As millennials and Generation Z are overtaking the baby boomers, the hospitality industry is witnessing radical changes in consumer behavior. Everything is changing at a stellar pace, from destination choices to booking methods. Gen Z — those born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s — is drastically shaping the future of travel and hospitality with their unique preferences and values.
With this tech-savvy and environmentally-conscious generation stepping into the spotlight, the travel industry must ready itself for a dramatic transformation if it wants to tap into this massive emerging market. Gen Z, more than other generations that came before, has been shaped by the Internet, and any trend that catches its attention can be quickly catapulted to massive popularity, creating a fast-paced and fluid new business environment.
Gen Z travel trends and the factors driving their popularity
Here are top 7 Gen Z travel trends that are having an outsized impact on the global hospitality industry-
The concept of "workcations" has gained significant traction among Gen Z travelers since the COVID-19 pandemic, as remote work and flexible work arrangements have become more commonplace. Essentially a blend of work and vacation, they allow individuals to work remotely while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of a new environment and culture in their off hours.
Workcations offer the opportunity to escape the monotony of a home office and experience new places without compromising professional commitments. Considering that staying cooped up at home can be taxing on mental health, more and more people are viewing workcations almost as a necessity rather than a luxury. Younger generations have taken to this trend with gusto, fully embracing the fluid, hybrid lifestyles of the Internet Age.
According to a report issued by long-term-accommodations supplier edyn, when choosing accommodation before going abroad, 51% of millennials and Gen Z adults said remote working facilities were an important consideration, compared to just 15% of a grouping of older baby boomers and Silent Generation survey respondents
Challenging the notion of peak season
This has significant implications for hospitality businesses. Workcations encourage midseason travel, as individuals can work during less busy times and enjoy a leisurely weekend getaway. This shift challenges the traditional concept of peak travel season and allows for better crowd management at popular tourist spots. Providing accommodation with dedicated workspaces, ergonomic furniture, high-speed Internet and other work-oriented amenities has also become a must.
Co-working spaces within hotels and resorts are also becoming commonplace. These spaces facilitate networking among workcation travellers, providing opportunities for social interactions.
2. Pop-culture tourism
Pop-culture tourism, or fandom tourism, has gained massive popularity in recent years, with Gen Z at the forefront of this trend. Sometimes called "set-jetting", this involves traveling to destinations that are connected to a person's favorite movies, TV series, anime, comics or books. This type of tourism allows fans to immerse themselves deeper in the stories they adore, as well as interact with like-minded others, creating a hybrid cultural-social travel experience.
Gen Z travelers' choices are strongly influenced by the pop culture they consume. They often choose destinations based on where their favorite movies were filmed or where their favorite authors live. Pop-culture enthusiasts often dream of visiting places they've seen on-screen or read about in novels. Locations like the Harry Potter studios in London, the Game of Thrones filming sites in Ireland and Croatia, or the Breaking Bad tour in Albuquerque give fans a chance to step into the fictional worlds they love.
Pop culture tourism also creates a sense of community among fans who share common interests. Events like conventions, fan meetups and cosplay gatherings provide platforms for like-minded individuals to connect and bond. Furthermore, pop tourism experiences are highly shareable on social-media platforms.
Micro-targeting specific fandoms
This creates a million ways for businesses to leverage this trend. Organizing guided tours that take visitors to film locations, landmarks or places that have significance in a pop-culture franchise; hosting cosplay events or costume parties where visitors can dress up as their favourite characters; offering themed merchandise including souvenirs, apparel, and collectibles for fans to take home — all are incredibly effective at garnering the attention of Gen Z travelers.
Pop-culture tourism also affects the way trips are marketed. Rather than broad-based mass advertising, it is much more cost-effective to micro-target specific fandoms via partnering with social-media influencers who have a strong following among fans of specific pop-culture properties. Their content can showcase your business's pop-culture-related offerings and attract a dedicated Gen Z audience. Organizing fan conventions, meet-and-greet events or workshops can bring fans together for shared experiences and generate massive footfall within a short period of time.
"Instagrammability" is a key factor that millennials seek in their travel experiences, and Gen Z travelers are following in their footsteps. Influenced by the photogenic appeal of destinations and accommodation, this trend is causing a major shift- both in the bucket-list destinations that Gen Zers choose to travel to, as well as the activities they prefer to engage in once at those destinations.
The visual allure of a destination plays a major role in travel decision-making for Gen Z. The "Instagram-worthiness" of a place often ranks high on Gen Z travelers' list of priorities when choosing where to visit. Places that translate into eye-catching and shareable photos are the first thing many Gen Z guests are drawn to. As they share their dream-vacation photos on Instagram, this, in turn, catches the eyes of their friends, creating a self-sustaining loop of organic marketing.
Leveraging photo-worthy features
Many hospitality businesses have therefore started leveraging Instagrammable features to attract travel-happy millennials and Gen Z consumers. Marketing campaigns often highlight scenic viewpoints, unique street backdrops and landmarks with interesting architecture.
Travelers can now join guided tours that take them to the most photogenic spots in a destination to ensure they capture the perfect shot. To this end, businesses, from hotels to restaurants, are designing spaces with Instagram in mind.
4. Sustainability and environmental awareness
Sustainability is becoming a central focus in the travel industry as Gen Z leads the charge towards more responsible and eco-friendly travel practices. Gen Z is more environmentally and socially conscious than previous generations, and sustainability considerations greatly impact how they view different brands.
