Gen Zs aren’t easing into the travel market — they are exploding into it.
Despite their youth and comparatively low income, more than half of American Gen Z adults are frequent travelers, having taken three or more leisure trips in the past year, according to the data research company Morning Consult.
That’s because traveling is more mainstream now, and Gen Zs are broadly exposed to travel inspiration through social media, said Lindsey Roeschke, travel and hospitality analyst at Morning Consult.
“In short, they’re being raised in a society where travel is more prioritized than it was for past generations,” she told CNBC. Thus, “brands need to pay attention now.”
Big plans, little money
Gen Zs — those born between 1997 and 2012 — are traveling more than Gen Xers and baby boomers, and are “on par with millennials, who are currently the focus of the industry,” said Roeschke.
Yet unlike past generations, Gen Zs aren’t waiting until they have high-paying jobs or a nest egg of savings to travel. Rather, “they are finding ways to fit it into their budgets now,” according to Morning Consult’s report on Gen Z travel trends.
Only 11% Gen Zs who travel frequently come from households earning $100,000 or more annually, according to Morning Consult. Most (61%) say they earn less than $50,000 per year, the data shows.
But that doesn’t mean that Gen Zs aren’t worried about travel expenses.
In a survey of 4,000 full-time students aged 18 to 25, some 76% named financial costs as their greatest travel concern. The survey, published in March by the travel tech company StudentUniverse, showed nearly two in three Gen Zs look for the cheapest options when traveling, and nearly half (46%) said they expect to get financial help from their parents.
They are also willing to cut other spending to pay for travel, according to a survey published in March by the Gen Z media company Student Beans. In the survey, 83% of young adults said they plan to cut back on non-essential spending.
A guide published by Student Beans shows that from 2021 to 2022, Gen Zs’ average spending per purchase decreased for fashion (7%), tech (6%) and food (12%), while their travel purchases surged 60%.
“Cost-of-living crisis or not, nothing is going to get in the way of Gen Z taking a well-earned break,” the report stated.
Why Gen Zs travel
According to Morning Consult’s survey, the top three motivators for American Gen Z travelers mirror those of other generations: to relax, escape or get away, and spend time with friends and family.
Yet the data shows they’re motivated to travel for adventure, mental health and cultural experiences more than older generations.
More than any other age group, Gen Zs are also planning to travel longer, to take more trips abroad and are the least interested in visiting places they’ve already been to, according to Morning Consult’s data.
What Gen Zs care about
Gen Zs increasingly want their travel experiences to be meaningful, according to a survey of 4,000 full-time students by the travel tech company StudentUniverse.
Some 68% of respondents, aged 18 to 25, said they were interested in experiencing a new culture, while only 21% were in search of nightlife and clubbing.
Commenting on the report, Will Jones, the company’s brand manager, said, “It wasn’t too long ago that the 18-30s travel market was practically synonymous with raucous partying … that’s no longer the case.”
Social issues matter to them too, with some 82% indicating a country’s approach to issues like LGBTQ rights would affect their decision to visit, according to StudentUniverse.
Gen Zs and millennials also want — and will shell out more for — pools and pet-friendly accommodations, according to Hopper’s “2023 Travel Trends Report.”
And a report from the luxury travel agency Virtuoso states 56% of Gen Zs will pay more for travel companies with environmentally friendly philosophies and practices.
How they plan
Millennials may remember life without mobile phones and social media. But Gen Zs don’t. That’s why many turn to technology for travel inspiration and booking discounts.
Some 62% of adult Gen Zs said they use technology to help them save on travel, according to Booking.com’s “Travel Predictions 2023.”
And they aren’t just making decisions for their own trips — some are spearheading family vacation planning too.
“Travelers are being influenced by their children,” Deborah Frank, editor-in-chief of Luxury Magazine, told Virtuoso. “I have seen a lot of mother-daughter, father-son trips and have been told that the kids are determining where they’ll stay and what they’ll do.”