Millennials, the group of people born between the mid 1980’s and early 2000’s, are different from their Generation X counterparts in a number of ways. They are seen as tech-savvy, socially conscious, achievement-driven people with more flexible ideas about wealth, work and play. It stands to reason, therefore, that their expectations about park activities would be different too. In order to figure this out, it is important to look at what’s important to millennials and from there we can see what they think makes a great park and recreation experience.
Everything’s Better with Friends
Millennials are digital natives that, because of social media and access to the internet, aren’t used to feeling alone. That means that most of them aren’t looking to spend a quiet day alone in a park pondering life’s deepest mysteries. This isn’t to say that they aren’t deep thinkers. In fact, Forbes reports that companies are feeling the need to evolve because of the values and ideas espoused by this generation. But, given the social nature of these individuals, parks and recreation areas that offer a chance for group activities are more likely to appeal to them.
It’s a Wi-Fi Kind of World
Not only are Millennials used to having ready access to the Internet via smart phones and tablets, they use these devices to share their travel and recreation experiences in realtime. Give a Millennial a way to snap a selfie with friends in front of a fantastically cool statue or feature with a few cuddly animals nearby, and you’ve got a happy camper (or park goer).
Remember: Volume and Variety
As Millennials get jobs and make money, traveling is a priority to them in a way it wasn’t for the preceding generation. A survey completed by Hipmunk shows that Millennials are more interested in “bucket list” adventures and want to take more trips each year than they did the previous year. A Barkley study shows that Millennials seek a broader range of activities. They want to try “everything from opera to rock climbing” and visit every continent and all 50 states. In other words, if there is a state park or attraction within driving distance, they’re likely to visit. If it contains other items on their wish list, they’ll favor it.
Creature Comforts are Key
Glamping is actually a thing. The term, a combination of camping and glamour, describes a type of camping that blends nature and luxury. This means upscale tents with fantastic views, camping with room service and other amenities that make sleeping outdoors more palatable. Millennials like glamping. They also like hotel rooms equipped with board games, arcades and whiskey bars. They’ll pay extra for a flight with no kids and one with an open bar. They want convenience and fun with a little indulgent luxury thrown in.
Life is But a Game
Millennials like to multi-task, and they like rewards and points for travel. If there is an online component to an outdoor activity (a way to compete against others or earn reward points for participation in different programs or initiatives) the happier they are. Millennials aren’t past winning badges for their park experiences any more than they are stacking up badges for the beers they drink on Untappd. Certain outdoor brands promote sponsored activities that offer rewards for participation. Don’t underestimate the power of gamification with this special group of individuals.
Got to Stay Moving
Millennials like to stay active. They like parks with bike trails, running trails and open fields for group activities. This generation isn’t afraid to play a game of tag or kickball in public. In addition to standard opportunities for exercise, Millennials also like zip lines, rock climbing, skateboarding and other “extreme” activities as well. Access to water means a need for kayak rentals and water-skiing. They may want to show up, look good and take selfies, but they want to get a good workout, too.
Don’t Forget the Canine Companions
Millennials keep busy. We’ve already established that. They also tend to be pet owners. As this generation puts off marriage longer than, say the Boomer generation, they are getting pets as adults, according to a research study done by Wakefield. So, when Millennials go out for the day, they often want to take their dogs with them. Open-air malls exist now, and many businesses put out water bowls to show that they are pet-friendly. Parks with water access for dogs would appeal to the Millennial set, as would parks with pet cleanup stations and ready access to trash bins.
As times change, so do people. Millennials are the biggest group of consumers on the forefront, and making small changes to cater to them isn’t a bad idea.
How are you attracting millennials to your parks and recreation? What would you add to this list? Leave a comment below.
Scott Hornick is CEO of Adventure Solutions, a commercial recreation builder located in Baltimore MD. Scott and his crew plan, engineer and construct adventure obstacle courses for the recreation industry.