Friday, November 15, 2013

The Day Of The Millennial: Future tourism

Baby boomers, Generation X, now Millennials, marketing and social researchers love to categorise generations. They have certain attitudes, aspirations, lifestyles and values (both moral and financial). They become niches but in fact giant niches of global proportions, entire movements in terms of how they think and behave.

David Burstein is 24. He is the author of "Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World". Note his age. He is a Millennial. He is part of a generation which is giving a completely new meaning to the club of 18-30. The Millennials.

Mark Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook, was born in 1984. He is at the upper-age limit, therefore, of the Millennial generation, and he, along with some who aren't Millennials, e.g. those who founded Twitter, has been a major influence in shaping the Millennial generation and so in shaping "our world". The Millennials are taking over. They will take over. They will be the most important generation, more so than the baby boomers. Millennial thinking will change the world forever.

Burstein, in a presentation for TEDxNYU (Technology, Entertainment, Design at New York University), compared the arrival of the Millennial generation and the primarily technological elements that are influencing it with the breakthrough at the start of the last century, one that saw the development of the automobile, the airplane and the harnessing of electricity help to bring about a greater democratisation of society and cultural change. The Millennial generation represents a time of fundamental shift, similar to that at the start of the last century, not just in terms of the use of technology and the pace of technological change but also in terms of what Burstein calls "social software"; how people interact and how this shift is affecting businesses and political systems as well as society. 

Certain characteristics of the Millennials are well understood. It is the generation which has totally embraced web and mobile technologies. It is totally connected online and through the smartphone. It shares, it apps, it is driven by technologies and innovations, such as that which Mark Zuckerberg unleashed on the world. But as with any generation, its characteristics are only really understood if practicalities are understood, and one of these is the impact on tourism.

It almost goes without saying that technology is important to the Millennial tourist. For this reason, and as part of what is now an ongoing debate within the Mallorcan and Spanish tourism industry, offers such as free wifi become essential and no longer a nice little extra. Both before and during their travels, Millennials make extensive use of social media. It is what his or her peer group says and posts and recommends which influences and guides his or her decisions. No player in the tourist industry can any longer afford to ignore social media, but unfortunately many still do or pay it too little attention.

Burstein has offered various thoughts as to how the Millennial tourist behaves. He or she looks to travel for the experience. He or she isn't necessarily attracted by ostentatious luxury. He or she customises the holiday, thus making the package less relevant. And to Burstein's thoughts can be added those from consultants (BCG - Boston Consulting Group) who say that the Millennial tends to book travel on a more last-minute basis than other generations and that, in five to ten years time, the Millennial will have become the dominant demographic in terms of travel spending.

This is all of course a tremendous generalisation, and there is one ingredient which appears to be missing: what happens when the Millennials start having families, and how will this affect their travel and holidaying behaviour? But I'm not inclined to dismiss Burstein's or BCG's ideas. Quite the contrary. As a student of Mallorca's tourism history, I can see a parallel with what Burstein says of the quantum leap at the start of the last century with what happened to Mallorca's tourism. It started, in that a framework was established to exploit and to understand what at that time was not understandable and highly uncertain. It took a long time for potential to be realised but Mallorca, in 1905, was right at the forefront of looking to the future.

If there is indeed to be a fundamental shift, then it is advisable that everyone gets their heads around what it might mean. Seeing the future, especially one that will develop as rapidly as it will because of technological advances, is far from easy. But, as with my vision of the Mallorcan "super all-inclusive", connected by technology which branches out of the current confines of a hotel complex and forms a mini-resort in its own right, it is time for there to be a serious debate as to the shape of Mallorca's tourism over the next twenty years.

No comments: