Millennials just want to be happy. So what is the ‘industry of happiness’ doing about it?

"Her Flying Red Shoes"  by Faisal Akram (Source: Wiki Commons)
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Research on Millennials consistently points to their desire to attain happiness ahead of the other priorities in life. This opens up a golden opportunity for the travel and tourism industry.

There are lots of theories about quite what is making Gen Y (at least in the Western world) such an anxious and apprehensive generation. Is it the economic crisis? Is it social media and #FOMO (fear of missing out) that it creates?  Perhaps it’s school exam systems or busy parents who don’t have the time to sit down and talk about it all?

Of course feelings of uncertainty and insecurity about your identity and the world around you has always been part of growing up. But then previous generations didn’t face quite the same anxieties over peer pressure, body image, school grades, job prospects, debts and everything in between that young people face today. And yes, while social media is a great connector, it often helps to reinforce, rather than reassure young people about those anxieties. At the same time,  growing up in the era of 24-hour news and social media has made Millennials more aware of what’s going on in their immediate community of friends as well as major events further away. This has produced a generation that’s more fired-up about global issues and ready to step in to participate than their parents were. At the same time, it has made this generation (and their parents) acutely aware of how the global economic crisis is affecting them, and could affect them in terms of job prospects and future financial security.

Under pressure

"Her Flying Red Shoes"  by Faisal Akram (Source: Wiki Commons) So it’s not surprising when research like Voxburner’s Youth Trends 2015 (covered here by my friends at ICEF Monitor) highlights  a generation that feels under pressure to “succeed in life’ (79% of 16-24 year olds), or is worried about being financially stable (75%) or able to find a good career (73%). When Viacom asked Millennials around the world ‘will you earn more than your parents in the future?’, in Australia only 15% of 15-24 year olds, and 17% of 25-30 year olds thought that they would – and that’s in a country which did pretty well during the crisis years. Across the developed world the global economic crisis has produced real wariness over what the future holds. Today, even an expensive education doesn’t automatically lead to a well-paid job with good conditions.

– How do you define success?

– ‘Being happy’

In the face of this uncertaintly, Millennials are adjusting their expectations from life. I think that’s what’s behind the number one response that Millennials gave in the Viacom survey when asked ‘How do you define success?’. By far the top answer was ‘being happy’ (73%) followed by ‘being part of a loving family’ (58%) and much further ahead than material things such as ‘being rich’ (36%) or ‘driving a nice car’ (just 5%). Perhaps this generation has started to realise that with the best will in the world, top jobs are tough to get (and not always pleasant), fame can be more trouble than it’s worth, and flashy cars and homes don’t impress their peers like they used to in years gone by.

Travel is the antidote

Insights like this can teach us important lessons about this generation’s priorities when it comes to travel, and how travel marketers can respond. In the first instance, there’s a big opportunity to position travel as the key to attaining that happiness, ahead of other big purchase decisions on property or cars. In essence, this means converting the ‘dreamers’ into ‘travellers’, making sure your destination is front-of-mind when that conversion happens. This challenge was highlighted by Sally Balcombe, CEO of VisitBritain in her recent interview with Skift in which she made it clear that ‘creating the urgency to visit now’ is something all DMOs are looking to do in a crowded marketplace. In 2013 G Adventures surveyed over 2300 people and found that nearly 3 in 4 respondents said that travel was more vital to their happiness than getting car, a house, having a baby or getting married. This sounds like the Millennials talking!

The same survey also found that it’s ‘new experiences’ that make travel so pleasing. This points to another important lesson – that while this generation might be stressed, the answer doesn’t necessarily have to be relaxation. Remember we’re talking about the youth market here, so highlighting adventure, action, curiosity and fun is essential.  It’s all about disconnection from stress through the experience of trying new things, meeting new people and learning new skills. It’s important not to undervalue the value of travel in teaching new skills and boosting the confidence of an anxious generation looking for reassurance, something I’ll address in my next post.

With all this in mind, perhaps it’s time to consider how your brand proposition is really speaking to this generation and offering the promise of happiness, in whichever form that comes. When we read about Millennials and travel, we tend to read a lot about their use of technology, their love of social media and a funky hotel, but it’s important to remember that there’s a much wider bank of knowledge available on the Millennial generation’s emotions, life experience and anxieties that can help us to develop the products and create the marketing messages that will really hit the right notes with Millennials.

Putting it into practice

In my work with tourism boards and travel brands I make a point of widening the focus to what else is going on with Millennials as this helps them to gain a wider perspective on what this generation is about and use this as a starting point to think more carefully about the products that they’re offering.

I look forward to coming back to this subject in future posts, and if you’re interested to learn more, just drop me a line via Twitter @genctraveller 🙂

 

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