The travel industry needs to understand the mindset of its Millennial employees, not just its customers

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As Millennials occupy a larger share of the global workforce, is the travel industry doing enough to adapt to the mindset of Millennial employees, as well as its customers?

It’s conference season again, a frenetic time for those of us who work in the travel industry as events, forums and seminars pop up in rapid succession in different corners of the globe. As well as connecting people and bringing them up to date with trends, most of the big tourism industry conferences and exhibitions include a seminars and workshops dedicated to the people – i.e., the workforce- who make the industry work day-in, day-out.

However it has always seemed to me that such workshops seem to be tacked onto the programme as an afterthought, with students only allowed into the big exhibitions on the closing days and seminars dedicated to human resources shunted to fringes of the conference schedule. I suppose this happens because these big events are mostly geared towards marketing and product development, with other aspects of business operation taking second place. Still, it’s ironic for and industry which, as we are often reminded, is about ‘people to people relationships’ and which needs skilled, dynamic, tech savvy and globally-minded employees more than ever.

At the end of last month I attended an event in China that got me thinking. I had been invited to speak at the UNWTO-PATA Forum on Asia Tourism Trends & Outlook, a two-day event in the picturesque city of Guilin in southern China. Joining a panel on emerging consumer trends in the travel industry, I was asked to paint a picture of how Millennials as consumers are shaping marketing and product development in tourism. This is something I’ve spoken about widely, and you can find more resources on my own website).

On occasions, as is common in such events, some older speakers and members of this very international audience seemed to refer to Millennials as almost another species; an incomprehensible tech-addicted tribe who seem only to pose a threat to the way things have progressed in the travel industry until now.

Most of their comments weren’t meant negatively, but I could detect a note of apprehension among some of the older delegates about quite what this tribe was doing to the travel industry. Would their addiction to technology lead to a shift towards preferring virtual experiences vs. real life? Would artificial intelligence (eg. computers answering queries instead of humans) wipe out more jobs and the essential ‘human’ dimension to customer service? Will anyone put the brakes on sharing economy services (driven at least early on, by Millennials as both users and providers) which circumvent regulations and marginalise traditional tourism businesses?

We don’t yet know the full answer to those questions, though while it’s easy to get excited about gadgets and startled by the rapid progress of start-ups, surely it’s also wise to come back down to earth and consider the here-and-now. It’s also probably wise not to tarnish a whole generation with one brush and instead work out why Millennials exhibit certain patterns of behaviour and approach their consumer decisions in a certain way. Besides, Millennials are diverse – we’re talking about a whole age segment from 15-35 years from all corners of the globe, after all.   millennials-planning-soc

Later in the programme, Hong Kong Polytechnic University presented a panel with four young participants who were just starting out in the travel industry as employees. The speakers, all Millennials from Australia, China, Germany and South Korea were quick to draw parallels between their experience as Millennial customers and employees as travel companies. The key lesson was that businesses that want to recruit and retain talented young staff increasingly need to reflect on their behaviour as sellers, as employers and as investors too, because potential Millennial employees pay attention to all these things and are ready to call out behaviour which they find distasteful, immoral or unfair. Millennials as consumers, employees and investors themselves are showing similar patterns of concern when spending their money and deciding where they’d like to work. After all, Millennials grew up as the first wave of social media users and amid the era of 24-hour news. As a result they are far more in tune with the impact of their actions on the local community and those further afield, not to mention their own health and wellbeing.

Leonie Bowles, a former UNWTO colleague of mine, and now Lecturer at University of Queensland made several interesting observations as a Millennial herself and as someone who works with tourism students:

