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Travel Trends: On The Go With Generation Z

This article is part of our collection about the travel & hospitality industry. Click here for more.

Make room, Millennial adventure-seekers. There’s a new traveller in town: Generation Z. Forecast to be the largest group of consumers by 2020, Gen Z'ers are digital natives ready to conquer the world.

Now the burden falls on travel marketers to understand where these young people want to go and, more importantly, what kinds of experiences they want to have.

Generation Z, defined by anyone born after 1995, comprise 32% of the global population of 7.7 billion, nudging out Millennials (31.5%) for the top spot, according to a Bloomberg analysis of United Nations data. The Gen Z buying power is estimated at $29 billion to $143 billion in direct spending, and they also have a significant influence on family and household purchases.

“With youth travel one of the fastest-growing sectors in tourism, the marketing potential of Gen Z can’t be ignored,” said Michael Edwards, chief growth officer of Melbourne-based adventure travel company Intrepid Group. “We find that the most effective way to attract Gen Z travellers is by taking a more targeted and personalised approach. This even ranks above discounts and perks when it comes to achieving this audience’s loyalty.”

In Search Of Unique, Authentic Experiences
While budget-conscious, Gen Z will spend more for immersive, experiential travel that lets them experience life as a local, not a tourist. According to Edwards, they “more often than not” turn to social media for their travel inspirations.

Market research performed by McCrindle on behalf of Contiki Australasia, a travel company targeting youth travellers, revealed that 79% of Gen Z first travelled overseas before the age of 15. 

“This generation is better travelled than ever before. As such, they crave authentic experiences in unique destinations,” said Katrina Barry, Contiki Australia’s managing director. “They want to feel as though they’re amongst the first of their peers to ‘discover’ experiences.”  

A campaign by Intrepid Group proved the power of offering something new and different to this demographic. In 2018, the travel company targeted Gen Z with a campaign hinged on the proposition, “Now, more than ever, the world needs more Intrepid people.”

“As part of this campaign, we launched our first mystery trip under Intrepid Travel,” Edwards said. “Our ‘Uncharted Expedition’ was designed to celebrate Intrepid’s first exploratory trips 30 years ago. The only details provided to potential expeditioners were that they’d arrive in Kazakhstan, finish in Mongolia, and maybe drink mare’s milk. The first departure booked out in 16 hours, and we had more than 750 applications within 10 days.”  

Added Contiki’s Barry: “Long gone are the days of mass reach that isn’t earned.”

This realization led Contiki to launch The Travel Project, which works with young storytellers and creatives around the globe, publishing their stories, insights, original video, and photography. “It gives Contiki a voice of authority and authenticity, beyond ‘buy this trip,’” Barry said.

Tom O’Hara, head of coach tour company Busabout, whose hop-on-hop-off network covers Europe, Asia, and North America, agreed.

“A typical Gen Z traveller possesses a strong want to experience something new, unique, and authenticcharacteristics that are often in opposition to the Instagram shots of famous landmarks that may have prompted their original travel decision-making,” he told CMO.com.

Flashpackers And Foodies  
Gen Z’s willingness to pay more for better travel experiences extends to the accommodations they seek. O’Hara pointed out a trend among Gen Z known as “flashpacking,” a term used to define the affluent backpacker whose backpack contains myriad digital devices.

“The ‘cheap-as-chips’ options that dominated previous backpacker generations have been replaced with a desire for private rooms, air conditioning, and restaurant meals,” O’Hara said.

Speaking of meals, according to Contiki’s Barry, the importance of foodie experiences has increased significantly. McCrindle’s market research for Contiki found that 35% of Gen Z prioritise food experiences and 94% research where to eat before they travel.   

“This has definitely changed since Contiki started in 1962,” Barry said. “We used to run camping trips where travellers would happily eat chicken and chips after ticking off bucket-list sites. Now our guests want to have unique experiences and eat at the best authentic local restaurants.”

Socially And Environmentally Conscious Travellers
O’Hara said he sees Gen Z’s travel decisions geared toward opportunities for volunteering and an awareness of the environment. So it should come as no surprise that Gen Z travellers are drawn to brands that are committed to the same, be it sustainability, the environment, and animal welfare, Barry said.

It’s why Contiki partnered with the Tread Right Foundation to launch Contiki Cares, which promotes sustainable travel experiences that aim to have a positive impact on the people and communities visited and to protect wildlife and marine life, she said. For example, Contiki’s new Israel and Jordan tour includes a visit with the Iraq Al Amir Women’s Cooperative, which preserves local heritage while increasing financial independence and raising living standards for local women.

Under The Influence
What are the most effective ways marketers can reach Gen Z travellers?

“Facebook and Instagram are the priority channels, with Instagram seeing the largest growth for us across all social media,” Barry said. Contiki’s Brand Tracking 2018 research, performed by market research consultancy The Leading Edge, found that Instagram was the No. 1 platform for travel inspiration, with 50% stating it provides the best inspiration.

Gen Z is also hugely swayed by online influencers, the celebrities of their times. In fact, 45% of Gen Zers follow more than 10 online influencers, and more than one in 10 follow more than 50.

“Influencers definitely have a role to play, as this generation consumes so much through social and digital channels,” O’Hara said.

Ultimately, the group who influences this generation most are their peers.

“We are really seeing Gen Z favour user-generated content over traditional influencer content,” Barry said. “The influencers who truly make an impact are the ones who have carved out their niche, know their audience, and tell compelling stories, aligning themselves with relevant brands,” she said. 

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