Millennials now represent the largest generation in the American workforce. How are they making their mark on the tourism business? Are they changing the dynamics of your organization’s major events? Are they doing business in ways that previous generations didn’t?
Pantuso: They are changing the way we do business. Internally, it changes the way I operate and the way the association is managed. And it wouldn’t put them all in the same boat. I made the mistake of saying something to a millennial member at a meeting a few weeks ago, and she said, “Don’t put me in the same box with other millennials. I work hard.”
They’re all very unique individuals, and I can’t broad-brush them. The millennials who work here are very dedicated, very creative and very out of the box. They look at so many things with a fresh set of eyes, and they will tell you what they want. So I try to sit down with them every once in a while to ask their perceptions.
Dale: Millennials are absolutely changing the way our members do business. Each year, we have six MBA candidates from Cornell University tackle a project on behalf of our industry. Two years ago, they looked at the millennial generation and its impact on packaged travel. We learned that millennials are receptive to working with a travel agent and traveling in groups, and that’s encouraging intelligence for our members.
At our conference, we always try to look at topics that expand our mind and that the audience can connect with. The millennial voice is always in the back of my head when we’re booking speakers and determining the focus of our annual stakeholders gathering.
Assante: We think about millennials as our future customers and teachers. Their perception of travel and how they traveled as students is going to influence how they direct and purchase travel for their students. They want the authentic travel. Before, students would have gone to a restaurant and just eaten. But millennial teachers want to know where the food came from and how it was cooked, and they want ways for their students to get involved in preparing it.
When it comes to millennials in the tourism industry, the youngest or least experienced salespeople often handle the leisure market. So we get a lot of them in the student business. They engage with us at our meetings and conventions in totally different ways than mature professionals. Our mobile apps have to be better, and they’re looking for educational content that is entertaining. They don’t want to just stand around and network and drink — they want to get out and do something.
Inman: Millennials represent every race, income and education level, just like all the other generations have. As a baby boomer, it’s been exciting for me to learn from the millennials on our staff and in the membership. We have a young professionals group that offers advice and guidance to us about how to navigate this new era of millennials. We also have some young professionals on our board now, and it’s very cool for us to see them interact. They’re not the least bit bashful about bringing their ideas to the table.