  • Millennials are interested in social entrepreneurship and want to make a difference. If you can’t offer them that, they’ll create it themselves, or seek it elsewhere.
  • Tertiary education matters. Prospective employers should engage with higher education institutions and use the opportunity to ask young people about their values, work out what really matters to them and what they want to do in the future.
  • Through seeking to create a positive impact on their local community (in Australia, volunteering among young people is at an all-time high), Millennials are oten creating change and improving the lives of others where nobody was bothering before, or where public services have ceased to get involved.
  • Social entrepreneurship (as well as many other sectors such as startups, NGOs) are now career propositions which often seem more attractive than the corporate world since they seem far more cutting-edge and offer the chance to make some demonstrable impact. As consumers, Millennials are also prepared to pay more for goods that come with good, honest and fair credentials.
  • Rewarding Millennials doesn’t have to cost a lot of money in terms of salaries (though this is a generation under pressure). Non-monetary compensation; time off to engage in local initiatives, personal development and the opportunity to build life skills all help to build loyalty among employees.
  • Businesses need to demonstrate flexibility, individuality and empowerment. Organisations by their nature rally against change, but they it’s only by striking out and being different that they will stand out as good prospective employers.
  • You don’t have to be a Millennial to work well with Millennials but if you take the time to listen to them and understand their point of view, it can pay back hugely.

As I listened to this group talk honestly, and without arrogance or a personal agenda about how travel and tourism businesses could show better understanding and support for their Millennial employees in return for a healthy dose of passion and a desire to make a difference, something important occurred to me: Having Millennial employees who want to give their views known on how the business is run isn’t a threat, it’s a privilege. This will prove essential for helping employers to adapt, and survive in the future.

Still, the challenges for the travel industry are clear. Of course many of the start-ups and huge online businesses that have emerged in recent years depend on having a young, dynamic tech-savvy workforce, and put in place respectable measures to retain them. Trivago seems to be a good example. There are many smaller companies too, and I have many friends and colleagues in the travel industry who go out of their way to bring inexperienced young people into their organisations and put them in a position where they can flourish.

Still, on the whole, changing HR practices to suit the next generation of employees can present a huge challenge. Earlier this year I was invited to explain to the members of the Air Travel Action Group (made up of the world’s biggest airlines, airport groups and aircraft manufacturers) in the Group’s annual report how they would need to change their thinking:

As an industry defined by punishing schedules and the challenge of delivering profitability, the air transport industry may struggle to meet millennials in the middle when it comes to fulfilling those expectations on social responsibility and a better work-life balance, especially since they are now shared across the globe. Breaking down the silos and gender imbalances that still persist within the industry will be vital too since millennials’ attitudes towards diversity are strikingly different to older generations.

Airlines work hard to show a welcoming, diverse face to their customers, but can the same yet be said of the image they present to their potential employees? They can surely do more to show that they respect and welcome differences in age, gender, race and sexuality because millennials increasingly expect it. In short, if recruiting the best talent is necessary to remain competitive (after all, employees are one of the few elements that truly stand out in an industry which offers a standardised product) then the industry will have to take note of millennials’ deeply-felt aspirations and demonstrate what it can do to help this generation meet its personal and professional ambitions in a meaningful way.
(View the full report here)

Do you think there is a fundamental difference in the way that businesses in the tourism sector engage with Millennials as customers and as employees? Which industries risk falling behind?  There is clearly much more to discuss on the similarities and differences in the way that travel and tourism businesses interact with Millennials and I hope to return to the subject soon. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing your own opinions.

How to Make LGBT Travel Matter to Millennials

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What can destinations and businesses that are looking to attract the LGBT market learn from wider Millennial travel trends?

Last week’s IGLTA Convention in Cape Town brought together delegates from several continents and many different corners of the travel industry. Many of the speakers who weren’t lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender themselves, or hadn’t worked much with LGBT specific businesses remarked how innovative and forward-thinking they find this particular market segment to be.

I would largely agree with that. While it’s important not to generalise, it’s true that many, many LGBT travellers -especially those from mature outbound markets- are early adopters of technology, adventurous and keen to place travel as a priority in their life.

That is not to say, however, that destinations and travel brands seeking to cater to LGBT travellers don’t face their own challenges, or won’t in the future. Following my successful workshop at the IGLTA Convention in Los Angeles last year, IGLTA asked me to return and this time explore this question more deeply: If LGBT Millennials around the world 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?

The big questions:

  • Is the LGBT travel industry keeping up with the pace of change in Mountain pictureMillennial attitudes?
  • Will established LGBT destinations remain attractive to emerging market Millennials?
  • In the future, to what extent will sexuality really define vacation choice?
  • What travel criteria will LGBT travellers always have when selecting destinations and travel services?

