A recently released May 2016 study by Harris has uncovered 3 reasons why millennials aren’t choosing Myrtle Beach in the same proportions as their baby boomer parents did a generation ago. A study by Harris Group found that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences above purchases on material things.
Millennials make up more than one fourth of the total U.S. population. The oldest members of this generation turn 35 this year.
3 Reasons Why Millennials Aren’t Choosing Myrtle Beach
EXPERIENCES OVER THINGS
Millennials prefer buying experiences over things.
When it comes to money, ‘experiences’ trump ‘things’: More than 3 in 4 millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable, and 55% of millennials say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before.
The endless “All You Can Eat Buffet restaurant” experiences in Myrtle Beach simply miss the mark in this regard. While new ventures, like Art Burger and the Chemist, in Myrtle Beach are in tune with millennials, most Myrtle Beach venues were built for another generation of tourists long since retired or deceased.
The same is true for Myrtle Beach hotel experiences. According to Phocuswright research, “We see millennial travelers more as explorers than tourists,” said Brian McGuinnes, global brand leader of Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands. “Our Aloft hotels are specifically designed with them in mind.” Aloft hotels are featured in downtown Manhattan, Liverpool and London England. New properties open up this year in Asia as well.
The Aloft concept features free WI-FI areas for working poolside or in the hotel bar. A robotic bellhop responds to tech-savvy millennial guests. Customers who are too busy to talk to a human can order from an emoji room-service menu by texting a string of emoji with the last name and room number to Aloft TiGi (stands for Text it. Get it.)
Said 28 year old Sherrelle Banks, a communications analyst for Fidelity Investments, “Clean, non smoking rooms are a must. I post almost everything on social media.” She says she takes pictures of the lobby, the view from the room, and the room itself, along with vacation shots of activities to share with friends and family. “People who saw pictures of my trip to Costa Rica on Facebook said they want to go with me next time.” Banks added.
Aloft has no plans to invest in the Myrtle Beach market. Representatives there stated they would not invest until a multiple year history of long term Myrtle Beach ocean water quality positive test results lowered customer concerns about the area.
ENVIRONMENT MATTERS (OCEAN WATER QUALITY IS A PRIMARY CONCERN)
“Brands that establish a reputation for environmental stewardship among today’s youngest consumers have an opportunity to not only grow market share but build loyalty among the power-spending Millennials of tomorrow, too,” says Grace Farraj, SVP, Public Development & Sustainability, Nielsen.
Nielsen surveyed millennials worldwide. In every country surveyed, Millennials said they were more likely to purchase and would actually pay more for environmentally conscious brands. Increasingly over the past 5 years, the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce has consistently failed the “ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS” expectations of this demographic. High profile battles between the Chamber of Commerce and environmental groups like the Coastal Conservation league have only re-enforced millennials beliefs that Myrtle Beach is not an environmentally concerned city.
MyrtleBeachSC.com has been reporting ongoing about the DHEC poor water quality ratings of our area beaches. Responses from local officials, as well as the President of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce actually worked in a manner that destroyed the very credibility those leaders hoped to foster among millennials. “By denying a problem we could readily see was plastered all across a government [DHEC] website, the Chamber completely lost me on this one,” said 29 year old Staci Shelly. “If they lie about that, what else are they lying about?”
In preparing this report, MyrtleBeachSC.com reached out to three key brands that we knew focused primarily on millennial tourism. Each told us “off the record” that they would not consider investing in Myrtle Beach until the Chamber of Commerce and the city addressed its ocean water quality issues. “Local officials see this as a temporary revenue issue,” said local business owner and surfer Earnie Graham. “These issues are long term concerns for any educated tourists,” he added. “These [starter family] tourists are going to want to know that it is safe to take their kids into the water. We have archaic storm water drainage systems in Myrtle Beach,” said Graham.
SURPISE – PRIVACY MATTERS
Because millennials spend so much time on social media, the “tag” on this group has been that they do not care about personal privacy. Surprise – data shows this group is very selective, but they care very much about certain privacy issues. Among the top of those concerns is keeping their location data secure.
Our own report of May, 13th upset many millennials as they learned the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber has begun pinging their cell phones when they arrive in Myrtle Beach if they have visited the Chamber’s VISITMYRTLEBEACH.com website by cell phone. Those same millennials were angered by the knowledge that the city of Myrtle Beach scans each license plate as it enters the city and now is able to follow each tourist around town by video surveillance. Just the knowledge of these types of tactics will keep many of this demographic from ever visiting our beaches.
“Often times I was told by the industry that Millennials don’t care about cybersecurity or the services we provide, that identity management and secure authentication was not a priority because Millennials look at things differently as a generation that grew up digitally engaged,” says Richard Parris, CEO of Intercede. “So when we first set out to do this survey we thought that’s what the findings would reveal. … but it’s the opposite.”
Eighty percent of respondents said it was “vital” or “very important” that personally identifiable, financial, and medical data be shared only with those whom they have authorized access. 74 percent responded the same about location data, 58 percent for social media content, and 57 percent for purchasing preferences.
Most of them aren’t entirely willing to surrender data just to get a better retail experience or free stuff. Only 40 percent of respondents would hand over location data in exchange for targeted goods or services and 40 percent would give a summary of their shopping habits in exchange for free products and services.
CONCLUSION: MYRTLE BEACH ISN’T MILLENNIAL READY
Research shows that it is hard to hide things from Millennials. They are well informed and know how to access data cities [like Myrtle Beach] would prefer visitors not know.
The findings above show that Myrtle Beach isn’t millennial ready at a time when millennials make up over 80% of the families Myrtle Beach needs to sustain tourism.
Water quality issues aside, data above show the key reasons as to why Myrtle Beach tourism is down significantly Summer 2016.
Myrtle Beach does not have even one high profile millennial in any key leadership of city government nor on the leadership staff of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber.
At a time when (within a decade) Cuba will soon be open to American tourists, more and more, Myrtle Beach looks like an out of touch relic from an era long past. Its leadership out of step with even how to appropriately communicate to its lifeline of a needed customer base.
To its credit, North Myrtle Beach has been much more open and willing to change and grow so as to meet the needs of this new and different customer demographic.