What’s shaping the world of travel for GenZ?

Have you ever considered that everything we know about the world around us is down to the people around us? Whether they are working, studying, creating, thinking, traveling, or anything in between, choices shape our society. Simply by existing in this world, we are constantly making decisions that influence us and people around us. Isn’t that a little bit strange?

When we think about traveling, big changes are already being seen. From how people choose destinations and different places to visit and where to eat and where to stay. When taking a look at these changes, we might ask ourselves:

  • What does traveling mean to people?
  • What has changed from the previous generation to this one?
  • What seeds are being planted for future changes?
  • And, more importantly, why are these changes happening and how does it relate to the next generation?

With a little bit of curiosity we can find out new things and learn more about the world around us. But, better yet, we can dream up great questions which can bring us to thought-provoking information. That’s exactly what Nicolas Arroyo, Director of Foresight and Founding Partner at Bespoke Copenhagen — a global Futures Design Studio — came to share at FutureTravel’s first Summit.

Bespoke operates to help organizations that are trying to understand the future and make sense of what’s happening in the landscapes of their fields and sectors in which they operate. At FutureTravel’s Summit, we asked one great question that shaped Nicolas’ talk – what forces and trends are shaping the world of travel for Gen Z?  

Emerging patterns of change are very likely to impact how we live and how we work. Megatrends are large, social, economic, political, environmental or technological changes that are slow to form, but once in place can influence a wide range of activities, processes and perceptions, possibly for decades.

Keeping an eye on who’s shaping our future

In many ways, observing trends means keeping an eye on what’s shaping the future. They are the underlying forces that drive change in global markets and impact our everyday livesNicolas affirms. 

Trends are a reflection of who we are as a society and come from very different and valuable aspects that influence different landscapes – social, technology, economy, environment, politics and values. To better understand the main trends and aspects that will drive change in the world, we need to understand the generations to come, how they are different, and why. 

Generational shifts induce changes over time in all sectors and all walks of life. Put simply – 90s kids won’t act, think, live, work, want, or relate to the same things as those who grew up in the 60s. Generations have different experiences and influences, and generally, kids don’t look at the world the same as their parents. 

In 2022, the group of people that is now starting to influence business, lifestyle and whole industries is Gen Z. 

Bespoke found that there are three main aspects that underscore Generation Z’s people: activism, identity and technology. Let’s understand who integrates this generation and how do they relate to traveling?

“Many studies suggest that in the next 5 to 10 years they will start to take over the economy in new ways. […] We make generalizations when trying to understand very large groups of people in ways that can help us see them in a new light and make sense of certain changes. So, this doesn’t apply to everybody nor anywhere in the world; we’re mainly talking about the western world and how this world’s changing.”

Gen Z: Who are they?

Generation Z, the ‘Zoomers’, is made up of people born in the mid 1990s to the early 2010s. They fall in between the Millennials  (early 1980s to mid 90s) and just before the Alphas (early 2010s to mid 2020s). The children of Generation X (mid 1960s to early 1980s), Gen Z grew up in a more chaotic global context compared to the previous generations, and perhaps pivot after 9/11 – an event that radically changed global society. 

Crucially, Gen Z are digital natives. They are the first generation to grow up with technology. They see tech and all things digital as ‘normal’ as they were raised with the internet and social media. They haven’t experienced life without a screen and on-line interactions. They don’t know the world without the internet. 

Internet, social media, technology and globalization opens up their options of connections with people and cultures worldwide, resulting in a generation that is more open to new experiences.

It’s a generation that embraces diversity in a different way and is a racially diverse group of people in the western world, too. Very focused on wellness, physical and mental health matters a lot, resonating as a personal and professional value that helps navigate their everyday lives.

Those are the people entering the workforce at this moment and gaining purchase power in the coming years, and therefore, these emerging patterns of change are likely to shape the labor market and impact how we live and how we work, Nicolas concludes.

The defining features of Generation Z

According to Bespoke’s research, traveling for Generation Z has everything to do with “the dimensions that define very unique experiences, especially when we think about traveling”.

Considering what we see happening today to GenZ’s people, the question we ask is: what are their emerging needs and behaviors? With that in mind, we make hypotheses and assumptions about the potential impact of those behaviors in the futureHere’s what we discovered.

  1. Activism 

Zoomers are a generation of activists. They care about many different causes and get involved in different movements and campaigns that matter to them – including climate change, gender diversity, social justice, veganism, animal cruelty, political subjects and so on. 

Nicolas comments: “A lot of different causes that this generation Z feels very burning for and that defines this generation as activists by default

  1. Identity

Born in a world where anything can be possible, more importance and awareness has been placed on identity. But, it’s still very undefined. Nicolas reflects on this, saying that cultures are merging because of the internet and this also creates a very ambiguous identity. So this generation is also going to search for identity — that doesn’t necessarily have something to do with nationality or race, it has more to do with values, taste, preferences“.

  1. Tech Savvy

Oh these young adults looooove tech. And the funny thing is, it’s so much a part of their lives and who they are, that they don’t even notice just how much it influences their everyday routines. Technology, internet and social media are all second nature for the generation that was born into a high-tech world. 

Let’s dive a little deeper… 

How is identity influencing Generation Z’s travel behaviors?

  1. Spending power

This is still a young generation, generally still only entering the workforce. They have less spending power than previous generations. So, a very important item on their travel checklist is always going to be budget! 

With this in mind, car travel is increasingly losing its importance as a status symbol. Cars aren’t as attractive to this generation as others – after all, there are other ways to travel, many of which involve tech. Nicolas draws on the example of one tweet from a Gen Z’er who was campaigning for a high-speed rail system in the US, this generation doesn’t have the same access to car travel (often from a financial perspective), and so, new transport initiatives can be anticipated to emerge. 