Just as with the wider group of Millennial consumers, I believe that it is 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, niche (but often lucrative) market of travellers. In the presentation below I’ve set out some of these wider lessons to be learned in Millennial traveller behaviour and invite you to think about how they apply to your business.

JUMP TO THE PRESENTATION:

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The big answers:

There’s no quick answer to helping such a broad, diverse industry to adapt to a generational shift in consumer attitudes. However, I’d like to outline here, three major courses of action which should help destinations of all kinds adapt to this profound change:

  • Make travel matter to Millennials. As I outlined in my recent posts ‘Millennial Marketing: going beyond the schmaltz’ and ‘Helping a generation under pressure’, it’s vital to put forward products and experiences that are well adapted to Millennials’ spending behaviour. Selective spending (mixing budget and luxury experiences) is increasingly common, and of course there are so many other constraints on the modern Millennial’s budget. So before you worry about making LGBT travel experiences matter to your Millennial audience, consider how they view what you’re offering in terms of their priorities in life.
  • Innovation – Just like everyone else, LGBT Millennials are becoming more adventurous and seeking authentic experiences that help to connect them with the real soul of the destination. How can you provide such experiences, ensuring that they are open, understanding and welcoming to all?Use the wider lessons in ‘what matter to Millennials’ (the rise in self-improvement, health awareness and the desire to acquire life skills is just one example) to craft your LGBT travel product into something useful and meaningful.
  • Personalisation – 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.However don’t forget the essentials: How’s your digital strategy in general? Are you really reaching your target consumers through the channels that they use? Where does your product sit on their path to purchase?

 

Looking for more resources? Check out the rest of my blog here on Genctraveller.com as well as my bibliography.

If you’d like tailored support on adapting your business to reach LGBT Millennials, or are looking for more insights and ideas you can reach me anytime via @genctraveller

How travel and tourism brands can help Millennials, a generation under pressure

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Travel isn’t just about hitting ‘escape’. Destinations and travel brands need to empathise with Millennials to help them build the life skills and experiences that they crave.

Earlier this month I outlined a number of reasons why the reality of life for Millennials in the mature outbound markets of Europe and North America isn’t as rosy as their Instagram feeds might suggest (view post: ‘Marketing to Millennials: Going Beyond the Schmaltz’)

In sharp contrast to much of the upbeat commentary about Millennials you may have occasionally stumbled across in the media, tried to shine a light on the darker reality for Millennials; the atrocious economic situation they’re faced with, career paths built on unstable ground, unmanageable debts and social-media induced anxiety about how everyone else is coping better than they are.

So why is life so tough for Millennials? As The Guardian put it earlier this year in its series about this generation, ‘it isn’t that members of Gen Y, with smartphones and cheap air tickets in hand, are about to edge back into the Dickensian workhouse. The tide of technology is not about to go into reverse […]. The concern is rather that all the old paths that allowed their parents to get ahead – careers with prospects, home ownership and decent pensions – are one by one being blocked off. Today’s young adults enjoy greater social, sexual and cultural freedom than any before them. But in hock to debts, to landlords and often unstructured work, the one freedom they are lacking is the freedom to make their own luck’.Youth-unemployment-cut

Of course, the reality for the vast majority of Millennials lays somewhere in the middle of the extremes painted by the media. Still, my argument in this post is that it’s wise to look beyond the ‘schmaltz’, show a certain empathy with the real situation of how young people are living today and to try and put forward solutions that really help. Fortunately, for a generation that is faced with the need to compete in the global workplace, enhance life skills, develop social intelligence, improve cross-cultural understanding and just gain more self-confidence with which to face the world, can you think of a better answer than travelling?

Faced with the rather depressing list of real-life elements that Millennials have to battle with, it can be hard to know where to start and to know which factors will be more relevant than others when trying to build that empathy into an engagement strategy. Some of those elements will offer more direct clues of what products or solutions could be offered, others will simply give pause for thought. Here I have offered some recommendations on how destinations and travel brands can react to some of Millennials’ emerging character traits.

