StudentUniverse Reveals Key Travel Trends Among Gen Z Travelers

StudentUniverse has released its annual “The State of Student & Youth Travel Report,” delving into the latest travel sentiments among those aged 18 to 25. The report reveals that Gen Z travelers have a preference for taking “dry vacations” and a concern for the environment, which is driving some to actively choose to abstain from traveling by air.

Travel as a Career Investment

One of the most talked about trends in travel that arose as a result of flexible work policies implemented during the pandemic was that of “bleisure.” Of those surveyed, 78 percent indicated an interest in vocational travel and 87 percent believed that travel would improve their "employability." To that point, 86 percent noted they would work or volunteer on something related to their future career path. Respondents also said that travel helps to improve abilities such as interpersonal communication and provides a broadened understanding of how to liaise with people of different cultures. These are values that Gen Z believes make them more employable.

Joining the “No Fly” List

Gen Z’s concerns over the environment continue to grow, with this year’s survey showing that a minority of student and youth travelers (13 percent) indicate they won’t travel by plane due to emissions and a further 21 percent already know someone who refuses to travel by air. Another 23 percent indicated they are willing to pay an optional carbon offset fee when booking and 50 percent indicated they will prioritize booking through a platform with strong green credentials.

Traveling for Mental Well-Being

Recent analysis has revealed a trend among younger generations with a number of reports indicating a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety relative to past generations. A number of factors are considered to be at play here, including the constant access to online content coupled with financial concerns, among various other existential threats. Of those surveyed, 93 percent agreed that travel experiences can have a positive impact on their mental health with 89 percent reporting returning from a vacation feeling less anxious and more positive.

Looking for a “Dry Vacation”

As Gen Z looks to make healthier choices, it should come as no surprise that 80 percent of respondents indicated they would take a vacation with no alcohol involved. In addition to improved health, survey respondents noted that abstaining from drinking has a number of benefits including cost savings and preventing potentially unsafe situations.

Engaging With New Technologies

Of those surveyed, 51 percent reported they trust travel itineraries generated by AI with 21 percent reporting they’ve used chatbots to build an itinerary. However, Gen Z continues to also place importance on the human element noting that in the case of an issue 92 percent would prefer to speak to a person with 87 percent indicating they would be frustrated if they were unable to reach a real person.

Turning to TikTok for Travel Inspiration

Of those surveyed 88 percent revealed they are active on TikTok and 60 percent reported they turn to the platform as their first choice for travel inspiration. Eighty-eight percent also follow at least one travel influencer, with 40 percent reporting they’ve booked a vacation as a direct result of content seen on TikTok. This is a significant impact when one considers that the student and youth travel market numbers 370 million globally and accounts for over $400 billion in buying power.

Top Destinations in 2024

The report also reveals the most popular destinations based on booking data from StudentUniverse’s transactions. Among Gen Z travelers based in the U.S., their top countries include: 

  1. Italy
  2. Japan
  3. Greece
  4. United Kingdom
  5. France
  6. Spain
  7. Australia
  8. Canada
  9. New Zealand
  10. Brazil

Source: StudentUniverse

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