The Importance of Gen Z to Travel's Recovery

18 August 2020

As the world continues to recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19, the tourism industry is looking forward to the groups most likely to begin traveling again. Recent research from the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) found that the U.S. packaged adventure travel segment is estimated to recover much faster than the overall U.S. travel market. In addition to this cohort, many experts are also identifying Generation Z (Gen Z) as another group that will be important to the industry’s reconstruction.

According to Pew Research, members of Generation Z were born after 1996, making the oldest among them 24 as of 2020. This means that the older Gen Zers are just beginning to enter the workforce, and the younger part of the group are still strongly impacting their parents’ travel plans. Related to the adventure travel industry, a 2019 study found that 56% of Gen Zers want an adventure experience while traveling, such as paragliding or bungee jumping, and 52% plan on visiting or trekking to an extreme location. 

Favoring the COVID-19 trend of small-group and more independent excursions, 33% of Gen Zers prefer to be on their own when they travel. They are also more likely to be concerned with the environmental and social impact they have on destinations, matching the general attitude of U.S. adventure travelers. This solo travel preference and awareness of the impact of their footprint offers an opportunity for tour operators and other travel organizations to do what they do best: connect travelers with local communities and nature in a sustainable way. 

Due to their constant connection to social media, Gen Z is very likely to see their friends’ travel adventures, and they want to have similar experiences for themselves. Like their tendency to view their friends’ experiences online, younger travelers are looking for travel brands to connect with them through social media, especially Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. They are booking their trips using their smartphones and other mobile devices, and expect personalized experiences

Although Gen Z is concerned with the dangers of COVID-19, they will still travel, while making attempts to mitigate the risks as much as possible. Similar to most other travelers, Gen Z members are taking road trips and in-state vacations, giving them safer travel opportunities. They are looking for accommodations offering great deals and high standards of cleanliness, and are likely to go camping or glamping to maximize social distancing. To help the adventure travel industry adapt to these new standards, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has released a set of Adventure Travel COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the future of the tourism industry remains uncertain. However, glimpses of recovery are appearing through market segments like adventure travelers and Generation Z. As 2020 continues on, the industry needs to pay attention to groups like these that are willing to travel in a safe and sustainable manner.