Stop the world, I want to get off!

It’s no coincidence that the world’s major corporations are investing big money in learning how to recruit and retain Millennials. Why? Because the future of the world’s biggest companies depends not just on a steady stream of young customers, but bright young staff too. Yet this highly mobile, restless generation is wondering whether the 40+ hour week is really what they want from life. Search ‘Millennials’ and ‘work’ and it won’t take too long for you to find a lot of hand-wringing articles discussing how Millennials are a needy generation, craving instant job satisfaction, fast promotion, flexible schedules and a lot of hand-holding.

As the generation that grew up in the shadow of the global economic crisis, Millennials in the developed world have witnessed the traditional rewards of work – a decent salary, prospects for promotion, support from well-trained supervisors, and a pot of gold at the end of it all (ie. a good pension) – crumble away pretty fast. In other words, the existing model of study, steady job, healthy retirement has become a lot less reliable. Millennials Generation easyJetacross the developed world largely believe they are unlikely to earn more than their parents, hence for many –especially older Millennials who have had a taste of the world of work- this has given rise to the philosophy of ‘I may as well enjoy myself now’. This is a trend that I believe that easyJet has latched onto strongly with its ‘Generation easyJet’ campaign.

Heading into a highly competitive world of work

At the same time, research is showing younger Millennials to be quite serious, studious generation. Various speakers at the Youth Marketing Summit in London last year made it clear that the ‘sex, drugs & rock n’ roll’ youth stereotype is precisely a stereotype because it’s more relevant to today’s parents (Gen X and Baby Boomers) than to young people themselves. Instead, aware of the challenges of getting through endless school exams, winning a university place and then a foot on the job ladder, research presented at YMS showed younger (UK) Millennials to be a serious, nervous group, keen to take opportunities for improving academic knowledge, as well as the kind of soft skills that are likely to help them build self-confidence and give them the competitive edge in the jobs market.

Blurring the lines

As I described in my Toposophy guide to Putting Your Destination on the Millennial Map, bleisure travel (business + leisure) is firmly on the rise and it’s Millennials who are leading the trend. However, it’s especially common among a growing tribe of Millennials – ‘freelancers’, or putting it nicely, ‘independent contractors’. You’ve seen us, hunched over a laptop, nursing an over-priced coffee and refusing to budge from the corner of your local coffee chain (we’re in the corner because that’s where the ONE AND ONLY electricity socket is).

On a serious note, a combination of economic circumstances, technological change and personal choice has given rise to more and more independent contractors, and as automation and the on-demand economy continue their unstoppable expansion, this tribe is only set to grow. Putting aside for a moment the rather worrying question of what this all means for the future stability of work and social security systems, the start-up generation (yes, those ‘digital nomads’) is footloose and able to live and work where it suits them most. Avid users of sharing economy services and addicted to tech solutions, they tend to be highly influential and attract a trail of capital, so consider them as trailblazers for regeneration (and responsible for rising rents, everywhere from Berlin to Bucharest to Barcelona to Belfast).

Mobile devices: bringing those who are far away closer, and pushing those who are close further away

The smartphone has, without question, become the essential tool to getting through modern life. Social media has become the go-to place for news, advice, fun, gossip, planning and nurturing friendships. Unsurprisingly, younger Millennials (who had social media in their lives from an earlier stage than older Millennials) can get severe FOBO or ‘fear of being offline’, yet studies are also starting to highlight the effect of a life lived online.

As Skift’s Portrait of the Millennial Traveller (2016) observed ‘Millennials are also social-media-stressfamously known for being mobile and social media addicts. Yet many marketers are finding what they really crave is deeper real-life human connections when traveling’. Essentially, many, many young people today are lonely, yearning for face-to-face interaction with parents, siblings and friends who are able to offer the depth of support and compassion not available through digital connections. I believe that while separating people (especially young people) from their devices is neither practical nor desirable, many people of all ages are now seeking (craving) experiences that put personal connections (fun, recreation, communication) first with technology taking a back seat.

