The Gen Z traveller: How zoomers are redefining the travel industry

Supplied image.

Supplied image.

Published Feb 16, 2023


Johannesburg – Experts believe that Gen Z is playing such a crucial role in shaping how we all consume, buy and engage with brands.

This is the generation, colloquially known as zoomers, born between 1997 and early 2012 - a highly adaptable age group with the oldest turning 26; and the youngest 11 this year.

Travel experts are of the view that different generations approach travel differently – especially incoming younger generations.

“They’ve got varying priorities, values, and overall outlook on what they want to get from their travels and it’s the Gen Z traveller that is actively redefining what it means to travel that in turn will affect the economy, businesses, and people across the globe,” David Shevil, group head of marketing for Premier Hotels & Resorts said.

“It’s hard to say with any kind of certainty, but there are some noteworthy trends that are already taking hold.”

Supplied image.

Gen Z travel trends in 2023

Gen Z characteristics: 82% said they trust a company more if it uses images of actual customers, giving them a chance to see a new place through the eyes of locals.

Gen Z purchasing behaviour: 68% read multiple reviews before making a purchase.

Gen Z money habits: Experiences matter as 65% of Gen Z respondents said they would rather take a dream vacation than purchase a new car.

Gen Z leisure behaviour: 97% use social media as their primary source of inspiration so make sure you’re on the right channels. TikTok is becoming the most popular form of social media being used by Gen Z.

“This travel segment has increased by as much as 30% from previous years and we are seeing more and more Gen Z travellers and guests searching our website for travel deals,” Shevil said.

He added that Generation Z has big travel plans for 2023. “These young travellers prefer solo travel over travelling with friends and appreciate great culture in affordable destinations rather than luxury resorts,” Shevil said.

He also quoted the European Travel Commission which explained that young travellers are more likely to:

– Return and add more value to destinations over time.

– Discover new destinations.

– Incorporate technology on their trips.

– Gain personal cultural benefits and contribute to the places that they visit.

– Commonly known as life enthusiasts, they are more likely to return to a destination over time due to their focus on the quality of travel accommodation (their self-reward) and the type of shopping and nightlife while on holiday.

Explore the unexplored

As immersive explorers, Shevil said there’s a growing desire from Gen Z to explore the unexplored. “They want to know where they can go that hasn’t already been covered. But what exactly do those travel changes look like?”

He added that it’s worth noting that Gen Z adventurers are travelling because they may find the next place to expand business.

“This is a reason that brand-new tourism hubs have begun to arise providing new opportunities,” Shevil said.

He also believes that for Gen Z, the journey is just as important as the destination.

“They value a high-end travel experience where all of their needs are met on a flexible timeline, avoiding the hassles of commercial travel,” he said.

“Basically, they want to start their vacation as soon as they leave for the airport.”

Shevil added that if businesses want to gain Gen Z’s attention, they need to work on improving their user experience and prioritise treating them as an individual audience.

Technology rules

Having been born into a world of 24/7 access to the internet, Shevil said that Gen Z is the most digital-savvy generation, with an intuitive knack for all things tech.

“Much like most other industries, travel has seen some incredibly convenient technology-based innovations in recent years. If there’s an app that makes travel easier, Gen Z is highly likely to make up a large portion of that app’s most frequent users.”

“They’re booking their accommodations, checking flights, and finding amazing deals on travel with the help of technology.”

Meanwhile, Shevil said that this prioritisation of technology should be a hint to other industries to get on board.

“If your business is still missing an app or has an unreliable website, you’re losing your Gen Z audience,” he said.

“They’re always using their devices, which means you need to meet them where they are and ensure you’re optimising everything for mobile.”

A new generation of values-based travel behaviour

With new generations come new values and ideals, Shevil believes that Gen Z is no different. “In fact, value-based decisions are a defining attribute of this generation and one that guides its travel decisions. Gen Z is doing travel differently – it’s not just about the destination, after all – the journey is just as important.”

He added that Gen Z is also more likely to give back to a community or a purpose. “They’re more concerned with volunteering, eco-tourism, or attractions that partner with local causes than other demographics.”

He explained that one theory to explain this is that Gen Z grew up with an awareness of climate change and caring for the planet, so they are likely to focus more on sustainability, ethics, inclusivity, and responsible travel.

“And 72% said they’re more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes.”

Meanwhile, according to Telus International, Gen Z is more concerned about sustainability than previous generations when it comes to travelling.

“56% said they'd want to stay in green or eco-friendly accommodations, and 60% are looking for more environmentally friendly means of transportation once they arrive.”

“54% of Gen Zers say they're willing to pay higher rates to use a travel service provider that demonstrates environmental responsibility, compared to 48% of millennials,” Telus International said.

Shevil added that the power of a strong media presence, effective online communication, and personalised customer service and support cannot be understated when working with this audience.

“With each generation, travel is shaped in a new way and as Gen Z’s habits and preferences grow in prevalence, so will their impact on travel, and that impact is likely to change business for years to come,” he said.

“If you pay attention now, you may be ahead of the curve.”