How to Put Your Place on the Millennials Map (and Stay There)

Putting Your Place on the Millennials Map

When scrolling through the pages of the travel industry news or Putting Your Place on the Millennials Mapreading up on anything related to the latest travel trends, you don’t have to scroll too far before you encounter the term ‘Millennials’.

Everyone is talking about global youth anywhere between the ages of 16-35 (depending on whose definition you’re using) and among all that coverage you can find some interesting insights – and also a lot of hype! In any case, it has now become essential to keep up with what Millennials are doing, and more importantly, how they behave when they travel.

Destination management organizations (DMOs) in particular can have a tough time of standing out in a crowded marketplace, especially for a generation of visitors which seems more demanding and highly independent when it comes to their travel choices. “Is it even worth trying to compete with the hipster hotspots of Berlin or Barcelona?”, you might be asking.

Fortunately, making it onto the Millennial traveller’s map can often be done in simple ways – just start with some imagination and a touch of local inspiration! Meanwhile, taking steps such as sharpening up your digital strategy and content can be seen as an investment in the future, as the process of marketing and managing a destination shifts more and more towards digital formats every day.

As you may know, I’ve been an international associate of Toposophy for nearly a year now, and during this time I’ve met so many people from DMOs, major travel corporations, media, tech developers and startups and more who are interested in our approach to our work, since everything we do is with the Millennials market in mind.

Therefore we thought it would be useful to put some practical hints and tips on engaging with this market into one, free, handy guide. It’s just been published and you can find it here.

Visit to find out more about the company, and follow @toposophy for more updates!

Some Millennials will be driving tourism growth faster than others


Last week I visited Manila to do a keynote presentation at MICECON, the Philippines’ national tourism conference. Here’s the post I wrote for Toposophy on how the future of Filipino tourism lies with Millennials, from both home and overseas. To see the original post and find out more about Toposophy, please click here.

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Think back to your geography classes at school and you may remember studying population pyramids, those diagrams used to show the relative size of different gender and age groups in any given country. Take a look at the population pyramid for most countries in Western Europe and you’ll see a ‘Y’ shape, with a relatively large number of older age groups (the baby boomers), and a comparatively reduced population among the younger age groups. Now go and check out the population pyramids for nations in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, Vietnam or the Philippines. You’ll find a cone in the shape of a Thai palace: very heavy at the bottom (with a booming youth population) and very thin towards the top.

Last week I was in Manila to give a presentation at the opening session of MICECON, the national Presenting at MICECON Manilatourism conference of the Philippines. During the few days I was in the country, I was able to see first-hand how young the country is, with millions of children, teenagers and young adults streaming around Manila’s busy streets and malls. The Philippines is a collection of over 7,000 islands that lies in the Pacific, south of Taiwan and north of Indonesia. It’s had a rocky history, variously governed in the past three centuries by Spain, the US and occupying Japanese forces. During the late 20th the country was run by a General Marcos (remember his wife Imelda’s famed collection of shoes?) and has long suffered as one of the poorer Asian nations.

Today however, the country is both generating and benefiting from the wider economic boom in Asia. English is widely spoken by Filipinos, who go for coveted jobs at the country’s growing number of outsourced-call centres. The Asian Development Bank forecasts GDP growth of 6.4% in 2015 and international arrivals in 2014 reached nearly 5 million with the government aiming for strong growth in the coming years. Domestic travel is extremely important since Filipinos largely seek to explore their own country before heading for trips abroad, and there is still much more room for growth among a population which totals over 100 million.

A youthful country preparing for strong growth in the future

Aware that the country’s tourism fortunes will increasingly rest on the Millennial generation from Asia and further afield, the Philippines Department of Tourism invited me to speak at the opening of MICECON, the Filipino national tourism conference to share some insights into the Millennials market, in particular those travelling from other Asian countries. As you may know, Toposphy is already working with the Pacific Asia Travel Association to study the way Asian Millennials travel, in an exciting project called ‘Stepping Out of the Crowd’, and we hope to add this to our insights in the months to come.

