meal in his traditional home (from $485).

Dalgaard recommends that when booking Millennials on a romantic getaway, travel advisors should look for accommodations “in castles or B&Bs, or romantic places like Venice, the Amalfi Coast, the Greek Islands, the Loire Valley or Barcelona.”

Discover Beyond the Ordinary
Another top destination for Millennials, couples or otherwise, is, as Ciccarelli mentioned, Iceland. On Collette’s 9-day Iceland: Land of Fire & Ice (from $2,549), part of the operator’s Explorations line, Millennial couples can go on a lava cave adventure or walk coastal lava fields; they can cruise on the ice-strewn Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon past icebergs; learn about the 400-year-old tradition of catching and preserving Greenland shark; and overnight in a fishing village to enjoy a scenic bay cruise. Paula Twidale, the operator’s executive v.p., says that Collette’s Explorations product is a good fit for Millennials because it’s “full of experiential components. This product appeals to many demographics, including Millennials, based on exotic destinations such as Costa Rica, Morocco, Galapagos and emerging destinations like Myanmar.”

Twidale also advises travel advisors to look at the company’s Spotlight tours when booking a trip for Millennial couples because “they provide core components to an international destination, but allow free time to engage on your own based on your interests. This type of escorted product incorporates value and safety, but does not confine you to a packed itinerary.”

And that’s exactly what Millennials are looking for in their travels.

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