Gen Z: The New Destination Disruptors

A growing desire for personalised travel experiences, deeper cultural immersion, and Insta-worthy holiday snaps is inspiring this new generation of renegade travellers.

Gen Z: The New Destination Disruptors

by Megan Wright

Posted on 08-15-2017

This article is part of our August series on travel and hospitality. Click here for more.

When it comes to planning a family getaway, Gen Z has surpasssed their Millennial counterparts as a leading force in the decision-making process, according to the latest global travel research by Virtuoso.

A growing desire for personalised travel experiences, deeper cultural immersion, and Insta-worthy holiday snaps is inspiring this new generation of renegade travellers. And with Gen Z set to account for 40% of travellers with disposable income by 2020, now is the time for marketers to gain valuable cut-through with this social media-hungry cohort.

It’s a shift that’s been long coming—and one that is giving the travel marketing industry a big shakeup, said Tess Willcox, creative director at World Resorts of Distinction.

“Destinations that have always been a little less accessible to travellers are now in front of our eyes daily,” she told “You can’t open Instagram without seeing the sunset of a tented Sahara camp in Morocco or the Taj Mahal. Even as recently as 10 years ago, only the super-adventurous nomadic travellers visited the places that are becoming hot spots right now.”

To that point, the Asia-Pacific countries gaining traction fastest include India, Japan, and Vietnam, each of which ranked in Virtuoso’s top 10 unconventional family destinations for 2017. Australia, on the other hand, continues to rank among the top 10 family holiday destinations.

Add to this PwC’s prediction that “emerging economies are expected to surpass advanced economies in terms of international tourist arrivals–with Asian and Pacific countries gaining most arrivals by 2030,” and it’s clear that conditions are very favorable for tourism marketers.

New Tactics

From a marketing perspective, the shift in focus to Gen Z has led to a conscious move away from highly curated advertising and marketing campaigns towards user-generated content and selective partnerships with social influencers and visual storytelling.

The decision-making power of Gen Z and Millennials, which are both hyper-connected generations, is also allowing tourism marketers to be more selective about the partnerships they choose and the content they manufacture, Willcox said.

“[Gen Z and Millennials] don’t want to observe a movement or conversation–they want to be a part of it,” she said. “It simply isn’t enough for travel brands and destination marketers to have Instagram and Facebook anymore. We need to constantly be ahead of the curve by working with a generation that can disrupt things at the click of a button.”

Willcox should know. Her latest start-up, Hashtag Travel Society, is a one-stop shop for forging partnerships between travel influencers and tourism brands.

“Online sharing allows us as tourism marketers to convey that ethereal quality of travel and tourism through the individual eyes of each of our travellers,” she added.

Tune-In Time

On the flip side, Gen Z is a generation defined by their love of video–yet with an eight-second attention span. These young people also are more inclined to believe a trusted influencer than a brand when it comes to decision making, said Vanessa Stavrou, head of marketing at Contiki.

Revelations like these led the global travel company to partner with a number of YouTube influencers on a RoadTrip campaign, with the aim of lending authentic voices to the brand.

“Our recent research also told us that Gen Z travellers aren’t doing it for the same reasons as previous generations,” Stavrou told “Food and culinary experiences are the top priority for Gen Z travellers.”

Knowing this, Contiki developed a range of tailored foodie itineraries enticing young travellers to eat their way around certain destinations. It has also developed a similar program for engaging socially and environmentally conscious young travellers, said Stavrou, noting that demand for volunteer-based travel opportunities are on the rise.

“It’s important for us to constantly have these conversations and get to know our customers,” she said. “You have to be able to jump on new trends, adopt new content types, make videos and memes … You have to give young people what they want to see or you’ll seem out of touch.”

This is a point with which Willcox unequivocally agreed: “Gen Z have been hyperconnected to the internet since birth, so being connected for them isn’t a desire–it’s a necessity.”

Topics: Experience Cloud, Insights Inspiration, Digital Transformation, Digital Foundation, Analytics, Trends & Research, CMO by Adobe