At MICECON, it turned out that ‘Millennials’ was the word of the day as the audience in every session asked plenty of questions on this subject. The Filipino travel industry is especially interested in younger travellers, and the reason starts at home. Young Filipinos grow up knowing that their country is a diverse and exciting place to explore, and they usually set out to do just that before heading overseas. Whether it’s for upgrading the country’s supply of accommodation or understanding how to make the most of the boom in Korean students coming to study English (estimates show that nearly 70% of Filipinos are fluent in English), delegates from hotel groups, tour operators and airlines expressed a strong desire to learn more about the Millennial mind-set and apply lessons to their own businesses.

The Philippines today has some strong competitors for many of its products and to some extent, its fragmented nature and distance from mature outbound markets such as the US, Canada and Europe are a disadvantage. The government has also recognised that transport infrastructure is lacking too, but is working hard to overcome these challenges. The country certainly has some outstanding assets, including beaches that match the best of the Caribbean, amazing diving opportunities, beautiful rice terraces, and some well-preserved UNESCO recognised heritage from the 300-year long Spanish era.

Micecon_FlowerGroupStill, in my opinion it’s the people who will truly place the Philippines at a competitive advantage in the years to come. Before arriving in the country I was familiar with the country’s slogan ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ though I must admit I thought it was a cheesy slogan just like any other. A visit to 3 cities in five days taught me that this slogan really is the best possible description for what you’ll find there! Fiestas in the street, a love of karaoke, friendly neighbourhood barbecues, articulate guides and warm-hearted generosity seemed in abundance. Even the conferences are more fun, with MICECON proving that tourism conferences don’t always have to be stuffy, formal affairs for the industry of fun and enjoyment. At this year’s event, delegates happily dressed by the theme ‘Flower Power’ and danced their way through the conference lunch!

Given that competition is so tough from neighbouring countries, it’s promising that the Filipino government and the wider industry have recognised that they need to start building up their knowledge about Millennials in order to design the right products and marketing messaging for the near future. MICECON was a great first step to doing this.

Toposophy will be there to support them on this journey as they seek more creative ways to engage with Millennials in the future.

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)

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 🙂


What Matters to LGBT Millennials?

LGBT Millennials

LGBT MillennialsThe issue of sexuality is increasingly becoming a non-issue for Millennials around the world, so what does that mean for the future of the LGBT travel industry? How can businesses in this multi-million dollar industry keep their products and marketing approach fresh and relevant for LGBT Millennial travellers?

Discussions surrounding the next generation of travellers were at the heart of last week’s Annual Global Convention of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association in Los Angeles. I was invited to run an hour-long session tackling exactly the questions that the LGBT travel industry is asking now:

  • What do Millennial traveller trends mean for the future of destination marketing?
  • Are Millennials disrupting the LGBT travel space in the same way as other areas of the travel and tourism industry?
  • How can you keep your brand fresh and stay relevant to a new generation of LGBT traveller?

A non-issue?

According to a study released just last month, 7% of Millennials are happy to identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This figure has risen from 3.5% that appeared in a comparable study in 2011. Furthermore, a full 73% of US Millennials feel that LGBT people should be protected from discrimination in the jobs market or from access to social housing. Furthermore, a 2013 study conducted by Pew Global revealed that Millennials around the globe (even in more  conservative countries such as South Korea or Mexico) agree that ‘homosexuality should be accepted by society’.

If LGBT Millennials are increasingly happy to identify themselves with their peers who in-turn see their sexuality as more of a non-issue today, what does that mean for travel companies and destinations who develop and market gay-relevant vacations? In a nutshell, innovation and personalization is the key.

This might involve innovation in marketing practices (such as tapping into the work of professional gay bloggers and vloggers), as well as innovation in product development such as finding innovative fun ways for LGBT travellers to meet each other through specialised tours and activities (not just sitting on the beach or hanging around at bars).

