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Understanding Millennials is critical for the travel and tourism industry to remain competitive

Research highlights five distinct characteristics prevalent in today’s Millennial workforce

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) today released the findings of its commissioned research on “The Asian Millennial Workforce and the Travel Industry”, which found that only 39 per cent of Millennials1 are likely to stay with their company for the next three years.

The study covered over 5,000 Millennial employees and over 1,500 managers across Asia with the aim of at uncovering insights on the Asian Millennials working in the travel industry. The study was released at the Asia Travel Leaders Summit, which is a part of TravelRave, Asia’s premiere travel and tourism week.

“Globally by 2025, 75 per cent of employees will be Millennials, and the ideals of those in Asia are different from their global peers,” said Neeta Lachmandas, Assistant Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board. “In fact, as we dive into the findings, we are reminded that Millennials in Asia are not a homogeneous group, and there are differentiating characteristics among them.”

The top three factors that influence the Asian Millennial’s decision to work in the travel industry were found to be career progression (49%), strong company reputation (26%) and the opportunity to meet and interact with new people (25%).

While 66 per cent of managers agreed that their company has invested in significant resources to build and maintain a strong reputation in the travel industry, only 45 per cent believed that they are paid a competitive wage as compared to contemporaries in competitor companies, and only 54 per cent of them were satisfied with the career progression prospects in their own companies.

Asian Millennials are not a homogeneous group
Unlike Global Millennials who view work-life balance as the most important driver of retention, more than two-thirds of the Asian Millennials surveyed chose career advancement (49%) or job prestige (26%) over work-life balance.

The study also revealed five distinct Asian Millennial sub-groups with varied expectations and desires. This was largely dependent on the life stage and priorities of the Millennial individual.
• Idealists: Accounting for 19 percent of those surveyed, these individuals are aspirational about their work and experiences. Like their fellow Millennials, they are ambitious and in search of quick career progress. Above all, they are driven by meaningful work, and being part of a prestigious company.
• Want-it-alls: The smallest segment of the Asian Millennial Workforce (13%), these individuals are constantly on the look-out for the “best-of-all-worlds” – meaningful work, flexible working arrangements, prestige and international exposure.
• Money-seekers: For this group of individuals (18%), salary and international exposure are the most critical factors.
• Breadwinners: While driven by high remuneration, these Millennials are less keen on international exposure, and are more concerned about quick career advancement. Accounting for the highest proportion at 32 per cent, their motivations for seeking a higher salary are often driven by financial obligations such as children or property.
• Family-focused: Making up 18 per cent of the pie, this group of Millennial workers value flexible working arrangements and meaningful work over career prospects and international exposure.

Meeting the expectations of Asian Millennials
Based on the study’s insights, companies clearly need to understand better the drivers of the Millennial workforce, and revisit how they engage, grow and retain these employees. While the research showed that two-thirds of Millennials are satisfied with their work experience in the travel industry, more still needs to be done. Japan ranked the lowest in terms of job satisfaction (44%), while India was most satisfied (75%). Millennials in Singapore ranked job satisfaction at 66 per cent.

While salary and financial incentives emerge as the largest driver of employee retention, the report pointed out that increasing salaries might not necessarily be the most practical solution. Travel leaders in attendance at the summit also echoed this and agreed that it is more critical to strengthen the employee performance process and focus on merit-based compensation packages. This would in turn, also address Millennials’ needs for expedited career advancement and recognition.

Another area which companies can focus would be on “Intrapreneurship”, which address Millennials’ need for greater exposure while allowing them to continue to be a part of a company with a strong reputation that they value.

“A vibrant and satisfied Millennial workforce is critical for the success of the travel industry. Not only do they have a pulse on the needs of Millennial travellers, they are also digital natives who are able to transform the way the industry functions,” noted Ms Lachmandas. “Hence, it is important for the industry to fully understand these Millennial talent and look at ways to tap onto their strengths, and maximise their potential.”

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