Accommodating the Travelers of Tomorrow: Gen-Z Unpacked

Vito PauletićTourism Marketing
17 min read

Don’t let the memes and self-deprecating jokes deceive you; behind silly bitmojis and glowing screens is a sophisticated generation preparing for a life well-traveled.

They’re the digital natives, the up-agers; a generation able to hold a conversation and cross the street without once taking their eyes off the one thing they’re inseparable from. Their smartphone. 

There’s two billion of them. The technology-ridden teens, tweens and youth born during the crossroads between two millennia, dubbed Generation Z, are steadily becoming the most influential consumer base on the planet.

And as they’re coming of age and their spending power increases, so do their means, interest and independence to travel. 

In fact, nearly two-thirds of Gen-Zers work and save to finance their travels, a new report by Ad Age Studio 30 and UNiDAYS reveals. For this new generation of travelers, a geo-tagged Instagram post is an ultimate status symbol – one that fine jewellery or designer clothing simply cannot substitute.

Up Close: Understanding Why Gen Z Travels

But what’s propelling this burning sense of curiosity and a desire to travel in Gen-Zers?

If you step into their shoes, the first thing you’ll notice is just how small and accessible the world feels. The instant, 24-hour access to a glowing screen comes with an acute sense of global awareness. Places older generations of travelers could only see in magazines and holiday brochures are right there in front of you; was it not for the thin sheet of glass in between, you could almost hop in.

Experience Over Destination

So the world is much more visceral for Gen-Zers, with inspiration to be found in many places. Another major thing that has shifted is the purpose. Older generations booking a resort are perfectly happy with spending their time sipping at their fruity cocktails and lying at the sandy beach. 

Not the Gen-Zers.

For them, it’s all about the experience. Lounging around simply won’t cut it; the Z-ers want to take the mixing class and learn how to make those cocktails. 

They love shareable memories, adventures and activity-based trips that let them explore the destination as locals. Accommodation providers teaming up with tour and activity agencies are already taking a step in the right direction. 

Photo by Valeria andersson on Unsplash

A 2019 Booking.com study tells us a lot about the Z mindset. The research clearly shows that, despite their age, Gen-Zers have their traveling ambitions well-thought-out. Here are the key findings at a glance:

  • 69% have a travel bucket list of places to see in their lifetime
  • 65% ranked ‘traveling and seeing the world’ as the best way of spending money
  • 56% want an ‘adventure experience’ from their trip
  • 56% prefer a green or eco-friendly accommodation
  • 45% trust the recommendations of influencers and celebrities
  • 40% turn to Instagram as their source of inspiration when deciding where to travel 

These findings highlight just how devoted to traveling your average Z-er is. Dismissing the whole generation as absent-minded ‘smartphone addicts’ would not only be shortsighted from a business point of view, it would simply be unfair.

How are Hotels Keeping Up With the Changes?

Starting to appease this emerging clientele, forward-looking hoteliers have their ears to the ground in an aim to define a winning strategy that will sway Gen-Zers their way. 

From affordable stays to unique, curated experiences, we’re seeing a rise in boutique hotels and holiday homes that are disruptive in every sense of the word.

Intentionally Different – Aloft Hotels

You’d be hard-pressed to find a vacation rental that’s better accommodating to the perpetually curious, tech-savvy youth than Aloft Hotels.

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Life imitates art Photo via @maggieeats

A post shared by Aloft Hotels (@alofthotels) on

A mere glance over their website tells you who their target audience is – the personalized, narrative, the casual tone combined with rich imagery – these are dead giveaways the company is targeting Gen Z.

And they must be doing it right. Aloft Hotels has created a brand experience that communicates effectively with an entire generation and understands their needs. This year alone, a whopping eight hotels have opened up across the US.

Besides communication, the admirable growth curve of the brand can largely be attributed to minor, yet super-creative perks such as a robotic bellboy, a mobile key and the ability to send a string of emojis to order room service that includes a hangover kit with Vitamin water, bananas and some Advil.

All of these strategies, along with a host of shows and partnerships with local venues has cemented Aloft as a go-to brand for Gen Z travelers on a quest for memorable stays. 
But the room for improvement is never occupied. What steps will you take to make sure a Z-er has, if not a ‘lit’ stay, then at least a ‘chill’ one?

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Vito is a content contributor at Rentlio. A trained journalist who switched to the dark side and now writes conversion-driven copy and an occasional blog post along the way. Proud father of two dogs.