Widening the focus to Millennials in general

In a session packed with 120+ attendees, I explained how it’s essential for the LGBT travel industry to take lessons learned from youth consumer psychology and the way Millennials travel in general, if they want to tap into the interests of this diverse, but niche market of travellers (see presentation below). Fortunately, all types of gay culture are becoming more mainstream (and vice versa) and the increasing visibility of ‘tribes’ within the LGBT community certainly provides powerful opportunities for the personalization of travel products and marketing that Millennials crave.

It was great to be back among the members of IGLTA to share my insights on the Millennial travellers market. It was also great to build upon my own portfolio of work on this market, which started when I authored the UNWTO Global Report on LGBT Tourism in 2012 (download it free from my bibliography page).

Check out my presentation below and let me know what you think. IGLTA has set the ball rolling by addressing new media, emerging markets and Millennials at its annual Convention, and I look forward to following up with more on this in the months ahead.

The Millennial paradox: why speaking to Millennials means getting personal


Millennials are ambitious but lazy, hyper connected but self-obsessed, extremely confident yet highly insecure, optimistic yet worried about the future. Where to start when you need to engage them?

Last week I was at Youth Marketing Strategy 2015 in London and this two-day event gave BarclaysLifeSkills2a massive amount of insight into how youth are the most amazing group of consumers to work with, and yet increasingly difficult to reach with a generic marketing campaign. By participating in YMS 2015 it was great to move out of the travel sphere for a change and discover the latest general consumer trends being led by the UK’s youth population. The UK is globally respected for its creative marketing industry, so it was great to hear from experts at the top of their game.

Actually, let’s forget the fuzzy concept of ‘youth’ (something many in the travel industry are just catching up with). In fact, the term ‘Millennials‘ isn’t always helpful because people between the ages of 15-24 are facing such different stages of personal, social and professional development that they have to be broken down into sub-segments if you really want your message to get across to (and be shared by) the different tribes within this demographic. According to research from Facebook presented at the event, UK youth revealed three main groups:

Optimists (age 13-15 years): Positive, open, tech-obsessed, family focussed and ready to share anything via social media.

Explorers (age 16-19): Forward-looking, globally curious, image conscious, focussed on their education (we are talking the crunch years for school qualifications, after all), but with a creeping sense of insecurity

Realists (age 20-24): Time poor, mobile centric, multi-screeners but world-weary and concerned about their job prospects

(Source: Facebook, 2014 – Coming of Age on Screens)

One of the consistent themes among all those who presented their various marketing campaigns and experiences with these groups is that you should forget making your campaign about the product you’re trying to sell, but focus on the person you want to sell it to, instead. This means knowing your audience in a really personal way.

The contrasts that we hear about Millennials in the news and from colleagues was labelled by YouthSight at the Summit as the ‘Millennial paradox’ and underlines why it’s important to really listen to young people, and not base your strategy on assumptions. Once you can appreciate the complex demands of being a young person today, you can start to create ideas and campaigns on the issues that matter most to Millennials.

For example, today’s youth in the UK are more studious and more concerned about their future than ever before. They find saving money difficult and are acutely aware that the jobs market isn’t what it used to be. Brands that are able to provide support, reassurance and bursts of humour are therefore proving to be highly popular. For support, take Barclay’s Bank’s LifeSkills project, to help young people work out their future plans. For humour, take Lego’s reaction to the debate over the blue/white/gold coloured dress that took Twitter by storm earlier this month.

Getting personal is now totally possible using the power of social media, which gives all marketeers a direct window into the lives of consumers, and an opportunity to communicate on a personal level like never before. Grabbing the attention of a highly distracted audience is another matter!  In my next post I’ll share some key takeaways from YMS on engaging this demographic via effective campaigns.

Los millenniales orientales: Un gran reto para los destinos turísticos

Millennials asiáticos

Millennials asiáticosEn Asia los cambios económicos y sociales han beneficiado sobre todo a la generación joven (los millennials) y les han ofrecido múltiples oportunidades para viajar fuera de sus países. De ahí el interés de destinos y empresas turísticos en todo el mundo en conocer de cerca la mentalidad del joven consumidor asiático, y su actitud hacia los viajes.

