Young People - our best assets for future growth
The past wee while has given us some new perspectives on the younger generation:
- We know they’re less likely to become ill with Covid 19 than us older folk (by older, I mean anyone over 25 so don’t get all huffy :-) ).
- We believe some of them may be taking Covid 19 a little less seriously than us older ones, therefore potentially putting us at risk, and we don’t like that.
- We’ve watched as exams have been cancelled and results have been chaotically reconstructed, sometimes with woeful consequences for future careers and aspirations.
- We see universities where most students are still in the family home rather than in the pub where they would usually be by now.
- We’ve already seen huge growth in the number of young people unemployed due to the pandemic.
- We expect worse to come in terms of job prospects as the crisis hits older more experienced workers too, knocking young people off the shortlists in many cases.
Do we have the answers? No. But do we have a view? Of course we do!
Within the Scottish Travel and Tourism community it’s hard to find influential people under say, forty years old. Not too surprising, as most people gradually progress to a position of power, so by definition it doesn’t happen overnight. But perhaps we’re missing a trick here? In other fields, brands target young consumers quite deliberately, knowing they will become valuable customers of the future. Think banks offering freebies to young savers. They may only deposit birthday fivers and Christmas money for several years, but once those first payslips come in, how much easier to simply stay with the same account than to uproot and start again with a new provider. It’s not rocket science, it’s done everywhere. Everywhere it seems, except in tourism!
Perhaps it’s because we all secretly believe that we’re still young, or at the very least, still young at heart. We think that we’re in tune with the trends, ‘down with the kids’ or whatever other cringeworthy term is in vogue.
Some recent research examined what young folk were looking for in their travel plans. Coming in top were to relax, and to visit friends and perhaps family too. Romance was important (ie they’d be with someone special so the opportunity to have romantic experiences was key), and the opportunity to meet other young travellers like themselves, was seen as desirable. One of the biggest drivers was to experience life; to see more of the world, to get involved and to interact with the locals.
So, how would they research their trip? Apparently they would use online travel agents (OTAs), hotel and airline websites, plus social media, as well as recommendations from friends and family.
And booking? This was done direct. These travellers are savvy to the best prices, and although they’ll use the OTAs for an overview, when it comes to parting with their cash, they feel they’ll get a better rate and a more secure booking experience by talking directly to the businesses involved.
Millennials love loyalty schemes. If a hotel group or an airline can offer them discounts or points or vouchers to be redeemed later, this can be a great way of retaining young customers. Creating brand loyalty also feeds into the word of mouth referral culture as these customers take pride and a sense of belonging from brand affinity, which they will share and share.
If some of this is news to you, maybe that demonstrates room to improve already?
We learn that most young people do their travel research and booking on a smartphone, but that almost all of them aren’t happy with the experience! So if you can improve your app (or create one), smooth the wrinkles out of your website, or in some way make the process more engaging, you’ll be rewarded by this market.
There’s more to this however than simply a few tweaks in the current systems. Youth unemployment figures recently published showed an increase in the last year of 76,000 people. That’s a lot of youngsters feeling lost and undervalued, with little or no idea of what the future holds. We can all imagine where that might end, and it’s not pretty, not pretty at all. But this is where we can make a difference, not just to them but to our own businesses. Listen up!
Consider bringing a young person, or even better a team of them into your business. This may be as an employee, a work experience provider, or as a consultant. Yes, consultant! Imagine tasking them with identifying the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of your business, in attracting young customers. And, once identified, to develop those capabilities. You would then prioritise whether it’s a stronger online presence, a new social media strategy to better reflect the needs of young user groups, more context so young customers can understand why they would enjoy visiting your business, changing the offer to include more affordable entry level elements for those on limited budgets, or anything else to remove the existing barriers they might spot.
By shining a light on the opportunities, a role is created to address them, a genuine value results from business growth, and a young person feels listened to, engaged, has a purpose, and a great experience from what might be their first ever job.
What compounds this however is some valuable help from the Government. The new Kick Start scheme is being supported by the HospitalityUnite website, with the backing of UKHospitality, Springboard, and the Scottish Tourism Alliance. There will be a free online service for hospitality businesses and young people (16-24 year olds) who wish to take part in the scheme. The FSB and local Chambers of Commerce are also stepping up to run the scheme.
Government money will fund 25 hours per week, at national minimum wage, for six months. At the end of which, it is hoped they will become valuable members of the team, with a foothold on the first step of a career in hospitality or the wider leisure sector.
Over to you!