2020 will be a year that travel marketers remember forever - yes, because of COVID-19, but also because it marks the very first year that Gen Z (born 1997-2012) will make up the greatest share of the global population, estimated by Bloomberg to be 32%(1).
This generation is not only already a substantial subset of travelers, taking an average of 2.8 leisure trips per year compared to the 3 trips that Millennials take, but they’re also financially independent enough to not have to rely on their parents’ wallets to do so(2). In the U.S., UK, Australia, India, and China - over 75% of Gen Zers either usually split the cost of their vacations with someone else or pay for all parts of their vacations on their own(3).
And by 2030, the oldest Gen Zers will be in their 30s making up a significant, if not the majority, portion of global travelers. This is the time for destinations and travel brands to start thinking about strategies and ripe opportunities to appeal to this important generation.
At Beautiful Destinations, we have been tracking how this generation’s travel mindset and behavior differ from generations past. A few themes have emerged from our research:
Living in a Pandemic Prison.
Right now, millions of Gen Zers are stuck at home having finished university for the semester or thinking through their first career move. Many report that one of their biggest frustrations is “not having enough to do at home(4).” To put it simply, they’re as captive an audience as they ever will be. And while 93% believe it’s important to keep up with the pandemic(5), this generation is more anxious than older generations about COVID-19’s impact on the world and their lives(6). It’s no surprise then that they’re actively seeking out escapism, with 31% looking for non-pandemic related content that’s more resemblant of “normal(7).”
So what? This is the time to be connecting with, building loyalty, and adding value to Gen Zers’ lives. Break out from the well-intentioned messages of unity, solidarity, and community. In fact, take a break from recovery messaging and create something entertaining, fun, and true to your brand. Use existing footage, get scrappy with an iPhone, and remember to keep it bite-sized. This is the perfect opportunity to get creative with branded content and entertainment in a way that will set you up for future success with Gen Z.
Feel Good Travelers At Heart.
Travel is about bettering themselves and the places they go. They’re more concerned about the environmental impact of their travel, actively seeking out ways to be more eco-friendly from the places they stay to how they get around when traveling. Most importantly, they’re willing to pay more for it, Skift reports that 54% of Gen Z say they’re willing to pay higher fares to use a travel services provider that demonstrates environmental responsibility compared to 48% of millennials(8).
So what? While the impact of COVID-19 has been severely crippling to the world and its economy, the pandemic has illuminated our footprint on the world as humans. From Punjab to Los Angeles, we’re seeing cleaner air, brighter skies, less pollution, and more wildlife. This hasn’t gone unnoticed to Gen Z who will be more conscious of where they go, where they stay, and what they do there. Whether they’re purposely seeking out off the beaten path itineraries or searching for eco-friendly accommodations, this heightened consideration for sustainable travel is a trend for all travel marketers to take into consideration when planning recovery efforts.
Mobile-Minded Above All Else.
As the first generation of truly digital natives, it’ll come as no surprise that Gen Zers in the U.S., India, and China are more likely than previous generations to research and plan travel mostly/entirely on their smartphones. But, in India and China, a majority of Gen Zers also book on their smartphones, essentially beginning and ending the travel purchase journey entirely on their mobile devices(9). This behavior may very well be indicative of how the global Gen Z population will book travel in the coming years.
So what? As marketers we need to rethink the formats, messages, and mediums we’ll use in the future to capture their attention, now. Assets like digital banners will be shunned in favor of new platforms like Tik Tok that will rightfully command more of your attention and budget as a DMO, airline, hotel, or tour operator. It’s wise to take this hiatus in travel to start thinking and planning for how to best connect with this next generation of travelers once we can resume travel once again.
Trusted Travel Advisors
With a spending power of over $140 Billion, Gen Z is gaining the attention of marketers who are investing serious dollars into understanding and catering towards this generation(10). That’s because, while they may not yet be making substantial incomes, their parents heavily value their opinions and involve them in the decision making process for items from cars to family vacations. 87% of parents say their children influence their purchases in some way, with 57% stating it’s because their opinions matter to them(11).
Gen Z is already shaping the future of travel through their sphere of influence, making it imperative for travel marketers to understand their travel wants, needs, and behaviors now. This means immersive travel that makes them feel like locals, unique destinations that aren’t found in your typical guidebook, and making decisions based on peer recommendations vs. experts. Last year, Iceland, the Galapagos, Antarctica and Morocco were the unconventional destinations at the top of families’ lists(12).
These are certainly hard times and none of us know what the future will hold, but it’s quite certain that Gen Z will be an undeniable force in shaping what the future of travel will look like.
As an industry, we must put considerable effort behind understanding who they are as a generation, what they’re looking for in travel, and how and where to best talk to them. Let’s get to it!
About Beautiful Destinations:
Beautiful Destinations is a disruptive full-service travel marketing company with a bold mission: to have a positive impact on the world through travel. Rooted in one of the largest social media communities of travelers in the world – 25 million people turn to us daily on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, TikTok – Beautiful Destinations is a creative agency and media company that helps tourism boards and travel brands navigate the new world of travel.
- Cassandra Report, Life Interrupted, The immediate impact of COVID-19 on Gen Z & Millennials