What Do Rising Leaders in Tourism Really Want from Employers?

The ongoing, ever-changing discussion surrounding preferences in the workplace is one that is incredibly important in order to retain your team, you must first know what is important to them. To dive into this topic, I met with several focus groups from different generations within the travel and tourism industry to find out firsthand what is really important to them.


The most significant and interesting thing that I learned was that although all generations seemed to have similar priorities on the surface, once the conversation went deeper on each topic, there were key generational differences. Below, I’ll dive into more detail on what the Millennial-generation truly wants.


Unconventional Growth and Development

The word growth came up time and time again and while it seemed at first to be straight-forward, that word means different things for different generations. While GenX and Baby Boomers seem to search for opportunities with forwarding advancement in the typical sense, such as promotions and increased compensation, Millennials wanted growth in a less traditional sense. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder from a Manager to Director to Executive, Millennials seem to want more cross-functional growth, individualized development, and opportunities for collaboration without boundaries.


“I am looking for development. I want a company to believe in me, to invest in me, and not just to look at me as a number. The opportunity to be collaborative and to learn…. I don’t want to be in a box. I don’t want to be the Group Administrative Coordinator and these are the only things I ever get to do…I want to know that if I discover something that I am good at and I have a talent for and I can learn more that people will support that and really see me.”- Sabrina Siqueiros, Visit Monterey


“A lot of the careers that Millennials have, didn’t even exist a few years ago. You can be a blogger, you can be a social media influencer, you can be a content creator….there are so many different things that we can do….One thing that Millennials get a hard time for is that we move on from jobs quickly or we are picky, but there are so many career options available to us that you can’t really blame us for really trying to find something that fits well within all of our interests.” – Kylie Leslie, Visit Phoenix


“I feel like in some managements structures you only get to see three feet ahead of you. ‘Your job is only to complete the next three steps and then after that don’t worry about it, it’s not your job’. I think more millennials are looking to see what is down at the end of the road, what are we working towards. It is more of a curiosity.” – Randi Morritt, Visit Aurora


Due to technology, there are new job titles emerging constantly, thus endless career options available for rising leaders. In my discussions, Millennials seem to actually prefer to grow outwards rather than upwards, honing a diverse web of skillsets and growing expertise in a multitude of areas. This unconventional career trajectory and blurred duties due to the desire to ‘not be placed in a box’ is something that employers should be aware of and continue to evolve with if they want to retain Millennials.



Sense of Community

Culture is another topic that was discussed several times and is almost one of those “cliché” responses to the ‘what are you looking for in an employer’ question. It seems that this answer is defined differently from individual to individual. Although it encompasses likeminded values and the people, it goes beyond that for the generation of rising leaders.


“One thing I looked for was a sense of community and support in that you have people that care about you and care about your future. One thing that was very evident in my interviews, was that each person was independently passionate about what they did.” – Kylie Leslie, Visit Phoenix


Rising leaders are looking for more than just a nice team that gets along well. They want to work for a company that is supportive with likeminded and passionate individuals, spurring a positive and creative community-like culture.


“I look for fulfillment and I look around me to see if the people around me feel the same way. If you are going to work everyday and suddenly no one around you is passionate or fulfilled too, then it gets draining after a while. It is important to me that wherever I work, people are extremely passionate about what they are doing.” – Gina Archuleta, Visit Monterey


Flexibility and Modern Perks

It wouldn’t be an article about the Millennial generation without talking about ‘work perks’. For the senior leaders, they are looking for perks such as great benefits packages, while rising leaders had different perks in mind. The Millennials that I spoke to almost all prioritized workplace flexibility, such as remote options and flexible hours, as well as work-life balance.


Millennials want their leaders to focus on results rather than hours in a workday or a workweek: productivity and efficiency overclocked hours worked. Coupled with this topic was the concept of laidback workspaces, which the tech industry seems to lead the charge on. Although this was not a deal breaker for most, it was most definitely something that Millennials prefer and feel that the tourism industry is a bit behind the ball comparatively. It is important for industry leaders to understand that this is a preference and to consider evolving the traditional workspace to stay competitive and retain this generation.


“We think if you come in, work hard, do great work, then leave and go have your life. When we created the 9/80 work schedule, I said to the board, ‘let’s try something for 6 months.’ This was in 2007.” – Gary Sherwin, President and CEO, Visit Newport Beach.


Defining Experiences and Making a Difference

 “My job has to have an element to it that makes me feel like what I am doing is really making a difference and is good. I love that we are beating the charge with the sustainability initiative, that means a lot to me, that is really important to me. Being able to give back to the community in certain ways, that has always been something really important to me to find those kinds of elements in a job.” – Kimber Tabscott, Visit Monterey


In my discussions, all generations seem to look for a job that had a rewarding aspect to it, although for many of the Boomers and GenXers, it was not their top deciding factor for choosing an employer. The words fulfillment and impact were used by Millennials a lot, prioritizing experiences that will define them and only them. They want to be the making an impact that is unique and individualized, intertwining their specific job duties with making a positive social impact; essentially checking two boxes at once.


Nani says it best:

“We are definitely seeking more experiences as Millennials. We’re seeking what our life experience is going to be, instead of just finding that job that is going to keep paying the bills. We are always, constantly looking for our next, ‘what is going to be defining Nani? What am I about?” – Nani Almanza, Visit Monterey





Elizabeth McHeffey is our digital nomad. During her travels she’ll be diving into topics and trends surrounding the generations in the workforce, stopping along the way to meet with industry leaders that are making waves and reinventing how we work. What we’re calling, “The Remote Route.”


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