It goes without saying that whether through structured or un-structured situations, travelling provides so many different ways for Millennials to re-connect with loved ones in person, make new friends and practice the ‘social intelligence’ skills that can boost their confidence and be of real use in finding a job and surviving in the world of work.

Selective spending

And now for the big question… money.

In my last post I painted a portrait of a cash-strapped generation that’s under pressure from the high cost of rent, student debt, wage stagnation and much else. You might be forgiven for thinking that travel would be relegated to the bottom of the priority list for spending, but then think back to my first point – this is the YOLO generation and the money that’s not going towards houses, cars, redecorating, new TVs, high-end fashion and savings (pension? what pension?), is more often than not being spent on experiences, rather than material things. Combine this desire with the ability that the internet provides to break down and then pick and choose every experience during a trip, this gives the effect of what Josh Wyatt from Generator Hostels calls ‘curated spending’ (source). This means that for a generation less attracted to the notion of conspicuous consumption, it’s perfectly socially acceptable to carefully mix budget and luxury along the journey if it means getting access to the type of experiences that will bring personal satisfaction, and strengthen the Millennial customer’s brand on social media.

QUICK TIPS:

What does all the above mean when it comes to targeting Millennials?

  • Understand what your product or destination really means for Millennials in terms of where they at in their lives. Is it for a quick escape or a long-desired career break?
  • Understand that these escapes can come at any time (check out my post about Last Minute Leisure). Consider where Millennials are gathering their inspiration for life-changing journeys and consider where you are (and where you need to be) on their path-to-purchase.
  • Understand that Millennials don’t compartmentalise work/study/leisure/fun, especially where travelling is concerned, so you need to adopt the same mentality. See the section on ‘bleisure’ travel in my Toposophy guide to ‘Putting Your Destination on the Millennial Map’
  • Hard experience builds soft skills. Highlight the value of offline experiences, and how your destination or brand makes those truly special. What opportunities do you offer to meet local people, make friends (or romance), or re-connect with loved ones? How can you help Millennials towards their goals of self-improvement?
  • Drop old pre-conceptions about budget vs. luxury travellers. Millennials are less and less consistent in that regard. Instead, consider how your product, service or destination is ‘unique’ and how it will help strengthen the traveller’s ‘personal brand’.

Looking for more ideas, or want to chat about these insights? Talk to me via @genctraveller

Millennial marketing: Going beyond the schmaltz

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For Millennials, life isn’t as rosy as you’d think

Sorry to shatter the illusion, but unemployment, spiralling debt, careers without prospects, the generational wealth gap, social-media induced stress and general life-anxiety also affect Millennials’ consumer decisions and by extension, their travel behaviour.

When it comes to writing observations about Millennial-aged consumers, there’s a tendency to accompany such writing with a filtered photo of happy, good-looking Millennials. They’re usually of diverse backgrounds and sharing a joke around a picnic table or, of course taking a group selfie. They’re all wearing big smiles, have perfect teeth and simply ooze health and prosperity (spoiler: they’re stock-photo models).

You know the type of images I’m talking about, and maybe like me you’re also guilty of using them in your presentations when trying to capture the essence of ‘Millennials’. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and to be honest these days I try to keep them to a minimum, in favour of illustrating the diversity of this generation and the different stages of life they pass through during this crucial period of their lives.newsimg_deb-green-deal

Which brings me onto the subject of this post: namely, that not everything is perfect for this generation, in fact far from it. Therefore in order to be effective at communicating with Millennials, you have to understand the bad stuff that’s happening to them, as well as the good.

Before I go any further, I want to highlight a point that must be understood properly if we’re going to understand Millennials’ consumer behaviour in a proper, measured way. That is: not all Millennials are the same.

During my presentation ‘Six Trends that Will Change the World’ at WTM London last year I illustrated this point in different ways. Between the ages of 18-35 you can go through the gruelling obstacle course that is school, part-time work, university/college, internships, first major romantic relationships and much else. Think of Millennials who you know, and you can quickly see how diverse they are. There is also a significant difference between the life events and of Millennials from different countries especially between Millennials from mature and emerging outbound markets.