A pesar de ser el tercer país más visitado del mundo según la OMT, para los 3,000 jóvenes viajeros asiáticos encuestados para el estudio The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller, publicado en agosto de 2014 por la Pacific Asia Travel Association, España se solo se encuentra en el puesto 11 en el ranking de destinos más deseados para visitar en los próximos años.

Como coordinador y redactor de este informe, tuve la oportunidad de contrastar mis experiencias con este mercado y mis propias conclusiones sobre los resultados del estudio con Hosteltur, la primera red de noticias del sector turístico español. El artículo completo se ha publicado en la edición de marzo 2015 de la revista (tanto en papel como online).

Tanto en la entrevista como en el informe en general, trato de subrayar la importancia de mirar más allá del mercado emisor chino (aunque, sin duda es y seguirá siendo el mercado emisor más importante del mundo), ya que otros países asiáticos adquirirán una gran importancia en la próxima década tanto por motivos demográficos como por la fuerte crecimiento económico que se espera de mercados como Indonesia o Filipinas, por ejemplo.

Puedes leer el informe ejecutivo del informe The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller (en inglés) o adquirir el informe completo  a través de la Pacific Asia Travel Association.

Puedes encontrar información sobre los millennials en inglés y en español en mi blog, o bien echar un vistazo a mi perfil.

Si tienes cualquier pregunta, puedes contactar conmigo a través de genctraveller[aroba]gmail[punto]com




Making Mexico’s Tourism Match Millennial Expectations


Tourism is a highly resistant sector of the global economy, and nowhere is this more evident than in Mexico. Despite some hard-hitting headlines exposing corruption and the country’s long struggle against drug cartel-related Mexican Tourism Uncoveredviolence, the number of travellers choosing to take their holidays there beat records last year, with 19.3m international tourism arrivals in the period January-August.

Sadly, too often the rest of the world only associates Mexico with instability and violence, and yet the tourism figures tell a different story. Travellers, especially from the US and Canada who are more familiar with the country and take regular visits are more able to put the risks into perspective, know where to go and what Mexico really has to offer.

Putting Mexico’s tourism into perspective is what Toposophy’s latest report Mexican Tourism Uncovered does and the results will give a lot of food for thought, especially if you’re doing business with Mexico. I’m proud to have worked on this report with my Toposophy colleagues, and unveiling what’s really going on in Latin America’s second biggest economy has been an exciting learning experience.

The report, published earlier this month identifies a whole range of issues that Mexican authorities and the business community will need to address if the country is to benefit fully from the recovery of the US economy, continued growth in outbound travel from the emerging markets, from attracting new types of consumer (not least Millennial travellers) in the 21st century. This is essential because, as the report states:

“Millennials question the way things are done and are rapidly changing the world as we know it. For the tourism and hospitality industry, their self-assurance has brought with it a storm of new consumer expectations creating a system in which successful destinations and businesses will be those which explore and respond positively to the broad spectrum of economic, societal and environmental changes that are taking place, especially those driven by the Millennial generation”.

Helping Millennials beyond Mexico’s traditional source markets of the US and Canada to understand what visiting Mexico would really be like is a seriously pressing issue. The reality of travelling around Mexico and where the richest parts of its cultural heritage are to be found is still relatively unfamiliar to audiences outside of North America. Being honest and transparent about the country’s image should pay dividends with a younger, more fearless generation looking to explore ‘off the beaten track’ and meet the locals.

On that subject, local authorities and businesses will have to work hard together (something which, to date, can only be found in a handful of destinations) if they are to properly understand who is visiting and what they are really looking for from their vacation experience. For too long, resorts have focussed on attracting the same visitors year after year, while ignoring the major opportunities that are opening up in emerging markets, and the fact that travellers’ tastes have changed. Getting up to speed with digital technologies and boosting business tourism are just two extra areas for Mexico’s tourism industry to focus on in the coming years. To find out what can be done to orientate Mexico’s tourism towards 21st century travellers, download the report today.