Why Generation Z is so important in the travel-buying process

By Iñigo Valenzuela, CEO of Smartvel

Generation Z, the oldest of whom are in their 20s, are already buying their own travel and commanding up to USD 143 billion in spending power in the US alone, according to a recent study from Ad Age Studio 30 and student affinity network UNiDAYS.  Gen Z, though, unlike their millennial counterparts they actually prefer hotels over vacation rentals.  That’s a big slice of the market, but it becomes much larger when we also consider the influence they have on their families’ travel decisions, planning entire holidays that are paid for by their parents.

In a survey by SapientNitro, the population of Gen Z is estimated to be a little more than 1.9 billion, or 27% of the global population. Recent surveys in the US calculated Generation Z to be the largest section of society, and that is extending across Europe.

Born around 1996 (the mark set by Expedia), this group has an enormous influence on the decision-making process in travel. Technology isn’t just second nature, it’s an integral part of who they are. They like content and they value authenticity.

This generation is spending money on travel – most likely internationally –  and a top priority for them is local experiences. They want to know about the cities they’re visiting and what’s going on there. The key point however is their influence over family decisions, which means that OTAs, hotels and destination marketing organisations (DMOs) should include them in their planning process.

“They practically live online”

This generation spends vast amounts of time on their mobile phones, either through social platforms, YouTube or researching. They practically live online and they look for content that they’re interested in. Local information in real-time such as events, gigs, experiences that inspire them will help the decision-making process.

When trying to attract that demographic, OTAs and DMOs should focus their messaging on the kind of experiential travel that Gen Z wants to do. It’s about selling the experiences and technology plays a critical role in the shifting landscape of travel marketing.

The Gen Z-er wants visuals and great content; destination marketing organisations and tour providers need to make it easier to see what’s going on in cities. It can be an important differentiator. Travel suppliers will need to ensure that the depth of personalised content, functionality and the overall digital experience is consistent across all channels.

Gen Z wants to be treated as individuals and they expect relevance in the communications they receive. This characteristic is also likely to be seen in the way they select their travel products and brands.

“Generation Z are still developing what they want from their travel experience so it’s worth investing now”

Gen Z is emerging as a segment with huge potential buying power for international tourism and they operate with distinctly different preferences. Getting in early is a great opportunity for travel brands. Generation Z are still developing what they want from their travel experience so it’s worth investing now and developing user experiences and content that they can connect with to help solidify their brand loyalties in the long-term.

This generation is extremely digitally mature but new to the market. They are very open to new ways of booking and their knowledge of the established players and tools is scarce.  They interact almost exclusively via mobile and within their network they look for recommendations of how to get the best deals, offers, etc.  This segment is a great influencer, so the future of travel will be very a worthy one but also extremely exciting.

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