A new generation is stepping into the spotlight of the travel industry: Generation Z. Between the rise of TikTok trends and travel influencers, Gen Z travelers are bringing fresh perspectives and unique preferences that are reshaping how destination marketing organizations (DMOs) communicate and cater to their needs.

Is posting cringy dances the only way to get Gen Z travelers to your destination? Should your DMO’s marketing strategy leave the Baby Boomer demographic in the dust? The answer to both of these questions, thankfully, is no. Instead, let’s review the why and how behind generational travel and ways you can hit your target market throughout a variety of ages.  

Trailblazer Travelers 

Born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, Gen Z is a tech-savvy and socially conscious generation that is becoming a trailblazer in the travel industry — known for its love of low-budget travel and extended stays. 

To help you brainstorm your destination’s appeal, note that Gen Z travelers often seek: 

  • Adventure, novelty, and authenticity

  • Wellness tourism and self-care experiences 

  • Off-the-beaten-path locations

  • Eco-friendly and sustainable options 

  • Immersive local experiences

According to “The State of the American Traveler” study done by our friends at Future Partners, younger travelers are more likely to be working in non-traditional environments — meaning bleisure travel has become a targeted market for DMOs looking to convert business travel into longer, more profitable stays.

Marketing to Gen Z

This generation leverages technology and social media for travel inspiration and booking. It also values spontaneity and unique experiences that can be shared online to cause follower FOMO.

DMOs should market a flexible and exploratory travel style that emphasizes affordability and authenticity. Highlighting budget travel deals, special discounts for longer stays, and showcasing unique, post-worthy experiences can capture their attention. 

Leveraging social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, where Gen Z spends a significant amount of their time, is crucial. Partnering with travel influencers can be a powerful and efficient way to promote your destination and partners on social media. 

Because this generation values transparency, social responsibility, and meaningful connections, they are looking for destinations that demonstrate genuine commitment to these values in their messaging and actions. Authenticity is key; Gen Z can easily spot insincerity and are quick to dismiss brands that do not align with their principles.

Creating engaging, visually appealing content that tells a story is essential. High-quality videos, vibrant images, and interactive social media campaigns can capture their imagination. User-generated content (UGC) can help your DMO encourage and showcase this content to build a community and foster trust among potential visitors.

Furthermore, integrating sustainable initiatives into travel offerings can significantly appeal to Gen Z. Promoting green travel practices, such as eco-tourism, low-impact activities, and sustainable accommodations, can attract eco-minded Gen Z travelers.

A group of six gen z travelers pose for a photo

“Boomer” Isn’t a Bad Word

Just because Gen Z is stealing the spotlight (and overusing the word “Boomer”) doesn’t mean you should rule out your regulars. According to a recent AARP survey, nearly 65% of Americans ages 50-plus plan on traveling in 2024 — meaning their tourism dollars are still up for grabs.

The Baby Boomer generation typically prioritizes:

  • Comfort and relaxation

  • Cultural experiences 

  • Well-established destinations and traditional accommodations

  • Reliable travel and transportation services

  • Family-friendly attractions 

A man in a blue polo shirt dances with a blond woman in a white blouse in front of a fountain

Marketing to Baby Boomers

DMOs should tailor their marketing strategies to Baby Boomer travelers by emphasizing comfort, nostalgia, and unique experiences. These travelers often seek destinations that offer a blend of relaxation and adventure, with a particular interest in cultural, historical, and nature-based activities. 

One way to draw in this demographic is to introduce them to your local partners (Destination Travel Network and Simpleview CRM can help). Show off restaurants with patios, history museums, and attractions with scenic views. You can also utilize a mobile app to offer guided tours that will help travelers see the best and brightest of your destination at their own pace. 

Highlighting accessible travel options, whole family-friendly amenities, and opportunities for social interaction can enhance appeal. Additionally, emphasizing value, safety, and health considerations can reassure this demographic, encouraging longer stays and repeat visits.

Don’t rule out reaching Baby Boomers on social media. According to Hootsuite, 4.3% of Instagram users are 55-64 years old and 24.5% of all Facebook users are 45 and older — meaning Generation X and Baby Boomers play their part online. They are also scoping your website’s blog more often than Gen Z, so housing relevant and timely content can turn a potential visitor into a booked traveler (check out Visit Omaha’s blog for a great example). 

As the travel landscape continues to evolve, understanding and embracing the distinct preferences of each generation is crucial for DMOs aiming to thrive in a competitive market. By crafting multifaceted marketing strategies that cater to both ends of the age spectrum — leveraging the power of social media and influencer partnerships for Gen Z, while emphasizing comfort and nostalgia on your website’s blogs for Baby Boomer readers — DMOs can create a dynamic, inclusive appeal across the board. Balancing these approaches ensures that every traveler, regardless of generation, finds compelling reasons to explore and enjoy your destination.

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