Becoming ‘Millennial-proof’ really means becoming ‘future-ready’

Ms Ambassadors Strategists

Earlier this month Toposophy hosted a seminar at World Travel Market London which asked panelists from the tourism and marketing industries to name their ‘Six New Trends That Will Change the World’.

The panelists (Ian Cummings from Travel Massive, Sarah Betty Andrews from Business Betty and yours truly) submitted two trends each, and the audience was asked to vote at the end for the trend that convinced them the most. The winner took home a bottle of (cheap) champagne while the runners-up were each awarded with a can of beer (note: we hosted the session but didn’t choose the prizes!).

The remit was broad and the possibilities were endless, but I instantly knew which two trends, if taken seriously by the tourism industry do at least have the potential to change the way things are done, and hopefully win me that (cheap) champagne. I presented my two trends at the start:

  1. From now on, the tourism industry will have to become Millennial-proof (me)
  2. From now on, the tourism industry will have to recognise that not all Millennials are the same (me)
  3. Video is going to be the king of content, while Snapchat will become the key influencer brand for travel (Ian).
  4. Asia will become the biggest travel market in the world (Ian) – Editor: I think this is more ‘fact’ than ‘trend’
  5. Space isn’t the new frontier in travel – but finding creative ways to get there will become the new frontier (Sarah-Betty)
  6. Everything’s going to be live and online, all the time (Sarah-Betty)

Rather than read a ton of text about it, why not see for yourself how I argued my case?

Very often when people hear the word ‘Millennials’, their eyes glaze over and they start to wonder what’s really makes this generation so different from their parents. It’s a totally legitimate question to ask, and in a bid to separate the headlines from the really useful insights, I ask that question too. Essentially, it boils down to the fact that as digital natives, Millennials’ main screen is the mobile, they look first online whenever they need advice, news, gossip and reassurance or inspiration, and their expectations of what makes a rewarding experience have shifted slightly, dictated by the globalised, connected world that they grew up in.

I can say with some certainty that this can be said of all Millennials, regardless of where they grew up in the world, but my second major argument is that we should still be wary of treating Millennials as the same. Too often in the worlds of travel and marketing treat their audiences as ‘PLUs’, ie. ‘People Like Us’, assuming that they come from a similar socio-economic background, or that they all share a similar outlook on the world. With such enormous disparity in levels of economic development, education, freedom of speech and political climate around the world, how could that possibly be the case?

What was my advice for how to deal with this?

  • Know that young people are very diverse. Their needs and tastes can change rapidly as they grow.
  • Understand young peoples’ self-expression through consumption, especially in travel
  • Look at wider consumer patterns and consider where your brand sits.
  • Consider how Millennials from different outbound markets interact with you and each other.

If you’d like more inspiration then check out our free guide ‘How To Put Your Place On the Millennial Map (And Stay There)‘ or get in touch with us through @toposophy if you’d like to know more.

Oh, and if you’re wondering whose trend won the prize… I can confirm that the beer went down very nicely after a long day at WTM London!

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.

_ _ _

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.

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.



15 Destination Marketing Trends to Watch in 2015


Working with my colleagues at TOPOSOPHY – Europe’s hottest new destination marketing agency – I’ve put together this easy-to-digest report on what top travel trends we can look forward to this year. Whether you work in the tourism sector or not, I’m sure you’ll find something in there to inspire and educate…

Will the Apple Watch break new ground where other tech wearables have failed to do so? Will this be the year when we see Airbnb take the leap and merge with a major online travel agent? Will we ever reach ‘peak selfie’?

Download your free copy of the report and discover our top 15 travel trends for 2015…

Want to know more about TOPOSOPHY? Find out here.




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