The travel and tourism industry is being steadily reshaped by the travel preferences of young travelers. Youth travel typically includes all independent trips of less than one year made by people between the ages of 16 and 29. These travelers are driven by the desire to experience other cultures, build life experience and/or benefit from learning opportunities that have not been available to them heretofore. Understanding what they value, how they plan and what will motivate them to visit your destination can help your DMO formulate an effective communication strategy to draw youth travelers to your destination.
What do they value?
Youth travelers have been shown to be more environmentally conscious than older demographics, expressing a willingness to prioritize sustainable travel experiences, engage in recycling, and support programs that protect natural and local resources. Furthermore, they ascribe high value to authentic, “live like a local” experiences, readily immersing themselves in local community lifestyles. For them, travel is less an escape and more an opportunity to experience how people outside of their community live.
It’s no surprise that youth travelers also have strong digital skills and maintain a high degree of permanent connectivity. So, ease of access to digital amenities such as free, hi-speed internet connections, strategically-placed charging stations and the availability of digitally-equipped co-working spaces are often deciding factors when vetting a destination for their next trip.
How do they plan?
Technology shapes how youth travelers exist in the world and how they find, consume and share information. While friends and family are still important information sources for planning a trip, social media, internet search engines and mobile devices are considered indispensable travel-planning tools. So valuable, in fact, that fully three-quarters of Gen-Z travelers report making travel reservations via their smartphones. Both Millennials and Gen-Zers turn to social media for trip inspiration and peer reviews, and they place a high level of trust in travel recommendations made by micro-influencers.
Youth travelers tend to make the most of long weekends, with three to five days identified as the ideal length for a leisure trip by Gen-Z and Millennial travelers, and many prefer to book their entire trip in one place. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are very appealing because of their convenience, with nearly half of all youth travelers preferring to use OTAs to book transportation and accommodations.
How can your DMO motivate youth travelers?
As youth travel habits, preferences and planning processes continue to redefine the parameters of travel and tourism marketing, DMOs need to evaluate the positioning of their destination offerings and their respective marketing efforts. Gen-Z, specifically, is poised to command nearly 40% of consumer spending by next year, and it would be a mistake to dismiss them simply because they are young. Evaluate how your destination’s offerings align with their passion for new experiences, and strategize the best methods for satisfying their expectations.
- Partner with local stakeholders to invest in digital amenities. These young travelers can be excellent brand ambassadors for your destination. They want to share their travel experiences with others, and giving them the tools to do so is one way to help facilitate that. This means talking with your destination’s lodging providers, restaurants and attractions about their wifi coverage, strength and passwords. While it would seem that expressing the need for wifi access is old news, some places don’t offer it, or offer super slow service that’s difficult to access. And efforts as simple as curating THE photo opportunity with an authentic sense of place to prove they were there will help encourage them to share the experience with their network.
- Leverage learning and volunteer opportunities. Collaborate with charitable organizations and educational institutions to create programs that cater to visitors who want to make a positive impact in a short time. The easier you make this for these young guests, the better it is for everyone involved! Think about making these volunteer opportunities, the contact names, the requirements, and expected time investments available on your website so they can find the information easily. Also, appeal to their eco-friendly tendencies by inviting them to take part in green initiatives by sharing how your town handles recycling and fun events such as tree planting or Earth Day clean-up projects which can be added to your website’s calendar of events.
- Establish a sound social media strategy. Download our free social media assessment worksheet to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current social media efforts. If you are not actively trying to market to the youth traveler, now is the time to add them to your persona set. Not employing personas in equal rotation in your social media strategy? The values and expectations of each of your target audiences varies, and one of the benefits of a balanced social media strategy is the ability to speak to each target’s beliefs at little to no cost. Watch this video, and in less than 3 minutes we will show you how to start this process by creating a robust, persona-driven editorial calendar to help you develop and schedule content that resonates.
- Assess the user-friendliness of your website. Youth travelers are digitally savvy, and they will be quick to move on to the next best thing if the website they’re viewing is difficult to navigate. Is the information on your website laid out logically? Does your site follow established rules of design hierarchy? Does it prioritize the user journey? Is it mobile-optimized to fit multiple device sizes? How about providing visual proof of your destination’s offerings through recent photography and video? If your site falls short on any of these, you could be losing potential visitors, and it may be time for a redesign.
Youth travelers are passionate, eager and adventurous, always digitally connected, on the lookout for new life experiences, and keen to document all of it socially. Our hope is that the tips above will help you earn more visitation from the youth traveler segment, and in the future lead to even more visits from other travelers in their digital and real life networks. If you’d like more support on how your DMO can cater to this niche travel market, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.