Understanding the characteristics of a new generation of travel consumersNewsBy Timothy O'Neil-Dunne | April 13, 2011Share This article was originally published on Millenials coming into the travel marketplace are displaying vastly different characteristics from the Gen Y and Gen X players before them.A new global study by a number of respected academic institutions across the world shines a light on the behavior of this group.The study was led by the International Center for Media & The Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland in the US, with a further 11 institutions taking part.The study looked at 1,000 students in ten countries across five continents. It asked them to abstain from using all media for a full day.After 24 hours of abstinence, the students were then asked to report any successes and admit to any failures. In total, the students wrote close to half a million words (the equivalent to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace).As a piece of social commentary it is fascinating. But as a peak into the future it is frightening to older generations. Meanwhile, for those operating in the travel industry, understanding how this new generation consumes media, and its need for attachment, is vital.While the study focuses primarily on the addiction of the students to media, we need to understand how to harness this attraction.The study also draws very clear differentiation between media as a vehicle – and the generation's attachment to it (both the how and the what) - and the content they consumer, as well as definitions of what traditionally have been labeled as "news".This places the term social media in context.We would do well to consider how they behave. They love travel just like every other generation before them, but their behavior is very different.In fact, understanding them will be key to our business - and evolution of the old ways is not the right way to go about addressing this group.Here are my top eight picks from the study (full findings here): Students reported that media – especially mobile phones – have literally become an extension of themselves. Going without media, therefore, made it seem like they had lost part of themselves. Mobile phones function both as this generation’s Swiss Army knife AND its security blanket.Students around the world reported that being tethered to digital technology 24/7 is not just a habit, it is essential to the way they construct and manage their friendships and social lives. A clear majority in every country admitted outright failure of their efforts to go unpluggedStudents construct different "brand" identities for themselves by using different communication tools to reach different types of people.What is "news"? To students, news means "anything that just happened" – worldwide events AND friends’ everyday thoughts. "We no longer search for news, the news finds us. 140 characters of news is all I need."Across the world, students depend on music not only to make their commutes to school and work more tolerable, but to regulate their moods.TV is all about escape.Email is not dead: it just skews older – and is for ‘work.’Students’ "addiction" to media may not be clinically diagnosed, but the cravings sure seem real – as do the anxieties and the depression [check out the addiction grid]. Having lived with two members of this community, it makes sense.They are vastly different in nature and character, but they share these characteristics. This represents a critical moment in our society that changes many long held beliefs.The global village, folks, has finally arrived.