They're travelling more than their older counterparts did, so what does today's generation want from travel, asks Ewan McDonald
For children of the 60s, the first big adventure was likely that Air New Zealand flight into Heathrow, through LAX or Hong Kong. Born in the 70s, it was probably a campervan wheezing around 27 cities in Europe in 30 days, some of which you may remember. Laos, Cambodia among the earliest stamps in your passport? Chances are you're from the early 80s.
In 2020, it's a different world – especially in travel. Millennials (generally, born 1981-96) and Gen Z (born 1995-2000, give or take) now make up 63 per cent of the planet's population. As of this year, Gen Z is the largest group of consumers worldwide.
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Both have had the opportunity to see the world – and they like it a lot. With cheaper airfares and a more connected society, they are travelling more than their Boomer counterparts (it's okay, that's the only time we'll use that word) did at the same age.
But the two generations differ vastly when it comes to what they want in a travel experience and what they're willing to do to get it.
Skift, which provides news, research, and marketing services for the travel industry, studied trends of both cohorts last year, and compared groups in the US, UK, Australia, China and India.
They found more than half of all Millennial and Gen Z travellers from the US, the UK and Australia had taken one to two leisure trips in the last year. More than half of Chinese and Indian travellers had taken three or more leisure trips.
Asked what motivates them to travel, more than 60 per cent of each group chose either the chance to do activities unavailable at home or visiting cultural/natural attractions. Millennials and Gen Z want to go somewhere they haven't been, or see something in a unique, authentic way.
One difference: social media. US, UK and Aussie Millennials prefer Facebook; Gen Z Americans and Aussies prefer YouTube, those from the UK prefer Instagram. Gen Z likes rich video content easily accessible on their phones.
These tech-savvy travellers turn to their devices to plan and book their trips. More than 50 per cent of every group surveyed indicated they only or mostly use their smartphone for planning.
Between 56-58 per cent of travellers from the US, UK, Australia, and China make their travel plans before leaving and in-destination. India was the only country where a majority said they usually plan everything at home.
Louise Levesque, Contiki NZ's general manager of marketing, notes another statistic from the Skift research: "41 per cent of would-be travellers would consider taking an organised group travel trip through a country where it's difficult to travel independently."
She says exploring fewer countries in-depth is becoming increasingly popular. "We're seeing young people shift away from the Contiki experiences of yesteryear, opting for those that allow them to enjoy the places they visit more authentically."
Contiki has teamed with Parris Quinn, a Kiwi who won the company's global Changemakers campaign. Her not-for-profit Heart Parcels provides hot cooked meals to Wellington's homeless community and travellers will have the opportunity to help distribute them.
That's another finding from Skift: 31 per cent of Millennial and Gen Z travellers listed commitment to sustainability as their top reason for taking organised group travel.
Yolanta Rado, Intrepid Travel's 18-29s product manager, is seeing that trend too. "Thanks to smartphones, Millennials and Gen Z are the most informed generations. This means that they are aware of the implications of their environmental footprint, genuinely want to help the places and people they are visiting and have a higher awareness of where they are spending their money.
"They want to support companies that are making a real difference. Sustainability and supporting local communities is very important to these travellers, which is why we have introduced an initiative to plant 50 trees for every 18-29 traveller in a forest in Kenya."
Rado says these travellers do not want to contribute to over-tourism, and Flight Centre NZ managing director David Coombes agrees: "Young travellers are increasingly inquiring about less-frequented destinations such as Myanmar, Turkey, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Cuba and Seoul.
"Social media no doubt plays a large part in their travel choices, but more in the fact that it's beginning to deter the trendsetters from overly Instagrammed areas. They still want to document their journey, but they don't want destinations that have already saturated their social feeds."
Social and environmental awareness carries into where they stay, says Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb's NZ country manager. "Our data has shown that Gen Z travellers are gravitating towards minimalist homes on Airbnb such as shepherd's huts, domes and tiny homes. These listings not only offer unique overnight stays, but fantastic photo opportunities for fun, quirky social media content."
The ABC of Kiwi Gen Z
Travel and accommodation website booking.com surveyed Gen Z Kiwis about their travel plans and preferences. Here are the stats:
· 60 per cent are excited about the places they'll travel in the future
· 36 per cent plan to have visited at least three continents over the next 10 years
· 31 per cent intend to have studied or lived in another country
· Women (43 per cent) are more likely to plan this than men (24 per cent)
· 50 per cent want an adventure experience from travel; 48 per cent plan to visit or trek to an extreme location
· 62 per cent say travelling in their own country helps them learn more about themselves
· Gen Z are most likely to travel to Auckland (49 per cent), Wellington (40 per cent) and Southland (30 per cent)
Ready to go solo
· 47 per cent say they mainly travel with their family because they can go on trips they couldn't otherwise afford
· Over the next 10 years, 35 per cent plan to have travelled on their own at least once (women 41 per cent, men 30 per cent)
· 24 per cent prefer to be alone when travelling
· 13 per cent want to take a solo backpacking trip/gap year
Champions of the bucket list
· 59 per cent already have a travel bucket list (women 74 per cent, men 48 per cent). Their reasons:
· 47 per cent because they enjoy thinking about places they're going to travel in their life
· 18 per cent say they get satisfaction from travelling to places on their list as soon as possible so they can begin adding more. 28 per cent plan to have checked off at least five in the next 10 years
· 25 per cent say a bucket list helps them keep track of amazing places they've never heard of
· 45 per cent have been inspired to make their own adventures by seeing influencers' trips online
· 41 per cent don't have a travel bucket list. Their reasons:
· 26 per cent feel their preferences change too quickly
· 10 per cent because they opt to travel impulsively
· Gen Z are the least likely of all demographics to say they travel impulsively
Out of Office: ON
· 81 per cent rank getting a job as their most important life experience
· 56 per cent say the opportunity to travel for work is important when selecting a job and the same amount say a job where they get to experience other cultures is attractive to them
· Gen Z is the generation most likely to volunteer when travelling (31 per cent)
· 55 per cent of Gen Z travellers say they plan to visit less-known destinations if it means having less impact on the environment
· 57 per cent look to use environmentally friendly means of transport at their destination
· 52 per cent consider the environmental impact of travel on destinations is an important factor
· 55 per cent wouldn't consider visiting a location they knew was under threat of over-tourism
· Gen Z like travel posts and pictures on social (43 per cent) – 37 per cent list it as their top travel inspiration
· Gen Z women are the most likely to visualise their next vacation while scrolling (52 per cent). This is far higher than the NZ average (21per cent)
· 41 per cent say they are influenced by social media influencers; 34 per cent say they generally trust influencers for travel recommendations
· 31 per cent are influenced by destinations in films and TV. However, 39 per cent turn to friends for intel
· 34 per cent trust recommendations of those they don't know, such as influencers and celebrities
· 26 per cent take over 50 photos a day on vacation; 30 per cent share photos on social media
· But 47 per cent think too much emphasis is placed on social media when travelling
· Gen Z is aware of the importance of experiences; 55 per cent say they prefer to focus on what is in front of them and enjoy the moment, rather than taking photos for social media
· 38 per cent of Gen Z say they're interested in travelling somewhere that'll look good in pictures
· 30 per cent say that when they travel they always upload pictures on social media. However, they are less likely to share their pictures than Millennials (38 per cent)
· 67 per cent rate free Wi-Fi as their top accommodation amenity