These similarities and differences between Millennials were neatly outlined by Robert Guest in The Economist in January 2016: ‘All generalisations about such a vast group should be taken with a bucket of salt. What is true of young Chinese may not apply to young Americans or Burundians. But the young do have some things in common: they grew up in the age of smartphones and in the shadow of a global financial disaster. They fret that it is hard to get a good education, a steady job, a home and—eventually—a mate with whom to start a family’.

Furthermore, last week Deanna Ting published a very good article in Skift, asking ‘Do Millennials Really View Travel Differently?’ The article was posed as ‘a daring thought’ and suggested that actually Millennials’ attitudes really aren’t that different to those of previous generations that the same stage in their lives, and that other generations are quickly starting  to adopt similar patterns of consumer behaviour to Millennials. It also suggested that for this reason it might not be worth the time or effort of catering to Millennials specifically. I would argue that actually Millennials’ worries are some of the key characteristics that define this generation’s consumer habits and, by extension, their travel behaviour.

So where did it all go wrong?

Over the past decade, Millennials growing up in the more mature outbound markets of North America and Europe have, to a greater or lesser extent been affected by the following:

  • High levels of unemployment. During the crisis, unemployment among younger people rose faster than it did for older adults.
  • Unstable career paths: Careers, especially those traditionally considered ‘safe’ in the public services are becoming characterised by uncertainty, wage cuts and poorer conditions
  • Rising cost of higher education: For many young people graduating in the US or the UK it is now normSmashing-Piggy-Bankal to be in five or event six-figure debt before starting a first job. Debt repayment is also to be factored in with the higher cost of living

 

 

 

  • Unstructured work: Young people are disproportionately subject to short term employment, zero-hours contracts, dependence on internships or the need to raise income through the on-demand economy (short term accommodation, car sharing, food delivery etc). This has the effect of making earnings unreliable, and incomes unpredictable.

 

  • Pensions are in crisis: For many young people, a pension is the last thing on their mind as they struggle to meet rental costs, repay student loans or a rising cost of living. Many companies have also shut generous final salary pension schemes, leaving Millennials to make their own arrangements (which many are not)

 

  • Wage stagnation: Even during the current (apparent) economic recovery, wages have remained stagnant or have not risen in line with inflation

 

  • High cost of borrowing: This has made it much more difficult to purchase the large-ticket assets (such as houses or cars) that their parents were able to obtain at relatively lower cost at the same stage in their life

 

  • Drastically-reduced supply of affordable housing: In the major cities where better jobs are to be found, rising demand and falling supply (as houses are bought and let out on the market by baby-boomers) has had the effect of pushing housing beyond the reach of young professionals, and increasing the cost of renting, which in turn reduces the ability to save for a deposit. Hence the label ‘generation rent’

 

  • A vanishing pot of gold waiting at the end… As baby boomers live longer, governments are expecting them to take on a greater burden of paying for their own care, which reduces the amount or even likelihood of inheritance for Millennials

Against this backdrop, is it any surprise that Millennials are showing deeper levels of stress and anxiety? As I’ve explained in my post on happiness and Millennials, 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 all down to the economic crisis? Perhaps it is social media and #FOMO (fear of missing out) that it creates?  Or maybe it’s school exam systems or busy parents who don’t have the time to sit down and talk about it all? Growing up in the era of 24-hour news and social media has also made Millennials more aware of how the global economic crisis could affect them in terms of job prospects and future financial security.

Of course feelings of uncertainty and insecurity about one’s identity and the wider world has always been part of growing up. But then previous generations didn’t face quite the same anxieties over peer job prospects, debts, body image, school grades, and everything in between that young people face today.

While social media is a great connector it often helps to reinforce, rather than reassure young people about those anxieties. Some say that it has, in effect replaced the traditional social settings (such as bars, clubs or associations) where people used to mingle for news, gossip, advice and support.

On that dark note I’m going to bring this post to a close. Next week I’m going to discuss some of the ways in which the economic scenario I’ve described is affecting Millennials’ consumer behaviour, and how travel brands can react to this challenge.

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

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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)

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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 http://www.toposophy.com to find out more about the company, and follow @toposophy for more updates!

Some Millennials will be driving tourism growth faster than others

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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.