Millennials, Gen Z, and Sustainable Travel Adventures

Andrew van der Feltz, Senior Director, Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions
August 21, 2019
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Whether its snaking lines of Game of Thrones fans waiting to walk Dubrovnik’s city walls in Croatia or a crowd of cruise ships on Barcelona’s coast, many highly popular locations around the world are feeling the impact of increasing tourism. When the number of visitors exceed a destination's resources, it can strain the environment as well as infrastructure built primarily for its citizens. As a new generation of travelers with heightened social and environmental consciousness emerges, the tourism industry needs to adapt. Expedia Group Media Solutions and its travel partners have stepped up to meet this new need for responsible cultural once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Millennials and Gen Z form the largest cohort of today’s new travelers. While Millennials, aged between 24 and 35, are young professionals and new parents, Gen Z, aged 18 to 23, is just beginning to enter the workforce and already accounts for up to $143 billion of buying power. As part of a technology-driven world, this group of vacationers is constantly connected. More than 50 percent of Gen Z-ers use their smartphones for more than five hours per day and view social media such as Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube as important communication platforms.

Gen Z has already seen as much of the world as Millennials. Both groups of travelers take up to three vacations each year that last as long as eight or nine days on average. They’re also more independent-minded and concerned about the effect their decisions have on the environment. They prize discovery – untouched beaches, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and unique activities. That said, almost 70 percent of this generation is indecisive about where they holiday and most of them are open to suggestions. While they consume and create their own content in a cross-channel digital world, their vacations are inspired by online deals, travel pictures, or videos posted by friends or influencers. And that’s where the industry needs to engage with them.

Here’s a look at how we have been able to draw these young holidaymakers to new destinations for our marketing partners – leveraging social media, addressing problems such as overcrowding, and curating culturally rich, lifetime experiences all at once.

Kenya

Simba and Mufasa survey their kingdom, the breeze lifts their manes, the rising sun illuminates the untouched beauty of Africa in the Lion King – you can practically hear the phones snapping. It’s the perfect background to an Instagram holiday story. In August 2018 we began working with the Kenya Tourism Board to raise awareness of Kenya as a destination.

Our collaboration leveraged the impact of social media influencers with a week-long freestyle trip for blogging couple @Howfarfromhome. With no fixed itinerary, the couple’s young followers voted every day through Instagram Stories polls to decide where they went and what they did – a hot balloon safari over Maasai Mara, kitesurfing lessons on the beach, sunset yoga in a treehouse, and a visit to an elephant sanctuary.


Kenya 2-1

This travel adventure was broadcast to over 169,000 of the couple’s followers via Instagram Stories and repurposed on the microsite, ‘Can you Kenya?’. The result was 2,100,000 impressions on the microsite and over 90,000 visits from unique users in Australia, Canada, South Africa, US, and the UK. The content highlighted big experiences, alongside lesser known surrounding lakes and beaches to induce travelers to go on their own African adventure.

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Western Australia

In May 2019, Chris Hemsworth posted his selfie with a Quokka, and the Quokka selfie trend went viral again. The ‘smiling’ marsupial has attracted a whole generation of young travelers to explore Western Australia – especially Rottnest Island.

A collaboration with Western Australia Tourism focused on promoting Australia’s west coast as a destination to young Singaporeans focused on unique experiences. With its less-crowded white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, excitement-inducing drift snorkeling and kayaking, the region’s unique culinary delights, and a short five-hour flight from Singapore to Perth made a convincing case for travelers from Singapore.

A creative TV campaign was featured on Singtel, FOX, Starhub and Media Corp stations, followed by a digital strategy that drove young Singaporeans to a special landing page on Expedia.com.sga. The content spoke to specific demands such as world-class nature experiences, safety, good food and wine, and friendly locals with the benefit of being so close to home. The effort, which was the first marketing collaboration of its kind in Asia Pacific, saw the number of unique visitors to the landing page increase and resulted in a surge in hotel stays.

Finland

Having once-in-a lifetime experiences, learning about new cultures, and having an Instagram-worthy backdrop for holiday pictures are strong motivators for young travelers, and Finland ticks all these boxes. Whether its lightly beating yourself with birch leaves in a sauna (said to improve circulation) and then plunging into an ice-cold lake, going ice diving, watching the Aurora, or even visiting Santa Claus, Finland opens the door to exciting experiences and gives young travelers a look at its unique art, culture, food, and fashion.

Expedia Group's first party data indicated that many tourists from Hong Kong, Japan, UK, and US were looking to holiday in Finland but ended up visiting other Scandinavian destinations. This was attributed to the lack of visibility of picturesque holiday destinations. We also identified that young travelers from Asia, especially Hong Kong and Japan, often look at visiting highly popular European destinations. Finland is a stopover but not a stop on these routes.

Identifying a way to lure travelers to the untold Finland story, we worked with Visit Finland and StopOver Finland, to craft a dispersal strategy directing those traveling from Asia to Paris and Berlin to landing pages on Expedia.co.jp, Expedia.com.hk, Expedia.co.uk and Expedia.com. These microsites exposed travel shoppers to the natural beauty of less-visited regions at the heart of Finland, especially Lakeland and its interior regions. The microsites introduced vacationers to the sustainable tourism, pristine scenery, and unique slow food culture Finland promises.

Given that many millennials and Gen Zers are open to longer holidays, the campaign collaborated with Finnair allowing visitors to extend their layover for up to five days and leveraged Expedia’s Lodging Partner Services to help them find diverse accommodation. Visit Finland saw a return on ad spend of 40:1 as a direct result of this campaign. Travelers booking trips 8 to 14 day trips represented 30-50% of bookings on Finnair.

As travel becomes accessible to a larger number of people, younger generations are taking cognizance of its effects on communities and the environment. With Millennials and Gen Z poised to power the travel industry, we have an opportunity to use our insights regarding their behaviors and preferences to inspire them with travel choices that fulfill their wanderlust while minimizing the impact of their travels.

For insights on how to connect with Gen Z and Millennials, download our global research, "How Younger Generations are Shaping the Future of Travel." 

Picture of Andrew van der Feltz, Senior Director, Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions
Andrew van der Feltz
Senior Director, Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions
Andrew van der Feltz is a senior director of business development for the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific regions at Expedia Group Media Solutions. His team works closely with agencies, destination marketing organizations, hotel and airline partners on advertising opportunities and campaigns across the portfolio of Expedia Group brands. Prior to joining Expedia, Andy was the director of business development and operations at the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) since April 2011. Prior to this, he also worked at NBTC in the London office as country manager for the UK and Ireland. He started his career at NBTC as marketing manager, after his role as an international marketing manager at VisitScotland. Andy studied Marketing and French in Scotland, continued his postdoc education at the Institute of Marketing in Edinburgh, and attended the Executive Educational Programme in General Management at the London Business School.
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