Travel Brands Shift their Focus to the College Audience

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The travel and hospitality industries have targeted older generations for a long time. Historically, adults with established careers or upcoming retirement were the hot customers for brands in the travel industry. Although these demographics are still a focus, college students are quickly gaining the attention of travel brands. The millennial generation’s insatiable appetite for travel and gaining new experiences all around the world is beginning to rival the 60% of seniors who open up to traveling when their retirement begins.

As it is with most significant differences between generations, social media is an important influencer that piques interest for travel in the earlier stages of adulthood. According to Mike Flannery, President of Acme House Co, “A decrease in societal pressure to start families and a job market full of companies with enticing vacation packages have contributed to an increased ability for young adults to travel without sacrificing personal and professional progression.”

Marketers at major hospitality firms have caught on to the student travel bugs. Here are some of the values supporting the most powerful travel campaigns targeted toward young adults.


  1. Authenticity

Companies like Airbnb have capitalized on the sensitivities of college students by promoting the idea of flexibility and local authenticity. These trends are what hotels are now starting to pick up on, and beginning to understand and discover how to have the same appeal. A prime example of this is the company Aloft. The company describes itself as a hotel for global travelers who love all things open, including spaces, thinking and expression. Social interaction with other guests are encouraged: live music and communal pool tables create places to bond and discuss with other guests.

  1. Exclusivity

The Hilton is another chain of hotels looking to target the younger market. One of the main ways they have done this is by partnering with Live Nation to create a series of live music events in Hilton hotels across the US and UK. These events were only available to HHonors members between 30,000 to 80,000 points, as a way to instill brand loyalty to Hilton hotels. Hilton also live-streamed the events, to showcase the benefits of being a Honors member and attract more members in their loyalty program.

  1. Traveling as a lifestyle

Travel companies are starting to showcase their brands and their service using the idea of traveling as a lifestyle. They utilize inspiration content to make students want to explore and adventure to other places. For example, Generator Hostels runs their Instagram account that is only photos of travel locations and experiences. There isn’t any photos of a bed or breakfast tables – the company is selling itself on being an experience. The experience of the places to go, things to see is more important than the physical aspects of travel – how you get there, where you sleep.

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