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With an estimated 83.1 million people, millennials make up the largest living generation in the United States. This is good news for tour operators, since millennials love to travel(opens in a new tab). Of course this may be true for all generations, but millennials don’t just love it. For many millennials in the US, UK, and China, traveling is more important than paying off debt or saving up to buy a home, according to a report by Airbnb(opens in a new tab).

Chart titled 'Thinking baout the next three years, which of the following are most important to you?' with the options 'traveling', 'buying a house', 'purchasing a car', or 'paying off debt'

As a result, there is a huge market for tour operators to tap into. And whilst it can be difficult for those from older generations to understand the buying habits of millennials, it is absolutely vital that the tourism industry adjust their marketing strategy to cater to them.

It won’t come as any surprise that one of the best ways to reach millennials is through social media. Here’s a chart to see the breakdown of which platforms millennials are using:

Graph of the responses to the survey question: 'if you use social media, what channels do you use?' with Facebook being the most popular and Periscope being the least

Let’s start with Facebook. For a more in-depth analysis into this, I recommend that you read my recent blog post about Facebook Live and Facebook Video. In short, Facebook Live and Facebook Video are the best tools to optimize your Facebook presence. Here’s why: Facebook hides most content from a Page’s followers, forcing them to pay to “boost” posts in order for people to see them. However, using Facebook Live and Facebook Video will help you get more views, without paying to boost. This is very important, as Facebook is an extremely valuable marketing tool if you want to reach millennials. Learning how to optimize the number of people who see your content will help you reach them. A great bonus is that according to a report by MDG Advertising, millennials love to share travel stories on Facebook.

Pie chart which states '42% of their Facebook posts are travel stories'

If you produce great content, they’ll share it.

Let’s move on to Instagram. Though it might seem like Instagram is only for millennials, there are actually people of all ages on it, so if you focus on Instagram, you won’t only be reaching millennials. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, aside from the 51% of American millennials who use Instagram, 33% of American 30-49 year olds and 18% of American 50-64 year olds use it.

Fortunately, Instagram is already a great platform for tour companies to use. It’s the most visual of the social media platforms, so it allows tour operators to really capture the beauty of their tours.

Instagram is owned by Facebook, and therefore, most of the same rules apply. Instagram will also hide your posts from most of your followers. However, just as Facebook Video and Live provide more views, using Instagram Stories will maximize the number of views your content receives. Instagram Stories are photos and videos that are available at the top of your followers feeds and that expire in 24 hours.

One benefit, aside from it likely getting more views, is that your Stories won’t flood your followers’ newsfeeds. Instead, they must click to see the content. Because of this feature, it’s appropriate to post frequently. Try posting videos and photos of tours in real time.

Though Stories will get you more views, make sure to continue to post regular photos and videos. To gain more followers through Instagram, it’s important to hashtag your posts and geotag your location. Think of hashtags and geotags as glue that sticks your post to bulletin boards all over the world. The more hashtags you use, the further your post will go. Instagram currently allows a maximum of thirty hashtags on a post, and you should be using every single one of them.

If you need help coming up with hashtags, use a hashtag generator like All-Hashtag(opens in a new tab). Make sure to use specific hashtags, as using general keywords will drown your post out in seconds. Instead, try region-specific hashtags. If you are running a food tour of Asheville, use “NorthCarolinaBBQ” as one of your hashtags. Instagram won’t be flooded with photos with this tag, so it won’t disappear behind hundreds of photos, but it isn’t so uncommon that people aren’t searching it.

Though hashtags are important to grow your following, many companies are turned off from using them because they look tacky, especially when there are more than a few. Have no fear! There is a trick to hiding your hashtags from viewers while still having your post show up to those who are searching by hashtag.

The first trick is to post your photo with a caption and no hashtags and then immediately after, comment on your photo with the thirty hashtags. Instead of showing up as hashtags, it will show up as “view 1 comment”, and viewers can only see the comment if they click it.

Next up, make sure to post quality photos on Instagram. A recent study(opens in a new tab) showed that when choosing a vacation, 40% of millennials care most about how “Instagrammable” it will be, meaning how the photos will look and how many likes they will get on Instagram. So, as a tour operator, you want the photos you’re sharing on Instagram to shine. Post photos that others will want, and pay, to post themselves.

Person riding a camel in the desert with another person holding the camel's reins

Image courtesy of


You should also encourage your clients to post photos and tag your tour company’s Instagram account. Then, use an application like Repost to “regram” the best posts to your profile.

It’ll also benefit you if others regram your posts, so try tagging the photos with accounts that might regram them. If you post a photo of your tour during a stop at an ice cream truck, tag the ice cream truck’s Instagram. Hopefully, they’ll regram your post, bringing their followers’ attention to your tour.

Create a specific geotag for your tour company. That way, others who are interested in your tour can look it up on Instagram and see the experience that others have had on the tour. According to a survey by Brooke Dillon of the University of Minnesota, millennials are far more likely to be influenced by and to trust a client’s social media post or review than an advertisement by the company.

Bar graph demonstrating the results of a survey question about which would you trust more: advertisement by a company or an image posted to social media by a guest or third party. The results show that the third party or guest image is far more trusted.

Finally, you want to make sure that your clients’ photos are accessible in one place for future clients to find while researching your tour company. If you need instructions on how to create a location for people to geotag, see these instructions provided by Instagram.

Now that you’ve mastered Instagram, let’s talk about other ways to attract millennials.

Make sure to display testimonials clearly on your website, not only on the desktop version but on mobile and tablet versions as well. Not having them present could set you back, as nearly all millennials surveyed said reviews influence their travel planning.

Bar graph showing that people say other travelers' reviews influence their travel planning 'a moderate amount' or 'a lot'

Encourage those who have taken your tours to leave a review on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Whatever you can do to have user-generated content will help millennials trust your company.

I hope you find this guide helpful for you to attract millennial travelers to your travel company. Millennials are an enormous generation who view traveling as a top priority. They are worth the effort to adapt your marketing strategy.

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