According to research from Skift, 54% of Gen Zers report that they're willing to pay higher rates to use a travel service provider that demonstrates environmental responsibility, compared to 48% of millennials.
Environmentally responsible travel emphasizes reducing one's carbon footprint, conserving natural resources, and protecting fragile ecosystems. Businesses can leverage awareness of environmental issues to attract conscious Gen Z travelers as well as contribute to a more sustainable tourism industry through a few key measures. Eliminating single-use plastics onsite, partnering with local communities to offer ecotourism packages and promoting local and seasonal foods are easy first steps.
Businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector can operate more sustainably by:
Obtaining and promoting green certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or other recognized sustainability labels
Engaging with local environmental initiatives and supporting community events like beach clean-ups, tree planting or other conservation projects
Collaborating with carbon-offset organizations
And finally, clearly communicating these sustainable practices, goals, and achievements through their website, social media, and onsite signages — or via PressReader's Self-Pub feature
5. Travel therapy
Travel therapy, also called wellness tourism, is a trend that uses travel as a means of improving one's mental and physical well-being. It recognizes the potential of travel to provide therapeutic benefits, promote self-care and improve health. Travel therapy thus encompasses various activities aimed at reducing stress and improving mental health.
Travel therapy often involves physical activities such as hiking, yoga or spa visits. Some forms of wellness tourism focus on spiritual journeys. Wellness-focused Gen Z travelers often choose nature-centric destinations, such as beach resorts, mountain retreats or eco-lodges for their calming and rejuvenating effects.
Businesses can tap into this niche by collaborating with wellness experts, therapists, yoga instructors and mindfulness coaches to offer workshops and classes to travelers. Offering outdoor adventure activities like hiking, yoga retreats, kayaking and eco-tours that allow travellers to connect with nature is also a must.
Bleisure, a portmanteau of business and leisure, is one of the most popular Gen Z travel trends that involves combining work-related trips with leisure or recreational activities. It is different from a workcation (as discussed above) in that the trip is undertaken primarily for a business purpose, but with the addition of some leisure activities. This trend has gained massive traction as Gen Z and millennial professionals seek to maximize their travel experiences by extending business travel for personal enjoyment.
They recognize that traveling for business also offers a chance to explore new destinations and cultures. Also, extending a business trip for leisure can provide opportunities for informal networking and relationship-building with colleagues or clients in a more relaxed setting.
By combining business and leisure travel, individuals can also save on certain travel expenses, such as flights and accommodations, which may be covered by the company, increasing disposable income.
Appealing to bleisure travelers
There are several ways hospitality and travel brands can make themselves more appealing to bleisure travelers. Creating spaces and organizing events where leisure travelers can network and connect is one way. Others include developing special packages that combine business amenities with leisure activities; providing special perks for extending stays beyond work-related commitments; and providing a concierge service to assist bleisure travellers in planning leisure activities, making reservations and navigation.
Simplifying the billing process for bleisure travelers who need to separate business expenses from leisure costs is also very important to ensure good word of mouth and repeat bookings.
7. Solo travel
Solo travel has seen a surge of late, reflecting a shift in how Gen Z thinks about travel. This trend, where people embark on journeys alone to explore new destinations, challenge personal boundaries and discover themselves, is seen as fundamentally different than group travel, both in terms of what travelers expect from a trip and what they look for in destinations.
Solo travelers design their itineraries with unparalleled flexibility and are more likely to engage and interact with local cultures. Whether it's niche hobbies, lesser-known attractions or unique leisure activities, their journeys are based on highly individual preferences.
By tailoring their offerings to meet the unique needs of solo travelers, businesses can tap into this rapidly growing market segment. Hoteliers, for example, might offer emphasize features like security and privacy, and offer special pricing options such as reduced single occupancy rates and bundled experiences that offer good value for money.
Implications for marketing
Marketing to Gen Z guests requires new approaches that align with their preferences and behaviors. Traditional forms of mass marketing, such as TV ads, are losing ground in favour of more personal and individualized marketing strategies. These are not only more effective at attracting customers but can also be much cheaper in many cases.
For example, encouraging Gen Z travelers to share their own travel stories, photos and videos using a specific hashtag and curating and featuring their content on your social-media platforms to create a sense of community and authenticity is a great (and free!) way to generate buzz and attract attention.
Similarly, creating bite-sized videos that feature quick travel tips and cultural insights, or showcase unique experiences, is also inexpensive and effective.
Many travel brands are also collaborating with micro-influencers who have a dedicated following among Gen Zers. These influencers can create authentic content showcasing sustainable, quirky and photogenic travel experiences. Aligning your brand with social and environmental causes that resonate with Gen Z is also important.
As the 21st century progresses, the old paradigms of marketing and travel geared toward the baby boomers and Gen Xers will slowly fall by the wayside. A new travel paradigm that emphasizes individuality, sustainability, authenticity and online clout over package tours to traditional destinations is emerging.
The young generation is spending more time traveling, taking an average of three leisure trips a year, as Gen Z blends work and travel into a new form of digital nomadism. Businesses that recognize these Gen Z travel trends and adapt to the new climate will be able to leverage a massive new market of affluent and culturally influential travellers.