Understanding Gen Z Travel Preferences: How to Appeal to a Critical New Audience

Tiqets for Venues Blog Team

May 27, 2024

Forget about the old-fashioned notion of annual vacations. Older generations normalized travel during a two-week vacation slot or waited for retirement to start checking off global bucket list items. But today’s young adults believe frequent travel is a birthright.

We’re talking about Gen Z – those now reaching their mid-twenties. Gen Z travels to immerse themselves in other cultures, learn more about the world, see for themselves the cool stuff they’ve glimpsed in the media, go clubbing in exotic places, explore their heritage, and have brag-worthy experiences.

But Gen Z is also globally minded, has a lot of climate anxiety, and worries about money and mental health. When planning travel, this demographic makes different choices than those who came before. And as this young generation comes of age, its spending power is rising. 

Gen Z is a prime audience coming into its travel spending glory. For your museum or attraction to appeal to Gen Z, you need to capture the attention and the loyalty of an audience that’s about to be central to the world of travel. 

Gen Z travel vs. millennial travel

Gen Z travel vs. millennial travel
Group of happy friends taking selfie with mobile smart phone on jeep car. Photo by AlessandroBiascioli on Shutterstock

Millennials are known for valuing experience and adventure over material goods. They're the original FOMO folks, focused on personal experience and their own cultural worth. Today, the oldest millennials are in their early forties, many of them settled into careers and family life. 

The oldest Gen Zers, on the other hand, are still just in their twenties. The youngest aren’t even old enough to vote. Raised around collective social values, this audience is more apt to make consumer and travel decisions based on environmental and social impact. They prefer to support companies that share their values. 

Gen Z is also a more diverse generation, apt to embrace different cultures and want to learn about their heritage in specific ways. They love to immerse themselves in urban culture, local gastronomy, and heritage-based experiences.

Unlike millennials, who were born in the earliest days of the internet, Gen Z has a born connection to technology and an ease in turning to social media. Yet, for all their digital nativity (and likely because of it) they are hard to trick. They easily discern authentic experiences from shallow marketing tactics.

Marketing Gen Z travel

Gen Zers coming of age introduces an audience you want to appeal to early in order to capture their attention and loyalty. Doing so requires knowing what they’re into and how they make travel decisions. 

Here are eight points any museum or attraction can benefit from knowing about Gen Z: 

1. Technology is second nature to Gen Z

Technology is second nature to Gen Z
Group of young people with mobile phones. Photo by CarlosBarquero on Shutterstock

Gen Z kids grew up with every type of technology, and there’s never been a time for them when technology couldn’t solve everyday problems. To meet new people, or even learn a new skill, they will go online. They spend an average of 9 hours and 36 minutes online a day – every day!

They are not shy about using technology to book an experience, and they enjoy experiences that use technology in innovative ways. Once-futuristic technologies, such as VR, XR, and AI, are now becoming mainstream. Immersive, technology-enhanced visitor experiences are huge for this demographic.

Case in point: MeowWolf

An underground art collective in Santa Fe has grown into one of the most hyped immersive storytelling and art experiences in the world. At MeowWolf, the tagline is “hard to describe, easy to enjoy.” That mystique has gotten the event ranked as the #1 immersive experience in the US by trendy Time Out

MeowWolf combines video, live performance, and portals to transport live visitors to a fictional world — a multisensory immersion into art. Designing artists use all kinds of physical mediums – sculpture, painting, writing, film, and more. But it’s the technology component that really brings MeowWolf to life. When the museum reached its one-millionth guest back in 2018, that was just the beginning.

How to act on this fact: Read Interactive Exhibits and the Future of Tourism for ideas on how you can integrate more technology into your exhibits and experiences.

2. They consider social media to be a bona fide source of information

Gen Z consider social media to be a bona fide source of information
Multiracial friends sitting outdoor using mobile together. Photo by CarlosBarquero on Shutterstock

In one notable 2024 survey, 89% of adult Gen Zers said they’ve found travel destinations via TikTok, and 70% actively use TikTok as a trip-planning tool. For Gen Z, turning to social media is second nature. They’re also tuned into YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. 

But Gen Z isn’t just passively hanging out on social. They’re actively creating their own original content (known as user-generated content or UGC). Get them in the door and give them something inspiring, they’re highly apt to document it on social media, tagging your venue for an organic marketing boost. Add to that your own original social content, and social media marketing takes on a life of its own. 

How to act on this fact: Read 6 Museums on TikTok – and How They’re Using It to Market to Gen Z for social inspiration and ideas on how to improve upon your existing content.

3. Gen Z prioritizes cool, new, unique experiences 

Gen Z prioritizes cool, new, unique experiences 
Spiritus Light Show at Clérigos Church

“70% of Gen Z travelers actively look for travel experiences off the beaten path that their family and friends have not heard of.”

– Travel Perk

Influencers are seemingly always doing cool new things the rest of us have never thought of before. Most young people now have a notion that authentic, unique experiences are to be expected when they travel.

While millennials have been widely known to spend their money on experiences versus things, Gen Z thinks differently. They’re not necessarily interested in all-inclusive resort or cruise types of vacations, but instead seek out cool, unique things. 

Unique might mean trying local food and drink specialties, learning about specific urban subcultures, or being the first of their peers to try a new immersive experience. In fact, the #1 reason they travel is to see sights and experience different cultures.

