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Gen Z travellers will alter the industry as we know it

Phoebe Buchan, Global Service Delivery Manager, looks at how attitudes of younger travellers are changing and what it could mean for the sector.
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It’s no secret that we’re living through a cost-of-living crisis and money is tight. While this is definitely the case for us in our 20s, we are still travelling en masse. Despite mounting financial pressures, just over half of Gen Z adults (52%) are frequent travellers, having taken at least three leisure trips in the past year alone.

With big-ticket items such as houses and new cars currently out of reach for many, it seems Gen Z are looking to spend their disposable income on authentic life experiences rather than one-off materialistic purchases.

Having said that, Gen Z are arguably being hit worse than other generations when it comes to inflation, buying power and cost of living. And so, despite many desperate to plan bucket-list getaways after years of travel restrictions and lockdowns, Gen Z’s limited budgets are determining many of our travel choices.

Gone are the days of an all-inclusive package breaks. Gen Z want to stretch what limited budget they have with unique cultural homestays, dining at independent cafes and restaurants, and throwing themselves into new ways of living. For our generation, travel is intentional.

But other than budgets, what else is driving this shift?

Influenced by influencers

An appetite for all things ‘authentic’ is being fed by the rise of influencer culture. Stereotypical though it may be, social media tends to be the driving influence on Gen Z travel choices. Today’s travellers want a glimpse of the real deal to try before they buy and get inspiration for their next trip.

From scenic destinations to offering first-hand travel tips and tricks, organic user-generated content often has a far more prominent influence on Gen Z travel ambitions than traditional advertising because it appears authentic. In fact, a staggering 84% find either a friend or an ‘expert’s’ vacation photos and videos to be influential resulting in social platforms being used for recommendations far more than review sites such as TripAdvisor.

Online content featuring cost-effective destinations is making travel far more accessible to those without a huge disposable income. Social platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and YouTube all provide a visual showcase for ‘off the beaten track’ cultural havens that won’t break the bank, with hashtags such as #wanderer and #traveladvisor being used over 28 million times on TikTok.

Environmental impact

While authenticity may be the key driver of Gen Z travel trends, we are also very conscious that we will be the ones to feel the first major repercussions of climate change. According to a report by Expedia Group, 67% are more likely to consider sustainable travel options than other generations.

If travelling somewhere closer to home, often a Gen Z traveller will explore alternative routes, for example by coach or train and base the decision on both price, as well as the environmental impact.

When travelling further afield and opting to fly, Gen Z are likely to spend less on the flight itself and other add-ons such as additional luggage and instead prioritise our spending on accommodation, food and activities once there. By seeking out local restaurants and participating in community-based tourism, Gen-Z travellers are increasingly opting for accommodation and activities that contribute to the economies of the places we visit as well as the authentic local experience.

Social Consciousness

And, for Gen Z, it is both our social and environmental impact when travelling we are acutely aware of. Increasingly younger generations are refusing to visit places where cultural morals and ethics do not align with their own, and instead are engaging in ‘conscious travel’ whereby people actively seek out destinations that uphold ethical standards and prioritise human rights.

Despite being popular influencer hubs, with all-year-round sun, countries such as UAE which are renowned as high-end tourist hot spots are becoming much less popular amongst Gen Z travellers.

Business trips

All of these trends are also likely to extend to our professional lives if given the opportunity to travel for work.

From opting for socially conscious destinations to off-setting carbon emissions, the criteria a business trip meets before an employee is happy to accept the proposal must be considered. To attract and retain the best Gen Z talent, businesses will need to ensure the trips offered to Gen Z align with their social standpoint.

Simple choices can make a huge difference. Rather than flying individuals to and from each conference for example, it’s important businesses explore whether more sustainable methods could be used. If flying is the only option, businesses should perhaps group trips together to cut down on carbon emissions and reduce the amount of time travelling back and forth.

Many TMCs can also help companies to record, reduce and offset their carbon emissions which is a great way to demonstrate a businesses’ commitment to investing in sustainable business travel.

Companies could also encourage their staff to take ‘bleisure’ trips – a combination of business and leisure – to not only give employees time to recharge after a hectic business trip, but to also  allow some time to truly experience a new city or even country before we head back home.

The demands from this generation could change business trips for the better. Large corporations have a significant environmental and social impact and if Gen Z’s travel demands help make those choices more sustainable, well that’s a huge win.

After two years of social and cultural isolation, our generation is making up for some serious lost time as we transition between student life and financial independence as young adults.

As Gen Zs habits and preferences continue to grow in prevalence, our perspective is undoubtedly going to alter the travel industry as we know it.

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