  1. Value-based events 

An interesting emerging trend is the rise in micro festivals tailored to specific taste, preferences and social affiliations. As well as this, there are more and more small events popping up that are specific to certain niches – the likes of vegan festivals, spiritual festivals, cultural encounters and more. 

One example is Copenhagen’s ‘The Youth Island’ – a space for festivals and events tailored to specific interests, from gender fluidity, equality, veganism, animal activism and so on. It’s a place for young people to meet and gather around the values that matter to them. 

  1. Solo female travelers on the rise

Google trends has recorded a massive trend in searches for ‘Solo Female Travel’. Gen Z women are becoming more adventurous and are finding ways to travel safely on their own. It’s part of the wider female empowerment we see across society, and a part of female solo travel and self expression (finally) being more accepted. 

How is activism influencing Generation Z’s travel behaviors?

  1. More awareness about carbon footprints

Gen Z is much more aware of the environmental impact of travel and would rather take cleaner means of transportation. Beyond transportation, ecotourism and climate awareness are big influencers for this generation’s travel decisions.

It’s also about understanding the impact that food, accommodation, clothing and more can have on the environment. They are constantly analyzing these micro-choices. 

  1. Rediscovering the local and the nearby

The combination of both the climate crisis and the pandemic has made this generation more interested in staying local. Zoomers are finding ways to get in touch with nature and value beautiful places in their streets, neighborhoods and cities. 

Hiking, for example, surged during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to escape from the pressure and anguish this generation suffered during the most severe lockdowns. This activity resonates with remoteness, independence, sustainability, and, the aesthetics of outdoor living is appealing to this generation in clothing and lifestyle alike. 

  1. Connecting over consuming

Slow tourism is nothing new, and it’s something that’s here to stay with this generation. Enjoying less places with more time. Enjoy more, feel less pressure, connect more with other people and with nature, and value the simple aspects of travel. 

Airbnb created a ‘local hosts initiative’ as a way to connect to local culture, meet local people, and create community connections when traveling – interesting concept right?

For the generation of activism and sustainability it definitely fits. Gen Z’s also have new definitions of luxury which is important to note. DOr them, luxury means worrying about nature, creating cruelty free products and making ethical choices – it’s these things they are willing to pay for. 

When understanding the importance of activism, think of Greta Thunberg. She took a boat to COP25 instead of a plane and these symbolic events actually influence and represent the rest of the generation. Not that they will all go to this extreme, but this decision making process is certainly on their minds. 

How is technology influencing Generation Z’s travel behavior?

According to Nicolas, this generation is “very tech savvy – they depend on technology.”

  1. Instagram and YouTube determine where Gen Z travels 

Influencers are the new travel guides, and are replacing old-school travel agents and celeb-inspo. Young people are using social media to find places to eat, drink, visit and explore and this generation will choose to trust an influencer over a celebrity because it feels more real and trustworthy to do so. 

Haley Dasovich, for example, is an influencer that focuses on traveling tips for solo traveling.

Using technology she connects to these people in order to guide and help them travel on their own wherever they want to go.

  1. Metaverse will create new ways of moving and experiencing

It’s a gaming generation and games are becoming more authentic and accurate to real life environmental details. The inception of the metaverse might just allow new traveling experiences to appear. 

Speaking of, the economy of intangibles is also likely to shape future travel. From how we use crypto currencies, to what it means to spend money on intangible places – these are all things to keep an eye on for the future. 

  1. MaaS paves the way for a new mobility culture

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is one of the world’s big trends at the moment. It integrates various forms of transport services into a single mobility service accessible on demand, making the car a little redundant in many places. From the bike and e-scooter to uber drivers, mobility apps are enabling this tech savvy generation to travel everywhere, anywhere. 

The importance of tech can’t be understated when looking at Gen Z’s travel behaviors. The Assassin’s Creed, a popular game amongst this generation, recreates ancient Egypt in a very real way – with the help of experts and historians. The game recreates lives and stories in scenarios that are exciting and accessible to this generation, and entices Zoomers to explore these locations. Games and influencers are inspiring future travel destinations, and with new tech shaping mobility, Gen Z are exploring the world differently. 

Nicolas explains, Emerging patterns of change are very likely to impact how we live and how we work. Megatrends are large, social, economic, political, environmental or technological changes that are slow to form, but once in place can influence a wide range of activities, processes and perceptions, possibly for decades.”

So, taking all things into consideration – reflecting on the world and people around us, we can find so many answers, but we find even more questions. Some food for thought that came up during this research into Gen Z travel trends…

  • How will Gen Z’s new definition of luxury redefine travel and hospitality? 
  • How will Gen Z’s values and ethics shape transportation, food and travel experiences?
  • How will the economy of intangibles affect purchasing decisions? 
  • How will Gen Z’s different relationship with work affect what it means to be ‘on holidays’?

Nicolas ends his talk with a thought-provoking insight: What is work, life, balance changes. Maybe they will have different needs in regards to ‘being off’ or having to travel or being on holidays. Maybe previous generations have this in a very clear way: now I’m at work, now I’m off. That shift in behavior will also redefine the industry of traveling”

We may use the future as a source of inspiration and hope for the present“, Nicolas suggests. Let’s get inspired to develop future-facing strategies for developing new products, services and experiences that will live in the future!

 → The content of this post has been done based on a keynote from Nicolas Arroyo during the FutureTravel Summit in November, 2021. To stay up to date with the latest trends, insights and startups disrupting the travel industry, sign up to our weekly newsletter.