It has something to do with food pics.
During my last trip to Paris, I took about 130 photos with my phone (in less than 5 days). When I looked at the mini gallery on my phone I saw selfies, pictures of beautiful buildings, food, gardens, art, and pastries. Oh god, lots of pastries. But, one Parisian icon was notably absent: the Eiffel Tower. Not only did I not take a single photo of this monument, I didn’t even visit it, and I doubt that I even saw it clearly once. How can that be, you ask? Well, I guess it's because I simply don't care about the Eiffel Tower (mon dieu).
I have no intention to offend Gustave Eiffel, of course. The Eiffel is great. It's just that tourism as we know it is changing. Millennials, a demographic group I guess I'm a part of (who am I kidding, I totally am), are changing it. They just don't care that much about the Eiffel Tower, the Big Ben or the Statue of Liberty. What they do care about is feeling and experiencing a city’s authentic vibe.
The simplest reason for this is they’ve actually already seen many of these tourist attractions. On the internet. This digitally savvy generation grew up in a world that gave us immediate access to millions of quality images of the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and every other landmark that once sparked such curiosity. There are still those who want to have that prized photo of themselves standing next to a monument, but they are few and far between. Most millennial travelers are looking for things they can't find on Google: Experiences, connection, and meaning.
A study by Harris Group found that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. Add to that the fact that they are bigger travelers than both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, and that they pick their destinations because they want to experience a particular culture, and you have yourself a new kind of tourist. One who is looking for a unique, memorable and meaningful experience that cannot be duplicated.
Generations who didn’t have such immediate access to all this stimuli felt special when they saw the Eiffel Tower, because they joined an exclusive group of people - world travelers - who got to see it. Millennials, who’s friends and colleagues are likely to be aspiring globetrotters as well, no longer feel that unique feeling when standing for hours in line to see an ancient Roman ruin. They will, however, remember the special course they took, the delicious dish they ate in a hole in the wall restaurant, the chills that ran down their spine when they watched their favorite band playing live. And yes, they’ll take photos of them.
But this is not just the age of #YOLO and food photos. It’s also the age of political correctness, and millenials, who have a growing social awareness and are exposed to many cultures and opinions, would like to be as respectful as possible of the places and cultures they visit. A CrowdTrust study found that nearly 50 percent of millennials wanted socially conscious benefits like charitable giving or one-of-a-kind rewards and experiences as a result of brand interactions. They acknowledge the fact that their vacation destination is someone else’s home, and concepts like "sustainable" and "respectful" tourism are increasingly popular.
All this might sound idealistic and romantic, and it partly is, but there's another side to it. A lot of what drives this 18-35-year-old group of travelers is the notoriously known FOMO. 69% of millennials experience FOMO when they can't attend something that their family or friends are going to, and 42% of social media users admit to feeling jealous when a friend’s posts receive more attention than theirs.
In such a competitive atmosphere, the threshold of uniqueness is constantly being pushed and a basic photo of the Eiffel Tower is far from enough. If you want that desired <3 you'll need to show a photo that no one else before you posted. Just to put this in perspective, my most liked photo on Instagram from my Paris trip was me with a dead-serious expression on my face as I took my first bite of a chocolate tart that cost €25. I guess it stood out because it was funny, but also because it illustrated a real and extreme situation - eating a €25 piece of cake. (Worth it!).
As a local, I’m not sure I would buy that piece of cake regularly - even though I totally would if I was rich. It’s something you do as a tourist - much like our parents visiting landmarks. After that sweet sweet bite, you want to also experience what it’s like to be local. Which is yet another reason for why millennials don’t give a shit about the Eiffel Tower anymore. 80% of millennials say that the best way to learn about a place is to live like the locals do. I lived in Jerusalem for most of my life (21 years, actually) and I can count the times I visited the city’s top tourist attraction (the Western Wall) on one hand. They were all during school trips.
As a non-millennial once said, “the times, they are a-changin’”. It's important for everyone working in tourism to understand and work with this change in focus: so long sight-seeing, monuments and attractions; long live locality, experiences and authenticity. If we want, we can always google the Eiffel. It is a cool building.