I’m not only hooked on traveling, I’m hooked on watching travel programs on television.
I’m not talking about the shows that are trying to get you to book a vacation with the sponsor, but the real behind the scenes, genuine and authentic versions.
There’s been a great series over the past couple of years called ‘Amazing Hotels – behind the front desk’. The concept behind the series is that a chef and a restaurant and hotel critic travel to various hotels around the world and actually work in them. Well, I say work in then but really, it’s a case of shadowing various members of staff in their day-to-day tasks. While this is happening, they gain insights into not only how those hotels work, but what the front-line workers think about the industry and the effect that tourism has on their lives.
They’ve featured huge spectacular hotels in Singapore and Dubai, safari lodges in Africa, small and very expensive hotels in remote parts of South America and very remote lodges in Iceland. Over the past two years they’ve visited a wide variety of extremely different locations. Without exception they’ve found that working in the hospitality and tourist industry has had a profound effect on the local workers and……….
This article first appeared in Northwest Florida Daily News on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
Studies recently have shown that as a nation we’re not taking the full number of vacation days to which we’re entitled.
Judging by the number of cars on U.S. Highway 98 and along County Road 30A, you’d think that the world and his wife were on vacation and that they’d chosen to visit this particular paradise. It’s really good that so many people decide to share their vacation time with us.
However, all is not rosy with the state of U.S. vacations.
Studies recently have shown that as a nation we’re not taking the full number of vacation days to which we’re entitled. According to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off, the average number of days vacation we receive is 22.6. Between 1976 and 2000 we took, on average, 20.3 of those days. Last year we only took 16.8 days.
During the survey, 41.9 percent said that they weren’t going to take a single day of vacation this summer. Of course, that could mean that people intend to travel at other times, but the indications are that people are just not vacationing.
Things are even worse here in the South, where 44.7 percent said they weren’t intending to take a summer vacation. That number was even higher among women (51.5 percent) and younger folks.
Why are we doing this? Apparently the number of people saying they can’t afford a vacation has dropped considerably. Most respondents to the various surveys indicate that they don’t feel they can be away from work, or no one else can do their job. This increases among Millennials, and particularly Millennial women, 46 percent of whom think it’s good for their bosses to see them as “work martyrs”.
Having run a number of companies over the years, this seems counterintuitive. Every good manager recognizes that a rested and refreshed worker is more productive than someone who is tired and burned out. It’s also a sign of a good manager that they organize their work life to ensure that the company can operate without them for at least a short time.
But this is a column about tourism, not business practices. The simple fact is that the country needs people to take vacations. One in 18 U.S. jobs is directly or indirectly involved in the tourism industry — that’s 7.6 million jobs. The accommodations and food service sectors each employ 1.9 million people. Here on the Gulf Coast, in Okaloosa County alone, it’s estimated that 32,405 were employed in the tourism industry in 2015. Direct spending by tourists brought in $2.9 billion, and the tourist-generated tax revenue (bed tax, sales tax, etc.) was $554.1 million in 2015 — and it’s increased since then.
There are indications that international tourism into the U.S. may be down this year (see last week’s column), so domestic travel is more important than ever. Obviously it’s good for your health to take vacation. It’s good for your family, too. However, given the benefits to jobs and the economy — especially here on the Gulf Coast — I’d say it’s your patriotic duty to vacation.
Talk to your friends and family and persuade them to visit us here. Share a little sunshine.
Martin Owen is an independent consultant to the tourism industry and owner of Owen Organization in Shalimar. Readers can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following article was published in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Sunday, May 28, 2017.
A few people have told me that they read the Talking Tourism column each week, but are a little puzzled by my references to Millennials, Boomers and Zoomers. Fair comment, so I’ll try to explain.
Much as we like to think we’re all the same in our outlooks and approach to traveling, we’re not. There are all sorts of influences on our opinions, but for those of us in tourism and hospitality marketing, we have to make a few generalizations. One of the easiest ways is by dividing the travelers into generations as it’s been found that’s a pretty accurate way to predict how people will behave, what their likes and dislikes are, and how we can best appeal to them. Obviously, the lines between the generations are blurred and, of course, it’s dangerous to overgeneralize how people behave. If you Google the subject you’ll be overwhelmed by academic and not-so-learned opinions.