Case in point: Spiritus Light Show

In 2023, Spiritus Light Show won Tiqets’ Remarkable Venue Award for Most Remarkable Venue. This multimedia experience uses state-of-the-art technology to project imagery onto the classic architecture of Igreja dos Clérigos in Portugal. Historic churches and innovative experiences may not seem like they’d go hand in hand, but visitors to the Spiritus Light Show experienced a sort of creative enlightenment. 

How to act on this fact: Read about Tiqet’s other Remarkable Venue Awards winners to see how notable museums and attractions around the world delight young audiences with novel experiences.

4. They expect authenticity, not marketing razzle-dazzle

Gen Z expect authenticity, not marketing razzle-dazzle
Young female vlogger shoot social media blog on smartphone get likes emoji, over shoulder closeup view. Photo by Ground Picture on Shutterstock

“To successfully persuade Gen Z to buy your product, you'll want to make content that quickly cuts to the chase and explains why your product will provide value to them.”

– HubSpot

For all the time they spend online, or perhaps because of it, Gen Zers are savvy and highly skeptical of being sold to. They can always sniff out a marketing veneer pasted over a lame experience. For this reason, always be absolutely authentic in your presentation and communication with this crowd.

The way to speak to Gen Z is directly. They like very short videos and quick social media updates, and they’re not averse to informative ads. More than any generation before them, Gen Z kids will willingly watch an ad if they think it’s worth it (and if it’s optimized for mobile). They consider marketing and advertising to be valuable channels for information, but they’re highly attuned to the messaging and don’t like to be tricked.

How to act on this fact: Read The Remarkable Venue Awards 2022: Insights from 3 Innovative Winners and 7 reasons to visit the Lisbon Oceanarium!

5. They’re conscious of their spending

Gen Zs are conscious of their spending
Close up of young man making notes reviewing papers while having breakfast in kitchen. Photo by Folenial on Shutterstock

Gen Zers in their twenties are still kids, for all practical purposes, and they haven’t reached the height of their careers yet. And while some of them expect (or hope) their parents will help them with costs, only a scant 8% of Gen Zers are willing to go into debt to go on vacation. So these are not your VIP, first-class travelers – they are frequent, intrepid, enthusiastic travelers. 

To afford the travel they want, Gen Zers practice conservative fiscal habits and practical decision-making. They’re also more likely than any generation before them to make mobile purchases. They’re twice as likely as millennials to make an online purchase. 

To appeal to the Gen Z traveling crowd, lean into value for money – a top reason Gen Z travels to any destination, according to an E&Y study. Some of the easiest ways to give Gen Z visitors bang for their buck are to offer them deals and promo codes. Also, knowing a lot of people plan trips around visiting multiple attractions when you team up on a package deal with another museum or attraction, you attract people who are excited about booking two experiences in one shot. 

Perhaps the most important way to give your visitors true value right away is to ensure their online ticket-buying experience is smooth and stress-free. The checkout process they encounter when booking through your website or an OTA should be extremely easy. With Gen Z as your target audience, never skimp on this aspect of your technology. Remember, they’re tech-savvy and know good interface from bad.

How to act on this fact: Read 5 Advanced Partner Marketing Strategies for Museums & Attractions for ideas on how to team up with other museums, attractions, and OTAs to improve upon your offers.

6. They hew closely to values

Gen Z hew closely to values
Go green use eco friendly packaging box in net zero waste store asian seller retail home office shop. Photo by Chay_Tee on Shutterstock

While they care about the bottom line, when Gen Z travels they tend to make decisions based on values more than money alone. The “socially conscious generation,” votes with their dollar, and choose travel experiences the way they’d choose any product: partially based on the ethics of the brand.

As a museum or attraction, know that they care about how you treat your employees, whether you’re contributing to or harming the environment, and how you respond to hot-button political issues. The majority of them choose hotels, transportation, and experiences that are conspicuously environmentally friendly, for instance.

Case in point: Terra

Some museums, like the award-winning Terra in Dubai, exist to educate and entertain on the matter of environmental sustainability. This World Expo exhibit launched with a primary focus on attracting young visitors with a stake in the impact and benefit of proactive environmentalism. An impressive immersive experience, the Terra Sustainability Pavillon takes visitors on what Chief of Education and Culture Marjan Faraidooni calls a “net-zero journey.”

As not every museum or attraction has the budget, or mission, to entirely orient exhibits around the topic of environmentalism – for your museum, a shift might simply mean adopting more sustainable practices, cutting back on your carbon footprint, or launching marketing campaigns highlighting the environmental efforts you already make.

How to act on this fact: Read 5 Ways to Become a More Sustainable Museum in 2023 for ways to improve your environmental impact, both big and small.

7. They love OTAs!

Gen Z love OTAs!
Closeup of people using mobile smart devices. Photo by View Apart on Shutterstock

And finally, we come to Tiqets favorite thing about Gen Z: it’s a generation that prefers to book via an online travel agent (OTA). In every category, from flights to transport to accommodation to activities, ETC’s findings are that these young adults strongly prefer to book via an OTA. 

Notably, they prefer to use OTAs via mobile devices, so as you search for an OTA to partner with, make sure you choose one that offers a smooth mobile experience and easy ticketing checkout on a smartphone or other mobile device. 

While naive marketers might assume they can appeal to a broad population with one homogenous marketing strategy, those who hone in on Gen Z as their own demographic will reap more rewards. 

If you’re interested in partnering with Tiqets on your Gen Z marketing efforts, we invite you to next read Leverage Your Digital Presence in 2024 with a Tiqets Marketing Package.

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