11th October 2023

Why understanding Gen Z is so important for travel marketers

By Marion Faguet, Global Business Director - Digital, Mindshare WW

Since the end of the pandemic, the travel market has gone through a resurgence with more people travelling and shifting consumer behaviours. And as the ‘revenge’ travel trend –people desperate to fly after Covid 19 restrictions - comes to end, the market is looking to Generation Z to point the way for the future of travel.

Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z has grown up as digital natives. According to Mindshare’s Audience Origin: Teenagers research they are the ‘discerning generation’, are more connected to the outside world and have a strong sense of empowerment and ambition.

These behaviours really shape their attitudes to travel. And this generation really likes to travel – an average of 29 days per year (Hotelmize) and 65% of Gen Z rank travel and seeing the world as the most important way to spend their money (Telus International).

As this generation represents such an exciting opportunity for the travel market, we have put together four key trends focused on Gen Z travel.

Travel is an essential luxury

Each generation assesses its priorities, and while many consider travel to be a luxury, for Gen Z is a very important one. According to research from American Express, 79% of Gen Z see leisure travel as a budget priority, and 84% would rather take a vacation than purchase a new luxury item.

Between 2021 and 2022, Gen Zs’ average spending per purchase decreased for fashion (7%), tech (6%) and food (12%), while their travel purchases surged 60%, according to Student Beans.

And despite having budget constraints, Gen Z places real importance on quality and luxury accommodation when travelling. According to the European Travel Commission, upscale (4-5-star) hotels are preferred by Gen Z, who are often happy to opt for budget flights.

Brand action: Help Gen X dream. Be present with media targeting Gen Z when they start their travel research. Provide content that will inspire.

Fuelled & enabled by technology

As true digital natives, Gen Z rely on technology both at the planning stage and while traveling. The smartphone is the most important device for Gen Z when researching, and booking (European Travel Commission), and a massive 90% of Gen Z say that their international travel decisions are influenced by social media (Condor Ferries).

Online inspiration is incredibly important for Gen Z, with 61% saying that a top motivation for traveling is to visit a destination because it looks great in photos and videos American Express, and 70% have been inspired to visit a destination after seeing featured in a TV show, news source, or movie.

Technology is the driver of personalisation in travel and 86% of travellers across all age groups say they are looking for personalised travel experiences (2023 Hilton Global Trends Report). And for Gen Z, it goes beyond personalisation into budget control, with 62% saying they use technology to help them save money on travel (booking.com)

Brand action: Rely on technology to deliver your brand proposition. The online journey from planning to booking should be seamless - Gen Z expect experiences to be easy and personalized.

Focus on physical and mental wellbeing

While physical and mental wellbeing has traditionally been seen as more of a travel motivator for older generations, Gen Z place huge importance on this. This is in contrast to the more hedonistic pursuits of previous younger generations.

The top three motivators for US Gen Z travelers actually mirror those of other generations: to relax, escape or get away, and spend time with friends and family (Morning Consult).

According to American Express, 73% of respondents are planning vacations to improve their mental and physical health this, with 60% of Gen Z saying they go out of their way to book hotels that offer spa and wellness services.

Brand action: Adapt messaging to prioritize self-care. Destinations and experiences that promote a healthy mind and body will resonate with Gen Z. Recognize that travel is an opportunity to unplug and focus on mental wellbeing.

Eco-friendly & responsible travel

As the informed, aware and empowered generation, Gen Z are more likely than other age groups to consider sustainable travel options with 56% saying they'd want to stay in green or eco-friendly accommodations (Expedia Group). In fact, 54% of Gen Z  say they're willing to pay higher rates for a travel service provider that demonstrates environmental responsibility.

And this responsibility breaks down into several key areas. According to Mintel, these are some of the key areas of reduction people expect from travel providers: plastic waste, food waste, pollution,  water waste, and carbon emissions.

Gen Z and other travellers are taking action based on their commitment to sustainability. According to Expedia, seven in 10 consumers have actually avoided certain tourism spots because they were sceptical of their sustainable practices.

Brand action: Offer eco-friendly experiences and adapt messaging to resonate with green-conscious Gen Z. Be intentional with your media, invest with sustainability in mind and find partners that offset emissions.

Gen Z are the most informed, tech-savvy and authenticity-seeking of all the generations. This shapes their travel behaviours and motivations. But unlike previous young generations, they share certain key travel priorities with older generations, such as physical and mental wellbeing and genuine local experiences. For travel marketers, understanding Gen Z can unlock potential that cuts across all age groups.

Mindshare Global
    Mindshare Global