Having been in the workplace for a long time and having always been in the travel and tourism industry, I consider it necessary – no, a duty – to take vacations. To travel to new and exciting places and have a good time. For me, the new experiences added to my professional knowledge. They gave me more ammunition to use in persuading my customers to spend money on travel, or allowed me to help my business travelers.
Now back in pre history, without the ever-on email, global communications and such, taking break always meant coming back to uncompleted work, piles of letter, lists of folks to be called back. That was the downside. The upside was the comments about the suntan, and the ‘Don’t you look rested’ remarks. Again, being in the industry helped and most folks I worked with and for looked on travel as an educational experience.
Indeed, one company insisted that in addition to vacation time, all our employees, from the front line staff to back office specialists like accountants and maintenance people took a long haul trip once a year – we were a long haul tour operator. We provide the ticket and the time. The idea proved its worth over and over. The people we worked with were motivated, knowledgeable, rested, and loyal.
A recent report by ‘Project:Time Off’ is called The Work Martyr’s Cautionary Tale – How the Millennial Experience will Define America’s Vacation Culture. It’s available to download for free. http://ow.ly/gsDi303tDQb
It’s a fascinating and, to be frank, depressing work. It’s worrying from the point of view of a fellow human being, but frightening for our tourism industry. Although the report studies American attitudes, I have a feeling it applies to many nations.
Apparently the definition is based on belief that:
No one else at my company can do the work while I’m away
I want to show complete dedication to my company and my job
I don’t want others to think I’m replaceable
I feel guilty for using my paid time off
The workers who fit that definition tend to be slightly more female (52%), slightly less likely to be married (55% are married, compared to 62% overall), but what is most alarming is that they are overwhelmingly Millennials. More than 43% of work martyrs are Millennial, compared to just 29% of overall respondents.
I find all this strange given that this demographic have all the tools to take vacations, yet remain ‘in touch’ if they want to. Ubiquitous internet connectivity provides the means to avoid the backlog when you get back, or the ‘not being available’ worry – if you feel unable to cut the ties for a few days.
I’ll leave you to read the report, which if you’re in any sort of supervisory position you should. The future health of your employees and your organization depends on you being the change agent to modify this crazy mentality!
I mentioned this report to my researcher-in-chief (my wife!) who lead me to a Washington Post article (http://ow.ly/VHpX303tBEr) about why Millennials apparently eat cereal. Long story short, although it’s simple to pour the
cereal out of the box, and add milk, you have to clean up the bowl and spoon afterwards! No comment on the apparent laziness of this, it’s more to do with needing to be working rather than cleaning. This also gives a reason for the massive increase in the sales of coffee pods which grew by 138,325% (yes, you read that correctly) between 2004 and 2014. I actually do approve of coffee pods, as the alternative to me was a fancy coffee machine which I felt I had to use. That resulted in way too many espressos a day….but I digress.
So the need to concentrate on work appears to be the reason for not taking vacations and not eating cereal. Interesting sociological points.
However, let me address my fellow travel and tourism professionals……
What are WE going to do about it? (The lack of vacations, not the breakfast choice)
Hopefully as they age, the Millennials will chill out and start to consider their position. They’ll realize that there’s more to life than always working, and that dedication to work and vacationing are not mutually exclusive. In the meantime we have the Boomers and Generation X to rely on. Although not for long. If this mindset continues, it could spread both up and down the generations.
How does the Industry react and how do we – who depend on people visiting our hotels, resorts, attractions, locales and areas; on using our airlines, car rentals, trains, buses etc – make the vacation experience compulsive?
It appears that Millennials only listen to their boss, with 30% saying the boss is their most powerful influencer. Boomers on the other hand list their families (25%) and their doctor (21%) as the most powerful. Only 13% of Millennials consider their doctor – which is not surprising given their age. Perhaps the Tourism Industry need to deal with the boss. Making deals with companies to persuade their employees to travel for leisure? Allowing employees to tack leisure trips on the end of business trips? Using leisure travel as a reward for good work?
I don’t have all the answers (call me for some of them!), but it is a question that our industry needs to address – maybe while you’re relaxing on vacation….