Where will Gen Z & Millennials want to go when they start traveling again?
There’s no need for us to rehash the current state of the travel industry—in the wake of the pandemic young consumers have had to cancel summer trips, and travel behavior has changed drastically.
The industry will need Gen Z and Millennials to embrace travel again. But how permanent is the travel slow down among Gen Z and Millennials? We once dubbed the latter Generation Wanderlust—has their long-standing desire to see the world disappeared? YPulse’s new travel report found that their desire for escape still thrives—even if it’s being reshaped. The majority of 13-39-year-olds tell us that they are interested in taking trips and traveling to different destinations—57% are extremely or very interested. Their travel plans are not necessarily vaccine-dependent either, 64% say they’re interested in taking trips before there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, and the majority also say they have travel planned for after quarantine rules are lifted where they are. An American Express survey also found that Millennials were more likely than older generations to travel over a recent holiday weekend.
So where will they go when they are ready to traveling again? Our survey also asked them, “When you feel comfortable traveling again, where would you like to travel first?” Their top responses indicate how youth travel will look now:
Where They Want to Travel (When They Start to Travel Again)
- New York
- The beach
- Hometown / Visit family
The top five locales on this ranking speak volumes: the first places that young consumers will be comfortable traveling will be more local and U.S.-based travel is preferred by many Gen Z and Millennials for the foreseeable future. Warm escapes are a major craving at the moment, with Florida, Hawaii, California, and the general response “the beach” all crowding the top of the list. According to GlobalData, young consumers’ travel preferences could be good news for low cost travel companies during COVID: they’re more likely to opt for “smaller, shorter holidays” to places nearby, and to go away more often during the year, with 41% of 25-34-year-olds going on “city breaks,” compared to 31% of older generations who prefer more “exotic, long haul destinations.”
Airbnb reports that local travel and vacation home rentals are surging. According to the travel company, the number of bookings from mid-May to the beginning of June was greater than the weeks from the previous year. Despite the travel industry being heavily impacted by the pandemic, this small piece of “good news” proves that the way young consumers are traveling is changing, not disappearing entirely. Vacation preferences with short international trips are being replaced with in-country stays in vacation homes as many employees use their remote working schedule to “work from anywhere.” VRBO reports that customers are renting vacation homes rather than hotels, since it is easier to socially distance in those spaces.
Yes, there is some bad news on the ranking of the top spots that young consumers will want to travel: some said “nowhere,” a major indication that it will take some convincing for a portion of Gen Z and Millennials to embrace their desire to jet set again (when it’s safe). But there’s also good news: some of their dream trip locations to faraway destinations are also on their ranking of the first places that they want to go. Japan, France, and Italy topped our 2019 ranking of the top places that young consumers would travel if they could go anywhere and those countries are still top desired destinations—even in a time of anxiety about overseas travel. When we look at the responses by age, it’s clear that one group is even more likely to be willing to venture out of the U.S. when they can:
Florida and Hawaii are at the top of the ranking for every age group, but twentysomethings are far more likely than Gen Z teens and Millennial thirtysomethings to say they want to head to France or Japan when they feel comfortable traveling again. In fact, 21-24-year-olds were also the group that was most likely to say they are planning international travel for this year.
So, while anxiety about travel is likely to remain high for some time, young consumers present a major opportunity for both local-focused travel brands today, and all travel brands that need to get on track in the future.