For travel advisors, understanding the differences between Gen Z, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Baby Boomers is the key to selling effectively to each group. A new study, the Priceline Generation Travel Index, looked at how a traveler’s generation can affect research, booking habits, and how their needs and expectations differ from each other.
Travel experiences and expectations
The youngest travelers tend to be among the most spontaneous, with nearly half (48%) of Gen Z respondents planning their travel within only one month of departure. And nearly one in five (19%) actually plan and book travel only one to three weeks prior to departure.
The study showed that among all respondents, 27% – the largest percentage – begin planning travel about 2-3 months prior to departure, with only one in ten respondents (12%) planning vacations a full 6-12 months out.
As for what they want to experience, Gen Z travelers are the most likely age group to describe themselves as “thrill seekers” when they travel, with almost one in five (19%) saying they travel to experience “new, extreme” thrills.
More than one in three (36%) Gen Z Americans describe themselves as “relaxers.” In fact, as a traveler’s age increases, so, too, does their desire for relaxation. Four in ten Millennials (41%) seek relaxation on vacation, alongside five in ten Generation X travelers, and nearly seven in ten Baby Boomers (68%).
The cost factor
The index revealed that, across all age groups, the cost of travel is the most important consideration for Americans going on vacation, with 75% of Millennials listing it as their top priority when planning a vacation. That figure that rises to 80% among Generation X, and up to 86% for Baby Boomers. While more than two thirds (67%) of Gen Z travelers do believe that price is paramount, they are the least cost-sensitive generation as a whole, and are the most likely to characterize themselves as “big spenders” while on vacation.
In fact, if given an extra $100 to spend on a trip, one in four respondents said they would spend it on “unique experiences,” rather than airfare or lodging. Only 7% of Americans would spend that $100 upgrading their hotel, and only 5% would spend it on airfare. Nearly one in five (18%) of all respondents indicated they would spend it on food.
More than eight in ten Americans (82%) expect WiFi to be free when they travel, especially when staying at a hotel. WiFi is at the top of the list of hotel amenities that American travelers would be the least willing to pay for. The younger the respondent, the less willing they are to pay for WiFi. Four in ten Gen Z and Millennial respondents cite WiFi as their least-preferred travel fee, versus 30% of Baby Boomers.
One in three Americans post “a few times” to social media channels while on vacation. Gen Z respondents were the most likely age group to make that claim. More than one in five Americans (21%) claim to post “several times a day, with Gen X (27%) and Millennials (26%) the most likely to do so. Despite their affinity for social media, only 17% of Gen Z respondents and 7% of Baby Boomer respondents claim to post several times daily while vacationing.
Gen Z were the first age group to be raised entirely online, a fact that is reflected in their relationship to social media. Nearly one in two (48%) Gen Z respondents report that photos posted to social media inspire them to travel, the most among all age groups. They are also the age demographic most likely to report feeling “pressure” to “post the perfect photo” while on vacation – a burden cited by nearly one in three (29%).
“The youngest travelers, in particular, want to spend their money on the experience of a vacation, rather than on a flight or hotel, which is Priceline’s purpose,” said Ben Harrell, chief marketing officer, Priceline. “We’ll get them to a destination for less, which ought to make it easier to capture that perfect Instagram photo.”
Sustainability over brand loyalty
Respondents cited sustainability as the most important factor when choosing an airline or hotel. The middle generations – Millennials (57%) and Gen Xers (55%) were the two most likely to consider sustainability, although that opinion was shared by less than half of Gen Z (48%) and Baby Boomers (46%).
More than half (51%) of all respondents also reported having no loyalty to any one airline or hotel brand, while 22% said they were loyal to a “small number” of brands. Baby Boomers, in particular, were the least brand loyal across all generations, with 59% of Boomers reporting no allegiance whatsoever.
The study was conducted by surveying more than 1,500 Americans between the ages of 17 and 65 years old, all of whom reported traveling for a vacation at least once in the last year.