Traveler 3.0: How will Generation Z navigate the globe?

The Millennials might be the most talked-about generation of modern times, but it won’t be long before their successors—the so-called Generation Z—takes over. Born in the late 1990s at a time when smartphones were already widespread, Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration, now accounts for a quarter of the American population.

With the oldest of this group just now reaching adulthood, this cohort can hardly be called jetsetters. But being the most interracial and diverse of all generations, travel will certainly play an important role in their lives. Looking forward, here are some of the travel trends we expect from a generation that grew up with smartphones in the crib.

Digitally immersed

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With so many devices at their disposal, Generation Z is arguably overconnected with extremely short attention spans, but what’s perfectly clear is that they’re a mobile-first generation, caring more about the latest devices than the coolest clothes. With everything beginning and ending on one’s phone, hotels and airlines will need to adopt the same mindset to capture this group of travelers. “Mobile-friendly” will no longer be enough; “mobile-centric” will be the standard.

The iGeneration expects to be able to research, book, pay for, and review travel all through their phone. Bookings through social media and mobile app check-ins and checkouts are a few of the ways the industry has begun to save its customers’ valuable time. And unlike Millennials, this is a generation that won’t have patience for travel companies not up to speed with their digital presence—if you are not available on mobile, you might as well not exist.

Generation Z is also one of immediacy, preferring texts to phone calls and emails. This could certainly change the way the travel industry handles customer service and other transactions. While social media has become a popular form of customer service for travel brands, we see the privacy-aware Generation Z shifting to less public methods of communication, using texting services like Teckst and Locent to communicate with airlines or hotels.

With Wifi now available in even the most remote locations, connectivity is already expected universally (and increasingly for free). But for Generation Z, relying on a wifi connection alone when traveling will not be enough. Roaming will be necessary as well, which is perhaps why carriers like T-mobile and Sprint have started to roll out complimentary international plans.

Explorers since birth

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Growing up in an interracial and diverse environment, and being hyper-connected to the Internet since birth, Generation Z has grown up with an awareness of the world unseen in previous generations. As that manifests itself through travel, Generation Z will likely be more adventurous than their predecessors, making mainstream destinations previously considered to be “exotic.”

As for transportation, the Concorde is looking to make a comeback and vacuum tubes may become the transport of the future, but the push for faster and faster transportation may actually cause a backlash. Generation Z may rebel against the new modes of transportation and amplify the “slow travel” movement. Much like the “slow food” movement, “slow travel” celebrates the journey itself rather than the destination. Expect to see more bicycling tours and old-school railroad journeys in the future, and if the planned recreation of the Titanic ever finishes, we may see a comeback in luxury steamships as well.

Whether fast or slow travel, one thing is for certain: in the digital age, if you didn’t photograph it, it didn’t happen. The smartest travel brands will continue to find ways to satisfy the selfie generation with ways to capture and share unique travel moments. Will selfie drones become the GoPro of Generation Z?

Planning for the future

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Travel brands shouldn’t wait for this new generation of travelers to come of age—the technology demands they bring with them will be needed the second the arrive. Travel sites will need to get better at personalizing recommendations, and everything from booking to payment will need to be easily managed across any digital device, whether smartphone or smartwatch. Loyalty programs will need some tweaking, as members of this generation are increasingly less brand loyal and more focused on being unique and one-of-a-kind.

Despite these obstacles, the travel industry has huge potential for growth, given the forecasted spending power of Generation Z. With globalization making exotic destinations less intimidating and more accessible, and with the members of Generation Z well-informed amidst the digital age, the future is soon likely to be populated with an even larger pool of savvy jetsetters.

Steffan Berelowitz

Steffan Berelowitz

Steffan is the VP of Digital Platforms at Travel Tripper. A pioneer in all things web and mobile, Steffan has spent more than 20 years in online services and technology. He loves traveling, the planet Earth, and his amazing wife and son. Contact him at steffan@traveltripper.com.

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